Saturday, February 29, 2020

Get in the Game by Kevin Atlas

Kevin was born missing the lower part of his left arm. The umbilical cord had wrapped around his neck but, still in the womb, he had an arm between the cord and his neck. That probably saved his live yet left him with only a nub below his elbow. He shares the embarrassment he experienced as a child, courtesy of other kids. But there was something stirring inside him. Rather than being an obstacle, he learned to use his nub for advantage. He was inspired by the one handed major league pitcher Jim Abbott. He was encouraged by coaches and others who came alongside. He figured he had to work twice as hard as those with two complete arms when he turned out for basketball. As a result, he became the first player with a partial limb to win an NCAA Division 1 scholarship in basketball.

This is an inspiring book. Kevin challenges readers to take the thing that makes us feel inadequate, the thing we think we will never overcome, and work through it to use it for advantage. Everyone has been created by God for a purpose, he reminds us. There are no excuses. He has inspired others with his motivational talks and the documentary made about him. Now he inspires others to live a fulfilling life of purpose through this book.

I recommend this book to those who need that encouragement to know that what might appear to be an obstacle can be turned into a means of living our your purpose. The writing style is clear so this book would be suitable for even young readers. There are questions at the end of each chapter for personal reflection.

You can read an excerpt from the book here.

You can watch the trailer for the documentary here.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

Kevin Atlas (formerly Laue) is nearly seven feet tall. Even though he was born missing much of his left arm, he became one of the top basketball players in his home state of California and earned a scholarship to play at Manhattan College in New York City. He is a popular motivational speaker and lives in Sparks, Nevada. You can find out more at Photo credit: Josh Birchfield

Worthy Publishing, 192 pages.

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

Experiencing God by Eberhard Arnold

This was not an easy book for me to read. Arnold's writing style is very philosophical in nature. His ideas are not as clearly articulated as I am used to. I can tell this work is nearly a hundred years old. It is not presented in such a flowing manner as modern works are. This book is based on a English translation from the German done in 1975 which may also account for some of the style of the text.

Arnold was a popular speaker and author in Germany. After WW I, he became disillusioned with the establishment, such as the church. He took his family away from Berlin and a life of privilege and moved to a village. With other like minded Christians, an intentional community based on the Sermon on the Mount was formed, eventually becoming known as the Bruderhof.

This book is a part of Arnold's work. He emphasizes being with God as how we can withstand what storms us. God wants to be known but the idea terrifies us. Nonetheless, we are to be completely open to Him. Even though God is totally other, we become the humans we were created to be when we know God. Only in knowing God can we truly live life and experience true peace. Arnold helps us see how we know God through Creation and through Jesus Christ. He also encourages us to live as a result of knowing God, a sacrificial and giving life.

I appreciate that, even though Arnold lived in an intentional community, he did not advocate exclusion from the world. The Christian life is not to be one of withdrawing but one of gaining the inner strength of character needed to live in the world. Living the Sermon on the Mount will develop that character and be evidence to others of true peace.

The world situation today calls for the kind of dedication that lives in Christ alone, in the heart of the powerful God of Jesus Christ.” (Loc 571/1412) The strength of perfect love is needed to penetrate this devastated world.

This book is not for the weak of intentional effort to understand and gain from its content.

At the time of this review, the ebook was a free download at Plough Publishing House.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

Eberhard Arnold (1883-1935) studied theology, philosophy, and education at Breslau, Halle, and Erlangen, where he received his doctorate in 1909. He became a sought after author and speaker in his native Germany. He was active in the German Christian Student Union and became literary director of the Furche Publishing House in Berlin. He became disillusioned with the failure of the establishment, especially churches, to provide answers for the problems after WW I. In 1920, the Arnolds, along with their five children, moved to the small German village of Sannerz. With other like minded Christians, they founded an intentional community. It supported itself with agriculture and a publishing house. The movement grew into the international communal movement known as the Bruderhof.

Plough Publishing House, 130 pages.

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

Friday, February 28, 2020

Daring to Live by Sheri Hunter

This book is an inspiration to live big. Her husband died young and Hunter could have retreated to a quiet life. Instead, her three friends came along side her. They had brought daring adventure into her life and had come to be known as the Dare Divas. The first challenge after her husband's untimely death? Skydiving. It was irony, she says, as she felt she was free falling already.

