Thursday, September 30, 2021

Jesus Followers by Anne Graham Lotz and Rachel-Ruth Lotz Wright

About the Book:

The daughter and granddaughter of Billy Graham share inspiring stories from their family life that offer compelling insights for leaving a legacy of faith.

Passing on our faith does not happen passively – it's something we intentionally pursue with prayer and joy. Yet many of us struggle to know what it looks like to live out a contagious faith in today's world. We long for spiritual wisdom on how to ignite faith in our children, grandchildren, and others we encounter.

Jesus Followers offers practical ideas, biblical teaching, and inspiring true stories from Anne Graham Lotz and her daughter Rachel-Ruth Lotz Wright for effectively running the race of faith and passing the Baton of Truth to the next generation.

Drawing on the fascinating genealogy of Genesis 5, Anne explores the unique impact of our witness, worship, work, and walk. Rachel-Ruth illustrates each of these critical elements with stories from the Graham and Lotz families, offering vivid descriptions of how God's truth was passed on by word and example.

Jesus Followers not only offers a glimpse into the living rooms and prayer closets of a faith-filled family, but also equips you with the wisdom, motivation, and practical ideas for consistently and joyfully sharing your faith.

You can watch the book trailer here.

You can read an excerpt here.

My Review

In a relay race, the baton is passed to the next runner. The ability to transfer that baton well is crucial. So it is with transferring faith to the next generation. This book contains many stories illustrating how the descendants of Billy Graham passed the baton to the next generation.

“Parents,” Rachel-Ruth writes, “hands down, are the biggest influence on a child.” (2045/3347) Rachel-Ruth, daughter of Anne Graham Lotz, shares examples of how her parents and grandparents were so firm in their faith, she never thought to question the reality of God or the truth of His Word. She relates memories of forgiveness and grace, of loving others and learning from them, of faithfulness during physical suffering and much more.

This is not "a how" to book. There is no strategic plan nor bullet points of action to help you pass on your faith to your children. Rather, this book contains examples of the process and illustrations of the parental priorities involved. It is how one family created a legacy and passed on the commitment to be Jesus followers to succeeding generations. It is a good book for readers who can see how to do a task by observing how someone else has done it.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

About the Authors

Anne Graham Lotz – called “the best preacher in the family” by her father, Billy Graham – is an international speaker and the bestselling and award-winning author of numerous books, including Jesus in Me and Just Give Me Jesus. She is the president of AngeL Ministries in Raleigh, North Carolina, and the former chairperson for the National Day of Prayer. You can find out more at

Rachel-Ruth Lotz Wright is the daughter of Anne Graham Lotz and granddaughter of Billy Graham. She is a graduate of Baylor University, is married to Steven Wright, and has three daughters. She teaches a weekly women's Bible study at the University of North Carolina and has spoken at numerous events around the country.

Multnomah, 240 pages.

I received a complimentary egalley of this book from the publisher. My comments are an independent and honest review. The rest of the copy of this post was provided by the publisher.

(My star ratings: 5-I love it, 4-I like it, 3-It's OK, 2-I don't like it, 1-I hate it.)

Wednesday, September 29, 2021

We Survived by Robert Hardgrave

This is an interesting novel of a senior couple surviving a Cessna 172 crash on route from Whitehorse to Prince George. Bill, the hero, tells us how he prepared a shelter in the wild for himself and his passenger Gail, whom he came to know in a retirement community. Trusting God as their situation becomes more dangerous, having seen definite evidence of a grizzly going through their possessions and then an attack. There were plenty of other adventures too, some scary and some potentially life changing and deadly. We experience the search efforts by the Whitehorse Civil Air Patrol, their wait for weather to clear and rescue. But life beyond this accident becomes complex. There are moral decisions to make and a killer to elude.

Hardgrave is a detail man and there is way too much detail in this novel for my taste. Interaction between an airport control tower and the plane upon approach to land is given verbatim. He writes elsewhere, “I took my thirty-six inch axe ...” (50) And we read Gail recounting the many experiences to her kids, the ones we just read through in the previous pages. (114)

The book would have benefited from additional editing. Hardgrave writes twice in the span of three sentences that Gail refused to leave her apartment after her husband died. (9) And, “As a child, Gail walked through the Mojave Desert to get to school every day ...” (40) My goodness. That's some 40-50 miles. In general, the sentence structure, sentence length, flow, etc., would have benefited from additional work.

This novel is an immersion in a survival effort in the wilds and the dangerous activity of sluicing for gold. There are good descriptions of Alaska and other remote areas. While there are allusions to Christian faith, there are also allusions to sex outside of marriage.

My rating: 3/5 stars

Robert Hardgrave, a parent, a pilot, and retired schoolteacher, followed his dream of publishing a novel. He currently lives in California.

Ewings Publishing LLC, 210 pages

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

(My star ratings: 5-I love it, 4-I like it, 3-It's OK, 2-I don't like it, 1-I hate it.)

A Scone of Contention by Lucy Burdette

This is the first novel I have read in this series and felt it was good on its own. The female amateur sleuth writes a column on food so readers who love descriptions of food and recipes included will like this book. Most of the book takes place in Scotland so there is really lots of information about their characteristic food. There is also much about various locations, customs, celebrations, and history of a number of interesting places in Scotland. I had not heard of the Falkirk Wheel, for example, and found it an interesting feature to which Burdette introduced me. The Kelpies, the huge horse-head sculptures were pretty interesting too.

There was one odd and wrong scientific fact in the novel. The festival of the summer solstice is being described. It is the longest day of the year and “the moment when the sun is closest to the earth”, a character says. (1628/3895) Not true. A quick search will show that perihelion, the point where the earth's orbit is closest to the sun, is generally about two weeks after the winter solstice in the Northern Hemisphere. Oops.

Scientific error aside, this is an entertaining cozy mystery with lots of mouth watering descriptions of food and interesting accounts of various places in Scotland. The mystery is sufficient but I found the food and setting much more engaging.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

Lucy Burdette is the author of the popular Key West Food Critic mysteries series. She has also published mysteries under her alter-ego, clinical psychologist Roberta Isleib. Her books have been