She shares her adventures and weaves biblical concepts into them. She writes about friendship, discovering truths through taking unusual challenges, mastering fears, conquering bumps on the path. She is honest about her struggle with grief and battle with substance abuse.

Hunter's book is a good account of her finding the joy of living again after an unexpected loss. Readers may find many of the adventures beyond their budget, such as a two month cruise or driving NASCAR or climbing Mount Kilimanjaro or a safari. Nonetheless, the book is a good story of an unlikely journey from grief, through friendship and an unexpected romance, to living life again.

You can read an excerpt here.

You can find out more about the group at

My rating: 4/5 stars.

Sheri Hunter is a marketing professional who has served as a producer for Detroit's national news affiliates, including CBS and NBC. She is a freelancer for several daily newspapers, including the Oakland Press, the Morning Sun News, and the Grand Rapids Herald. A popular keynote speaker, Hunter loves to show others that living outside our comfort zones helps us discover amazing things about ourselves. She lives in Michigan.

Baker Books, 224 pages.

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

Thursday, February 27, 2020

The Land Beneath Us by Sarah Sundin

Reading Sundin's historical novels has always been a pleasure and this one is no exception. She deftly takes us to the mid-1940s and the war effort abroad and at home. Our hero is Clay, a Ranger sure of his coming death in battle because of a recurring dream. Our heroine is Leah, an orphan in youth, given the opportunity to work in a library at Camp Forrest. Clay happens upon Leah as she is being sexually assaulted. He saves her life and when she later finds out she is pregnant, he protects her fragile honor by marrying her. After all, he'll die soon after he is shipped out to Europe. I like how Sundin creates the characters in such a way that I wanted to know their future.

This is a great story. Besides learning much about the war effort, the plot contains the challenges of forgiveness and trusting God. We also see the attitude at the time toward orphans and orphanages. As with the earlier books in this series, the theme of a prodigal son is strong, although with Clay it is more his attitude than physical locations that makes him one.

Sundin adds a note at the end of the book with historical references. Much of the novel is based on historical fact, from the 5th Ranger Battalion climbing the cliffs of Pointe du Hoc to the way babies were cared for in the 1940s. Sundin also provides photos of locations in the novel on Pinterest. ( There are Discussion Questions given so this would make a good choice for a reading group.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

Sarah Sundin is the author of several historical novel series. Her books have received starred reviews from Booklist, Library Journal, and Publishers Weekly. Through Waters Deep was a finalist for the 2016 Carol Award and won the INSPY Award. She lives in northern Callifornia. You can find out more as Author photo: (c) Marci Seither.

Revell, 384 pages.

More Than We Remember by Christina Suzann Nelson

I really enjoyed this novel with many interesting themes woven though a good plot. The novel is very well written with characters portrayed so that they really grabbed at my emotions. The plot is very realistic regarding the pain we experience. While there are some amazing victories, not every one lives happily ever after. Just like real life.

I recommend this insightful and thought provoking novel. You'll be challenged with how characters trust God, struggle with offering forgiveness, battle career obstacles, face failure and the responsibility of hurting others, and more. You will experience the joy and frustrations of women, so different in their personalities and goals, forming an unusual friendship. For me, the ending was a bit too convenient, although part of it was hinted at earlier.

While I did not see any discussion questions in the galley I read, this would make a good choice for a reading group. There would be much to discuss.

You can read an excerpt here.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

Christina Suzann Nelson is a part of Oregon's Christian Writers and a member of ACFW. Her first novel, If We Make It Home, was named Library Journal Best Book of 2017 and a Foreword INDIES 2017 Book of the Year. She lives in Oregon's Willamette Valley with her husband and their children. You can find out more at Photo credit: Katey Tryon

Bethany House Publishers, 352 pages.

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

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

The Bible in 10 Words by Deron Spoo

We know words are powerful and well chosen words are very powerful. Spoo has chosen ten words to explore major ideas in the Bible. His writing style is pleasant and he includes many interesting stories illustrating his teaching.

While each essay is insightful, I think my favorite was on breath. We can't live without it. God breathed into Adam and elements became a living being. Jesus breathed power into the disciples, the Holy Spirit. We might try to breath life into a dying project. We have breath to bless others. We have breath to praise and worship God. Breath reminds us of the brevity of life. When we die we are said to breathe our last.

Spoo reveals similar insights for each of the ten words: light, dust, breath, garden, river, eat, alone, naked, afraid, and sweat. While the words have their roots in Genesis, they form a good overview of the Bible in general. He closes each chapter with a prayer (talk to God), discussion questions (talk to one another), and Scripture for further reading. And, as an added bonus, you'll find out why your shoe laces come untied.

You can watch the book trailer here.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

Deron Spoo is the pastor of First Baptist Church in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Over the past two decades, Deron has guided the church as it transitions from being simply a downtown church to a regional church committed to urban ministry. Church members describe him as “down to earth” and “authentic.” His television devotionals, First Things First, reach 100,000 people each week. Deron is a graduate of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is the author of The Good Book: 40 Chapters That Reveal the Bible’s Biggest Ideas released by David C Cook in 2017. He and his wife Paula have three children: Kira, Caleb, and Seth.

Worthy Books, 208 pages.

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

Monday, February 24, 2020

Jesus Promised Victory Blog Tour

About the Book

Book:  Jesus Promised Victory
Author: Ken Gould
Genre:  Non-Fiction, Christian living
Release Date: October 15, 2018

Are you frustrated with trying to live the Christian life?

Do your struggles with sin discourage you?

Have you been taught you can’t ever win the battle . . . that as long as you are living, you will fall short?

Jesus told people to sin no more. Rather than tell them the struggle with sin and Satan would be difficult, He said, “My yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Jesus doesn’t ask us to do the impossible.

Ken Gould rejected distorted teachings about God and was an atheist for twenty years, until God revealed His existence to him. Afterward, he recognized Christianity wasn’t something to be taken lightly. His highest priority became to know God and understand His counsel.

Gould says, “It is possible to live a godly life in victory. What we believe about God affects our ability to live a victorious life.”

In this guidebook on living in God’s victory, learn:
  • How to cooperate with God to attain the victory He has for you.
  • How our definition of sin can remove frustration and allow us to live a godly life.
  • How believing lies about God keeps us from escaping our rebellious, sinful attitudes.
  • The interaction between natural laws and sin.
“God’s truth sets us free from Satan’s slavery and it’s lies about God that keep us trapped.”

Click here to get your copy.

My Review

Just as there are physical laws, Gould says, there are spiritual laws. He explores the spiritual laws in depth, identifying then as natural laws. He writes, “...God's laws and counsel are explanations of natural laws and their consequences, given to help us choose wisely.” (Loc 1699/5127) Living a victorious, Christlike, or perfect life, Gould writes, “must be possible and easy when approached in the proper manner.” (Loc 3320/5127)

I found Gould's writing style quite scientific in nature. That Gould is an engineer shows. I would have appreciated some additional editing to create a text more enjoyable to read and with a little more life. I also found the book repetitive. Material is reviewed often, repeating major points several times, especially at the beginning of a chapter. At times a Scripture passage is quoted and then Gould states it again. Here is an example of Gould's writing style: “Satan enjoys deceiving the gullible and unteachable, for it's easy to firmly lock the gullible and unteachable in his prisons, strongholds, and dungeons with his lies about God.” (Loc. 1836/5127)

Potential evangelical readers should know that Gould's favorite author is Ellen G. White. A co-founder of Seventh Day Adventist Church, Gould quotes from her material often. He also quotes from Signs of the Times, a Seventh Day Adventist Magazine, frequently, as well as other Seventh Day Adventist theologians.

Gould discredits the traditional evangelical concept of hell, arguing rather that the wicked are consumed and do not suffer eternal anguish. (Chapter 14. Annihilation is a belief of Seventh Day Adventists.) Gould's ideas about sin and forgiveness and salvation may differ from what many evangelicals believe the Bible teaches.

Of the evangelical teaching “...that Christ's death on the cross appeases God's wrath or anger,” Gould writes, “This isn't scriptural!” (Loc 2634/5127) God does not withhold His forgiveness until we ask. “Jesus forgave many people during His life; none of them asked.” (Loc 2678/5127) That we think God withholds forgiveness until we ask is “demonic and belongs to Satan and his followers.” (Loc 2678/5127) What God does do, Gould says, is “remove sin and sinners from the universe forever.” (Loc 2706/5127) They are destroyed. (Loc 2770/5127) Gould refers frequently to Edward Fudge, a controversial theologian who believed only the saved receive immortality.

Gould also argues that God is not “bloodthirsty” and does not require blood for appeasement. (Chapter 17) “God freely and kindly, or graciously, forgives everyone.” (Loc 3194/5127) “By coming to know God,” Gould writes, “we come to love and admire His character and desire to be like Him. This is eternal life.” (Loc 2649/5127) Jesus' mission of atonement “was to reconcile us to God by revealing His love for us, so we could come to know Him.” (Loc 3459) When we come to know Him and want to be like Him, this restores our relationship to God. (Loc 3922/5127)

If we haven't quite understood Gould's concept of salvation, he includes an Appendix C on the subject. In it he criticizes comments by many evangelicals, including David Neff and Albert Mohler. He positively quotes many Seventh Day Adventist authors and publications in this Appendix.

If you are looking for an exposition of Seventh Day Adventist theology, this is the book for you. If you are an evangelical Christian, you may find that much of the teaching in this book is not to your liking.

My rating: 3/5 stars.

About the Author

Ken Gould has a bachelor’s in chemical engineering from the University of Washington, and a master’s in business administration from the University of Houston, as well as a professional engineering license. His career has included shift supervision, management, technical support,
process development, and projects. He and his wife Kaneeta live near the confluence of the great rivers in the heartland of America where he enjoys being out in nature and sailing.

More from Ken

What’s Taught in Church Doesn’t Work.

Nearly everyone when asked readily admits, that what churches teach doesn’t work. People know this from personal experience and observation. Many are aware behavioral scientists find church members are just as likely to abuse their spouses as the unchurched. Spouse abuse isn’t the only bad behavior that is just as prevalent among church members as the unchurched, other bad behaviors include pornography and child abuse.

In John 8:31 and 32 the Apostle John records Jesus telling the Jews that believed in Him if they hold to His word or His teaching depending on the translation. They are truly His disciples, they will know the truth and it will set them free. Verses 34 to 36 make it clear, Jesus is talking about sin’s slavery. Is it fair to say Church members engaging in these bad behaviors are slaves to sin? Of course. Then these church members aren’t holding to Jesus teachings, aren’t His disciples and haven’t been set free. Put another way the teachings of the church aren’t any more likely to make disciples than the teachings of the world.

This isn’t the only scripture expressing the idea that Jesus came to set us free from slavery or captivity. Luke 4:18 and 19 also expresses the same idea. I like to refer to it as Jesus mission statement. Luke records Jesus selecting it to read when handed the book of Isaiah in the synagogue at Nazareth.

“The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” (Luke 4:18, 19 NIV)

After reading it Jesus told them “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing” (Luke 4:21). Let’s focus on proclaiming freedom for the prisoners and setting the oppressed free. What prisoners did Jesus set free and who did He set free from oppression? Did Jesus set John the Baptist free from Herod’s prison? No. Did Jesus set the Jews free from Roman oppression? No. So what prisons and oppression did Jesus set people free from? Satan’s prisons where people are enslaved and oppressed by sin.

Where are Satan’s prisons or strongholds and what are they made of? The Apostle Paul tells us about Satan’s strongholds or prisons in 2 Corinthians 10:3-5, “For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God.” Here the Apostle Paul tells us Satan’s strongholds or prisons keep the enslaved from knowing God. Can we say Satan’s strongholds and prisons are lies about God?

Since Satan’s prisons and strongholds are lies about God, where do lies get their power? Lies get their power from people who believe them. So we empower Satan’s prisons and strongholds by believing his lies about God. Where are Satan’s prisons and strongholds they located? In our minds.

The character assassin, Satan, imprisons and enslaves us on the road to destruction with lies about God. Truth about God destroys Satan’s lies, freeing us from enslavement in his prisons and strongholds, putting us on the road to life.

How important was the truth about God to Jesus? Jesus tells us in His prayer just before they crucified Him, recorded in John 17:3 “Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.” Jesus tells us the knowledge of God or the truth about God and Himself is the key to eternal life. How often is this important truth taught in church?

What do the churches teach is the key to eternal life? Don’t churches teach the key to eternal life is forgiveness? Jesus told us He separates people, into two groups, like a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats when He returns. Most of us are familiar with it, it’s found in Matthew 25:31-46. Jesus also tells the difference between the two groups, the saved and the lost. What does Jesus tell us is the difference between the two groups? Are the two groups the forgiven and the unforgiven? No. The difference between the groups is how they treated the less fortunate, or their actions.

Is Jesus telling us it’s our actions or works that determine our destination? Didn’t Martin Luther discover we are saved by faith not by works? Yes he did. The Apostle John tells us we are judged by our works in Revelation 20:12 and 13. How can we be judged by our works and not saved by them? Our works reveal our character. The Christlike are kind to the less fortunate. The Satanic are mean, hateful, and cruel to God’s children. Our works reveal the condition of our heart.

In church there is much talk about a conversion experience, and often the focal point is the sinner’s prayer. Many times those promoting the sinner’s prayer stress asking for and accepting forgiveness. People often remember when they said the sinner’s prayer and point to it as when they were saved. However, if after praying the sinner’s prayer, we don’t seek God and His ways, our motives, attitudes, or desires won’t change. It is when we come to admire and desire Christ’s motives, attitudes, and desires, that we experience conversion and the process of character transformation begins.

Jesus Promised Victory: Why Does It Seem so Elusive? explains what works, what doesn’t, and why.

Blog Stops

Texas Book-aholic, February 26
Artistic Nobody, February 27 (Author Interview)
Inklings and notions, February 28
Betti Mace, March 2
Library Lady's Kid Lit, March 3 (Author Interview)
Mary Hake, March 5
Through the Fire Blogs, March 7 (Author Interview)

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 22, 2020

A Different Kind of Love Story by Landra Young Hughes with Holly Crawshaw

Landra was a young teen when her family came under fierce media scrutiny. Her dad was a successful pastor who was under (false) attacks. Landra responded to the family crisis by controlling the only thing she felt she could, her food intake. The action developed into a potentially deadly eating disorder.

Landra is open and honest about her experiences, sharing the truths she has learned from them. She helps us understand the shame and lies that pervaded her life. She encourages us with the healing that came out of honesty. She admonishes us to be kind to ourselves, to stop being the mean girl inflicting inner pain. She includes practical suggestions for conquering whatever obstacle is in front of us. These come from her own experiences and trust in God's wisdom.

This is a good book for teens and young women. The length is not overwhelming. Hughes and Crawshaw have a very readable writing style with many personal illustrations and a good dose of humor. Hughes is familiar with the influence of current media, like television, movies and social sites. Young women would relate to many of her experiences and insights. I recommend this book to young people desiring to understand and live out who you are in Christ, embracing the real you without shame. Unfortunately, the galley I read did not include any questions for personal reflection or group discussion.

You can read an excerpt here.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

Landra Young Hughes is the daughter of prominent pastor Ed Young Jr. and Lisa Young of Fellowship Church. Landra has a passion for seeing people maximize their God-given potential and embrace their God-defined self-worth. She and her husband lead Fellowship Church's Norman campus and live in the Norman, Oklahoma area with their daughter. Photo credit: Ej Young.
Holly Crawshaw is a writer and editor. She was on staff with North Point Ministries for eight years. Holly currently serves as lead writer to life stage strategies at Orange/The Rethink Group. She lives in Cumming, Georgia with her three daughters. Photo credit: Farrah Power Photography.

Baker Books, 176 pages.

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

Friday, February 21, 2020

Naked and Unafraid by Kevin Gerald

What an encouraging book. Gerald uses several experiences in David's life to encourage us to live a vulnerable life. He emphasizes David, celebrating upon the return of the ark, nearly naked yet dancing with joy. In contrast is David's wife, inside, safe but criticizing. Do we want to stay safe and be critical or are we willing to be adventurous and vulnerable?

One of my favorite parts of the book was the formula Gerald uses to renew the spirit of his mind, detailed in a previous book. It's a good tool to battle the negative internal talk. He calls it FAITH: (Loc 1401/2718)

  Focus on the positive
  Affirm yourself
  Imagine God doing something good
  Trust God in everything
  Hope for the best.

There were some surprises in the book, like the role of stress and the importance of fun. (Put your fun face on.) And there were some hard parts, like owning our whole story, even the parts over which we had no control. Another was Gerald's teaching on Psalm 119:165b, not being offended.

My favorite quote: “Pain is unavoidable, but staying hurt is optional.”

This book is a good general encouragement to be all God has called us to be. Gerald's writing style is a good one as he provides encouraging stories along with his teaching. Questions for personal reflection or group discussion are provided at the end of each chapter.

You can find out more at

My rating: 4/5 stars.

Kevin Gerald is a popular speaker at international events and conferences. He provides leadership training through his organization Team Church. He founded and currently pastors Champions Centre, one of the largest nondenominational church in the Northwest. He and his wife live in the Seattle area. You can find out more at

FaithWords, 272 pages.

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

Unmaking the Presidency by Susan Hennessey and Benjamin Wittes

I had no idea there so was little law governing the behavior of the U.S. President. Like many Americans, I suppose, I assumed what has become the behavioral norm of civic minded presidents was somehow governed by rules. Not so. A president possess powers well beyond anything I imagined. We Americans have trusted a president would act in a manner within those powers to benefit the country, not himself or his friends. Civic virtue was assumed.

Most important, the authors claim, is the oath of office. It attempts to harness the office holder so that “presidents make earnest efforts to use their office on behalf of the country.” (22) The oath imposes duty and obligation. (23) But it only works when the president honestly means what he says when he recites it. The presidency doesn't work as we expect in the absence of good faith. The authors note Trump is not a hypocrite in this regard. “He doesn't pretend to civic virtue.” (31)

With respect to a president's speech, I was shocked to find that the Supreme Court has ruled that a president is entitled to immunity from liability. (98-99) The president can say something for which a private citizen would be held liable, yet with immunity.

It has become the norm that the Justice Department be apolitical but that is not mandated. (187) Federal prosecutors work for the president, for example. He can fire them and order them not to proceed with a particular investigation. The president can legally fire a special prosecutor or limit his power. (213)

Modern presidents have the power to do a great deal more than the founders...ever imagined.” (236) The office is especially vulnerable to personality, the authors note. Presidential speech about foreign countries, for example, be it a well crafted talk or a midnight tweet, is operational as foreign policy. (238) Domestic declarations must be approved for funding and there Congress has some control.

I was shocked at the broad powers the president has. In years past, civic responsibility ruled behavior. We have had centuries of developing the public expectation of the president's role. (189) Current behavior is at odds with that traditional understanding but is not necessarily opposed to constitutional laws.

I highly recommend this book. I learned a great deal about the role of the president, as defined by the Constitution, as we have come to expect it be fulfilled, and as evidenced in current behavior.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

Susan Hennessey and Benjamin Wittes are the executive editor and editor in chief, respectively, of Lawfare. Hennessey is a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and a CNN contributor; she was previously an attorney at the National Security Agency. Wittes is a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and the author of several previous books. Author photographs by Paul Morigi.

Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 432 pages.

Thursday, February 20, 2020

Collision of Lies by Tom Threadgill

I enjoyed Threadgill's novel. It is a cold case mystery with an unusual premise. Three years ago a school bus was hit by a train. All the children died. Or did they? One of the parents has received a message supposedly from her child. Amara, a San Antonio police detective decides to pursue the possibility.

The plot is complex. It takes quite a bit to convince Amara, and us, that there is a possibility the children are alive. If that's the case, then there is the complex problem of how the accident was set up, who the unrecognizable bodies in the bus were, where might the living children be now, and how could Amara possibly retrieve them? All these questions are methodically dealt with in the novel. What I thought was an unreasonable plot turned out to be explainable, although I am not sure I understand all the science explanation. One of my pet peeves is an ending where the cavalry comes over the hill to save the lone cowboy. Well, I got a little peeved with this book.

The character development was good. I am always a bit leery when a male author has a female heroine. I did like Amara although my favorite character was the medical examiner with such a quirky personality.

Unfortunately, the Christian aspect of the novel is lacking, even though it was published by a “Christian” publisher.

This is the first in a new series by Threadgill and I enjoyed this one enough that I'll be watching for the next in the series.

You can read an excerpt here and watch the book trailer here.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

Tom Threadgill is a full time author and a member of American Christian Fiction Writers. He is currently on the suspense/thriller publishing board for LPC Books, a division of Iron Stream Media. He and his wife live in rural Tennessee. Photo Credit: © David M. Humphrey

Revell, 400 pages.

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

Tiny Habits by B J Fogg

I've read scores of books on forming habits so why would I read another one? Fogg proposes a new framework for developing change in our lives. His idea is to design new habits in tiny steps so that the motivation and ability are both high. He gives us the tools to evaluate the effectiveness of possible habits and our motivation to do them. He suggests establishing habits we can do in 30 seconds or less. He helps us understand the role of emotions in establishing habits. He informs us on the strategic nature of having prompts. He invites to celebrate our successes, something essential to cementing the habit.

I learned a great deal in this book, clarifying why I had been unsuccessful in habit making before and how to make habits the easiest to do. I learned I could redesign my environment to help in habit formation. Fogg provided strategies for growing habits and for stopping unwanted habits. He included many ideas for establishing habits in a work environment too.

Fogg has included many encouraging stories of people who have successfully established positive changes in their lives. He also includes a number of helpful lists and charts in his Appendixes as well as providing additional resources at

My rating: 4/5 stars.

B J Fogg, PhD, founded the Behavior Design Lab at Standford University. In addition to research, Fogg teaches industry innovators how human behavior really works. He created the Tiny Habits Academy to help people around the world. He lives in Northern California and on Maui.

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 320 pages.

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Ishmael Covenant Blog Tour

About the Book

   His marriage in tatters and his career ruined by lies, Diplomatic Security Service agent Brian Mullaney is at the end of his rope. Banished to Israel as punishment by his agency, he's assigned to guard a US ambassador and an insignificant box. Little does he know that this new job will propel him straight into a crisis of global proportions.
   Inside the box is a messianic prophecy about the fate of the world. And a dark enemy known as The Turk and the forces of evil at his command are determined to destroy the box, the prophecy, and the Middle East as we know it. When Ambassador Cleveland gets in the way, his life and his daughter's life are threatened--and Mullaney must act fast.
   Now agents of three ancient empires have launched covert operations to secure nuclear weapons, in direct defiance of the startling peace treaty Israel and its Arab neighbors have signed. And a traitor in the US State Department is leaking critical information to a foreign power. It's up to Mullaney--still struggling with his own broken future--to protect the embassy staff, thwart the clandestine conspiracies, and unmask a traitor--before the desert is turned into a radioactive wasteland.
   Fans of Joel C. Rosenberg, Steven James, and Ted Dekker will relish the deadly whirlpool of international intrigue and end-times prophecy in Ishmael Covenant--and will eagerly await the rest of this new trilogy.

You can read an excerpt here. You can buy a copy here.

My Review

   This is a good novel for readers looking for insights into the history of the Middle East and the conflicts the region has experienced. Brennan provides a great deal of information on those areas as well as the current political tensions. There are periods of suspense and character introduction interspersed with paragraphs of historical and current religious and political context. An Author's Note at the end clarifies what aspects of the novel are based on fact.
   The novel has a very complex plot and Brennan takes a long time to set it up. There are a number of confusing political manipulations going on. There is a plethora of characters with similar sounding foreign names. Thank goodness Brennan has provided a two page list of characters at the beginning of the book.
   There is lots of head hopping. An example is the last paragraph on page 183, seen from Mullaney's viewpoint. The first paragraph on the next page is of a “he” viewpoint, but it took me a few sentences to see it was from a terrorist's viewpoint. Granted, there was a line break and the point of view is not first person but the frequent jumps in perspective broke the rhythm of reading for me.
   Potential readers should realize this is the first book in a new series. It is not a stand alone and the novel ends in the midst of an exciting scene. The next novel will need to be read to make sense of this one.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

About the Author

   Terry Brennan is the award-winning author of The Sacred Cipher, The Brotherhood Conspiracy, and The Aleppo Code, the three books in The Jerusalem Prophecies series. His latest release, Ishmael Covenant is the first in his new series, Empires of Armageddon.
   A Pulitzer Prize is one of the many awards Brennan accumulated during his 22-year newspaper career. The Pottstown (PA) Mercury won the Pulitzer Prize for Editorial Writing for a two-year series published while he led the team as the newspaper’s Editor.
   Starting out as a sportswriter in Philadelphia, Brennan became an editor and publisher for newspapers in Pennsylvania, Illinois, and New York and later moved to the corporate staff of Ingersoll Publications (400 newspapers in the U.S., Ireland and England) as Executive Editor of all U.S. newspaper titles.

   In 1996, Brennan transitioned into the nonprofit sector, spending 12 years as VP Operations for The Bowery Mission and six years as Chief Administrative Officer for Care for the Homeless, both in New York City.
   Terry and his wife, Andrea, now live in Danbury, CT.
   You can find out more at and follow him on Facebook (TerryBrennan) and Twitter (terrbrennan1).

Kregel Publications, 320 pages.

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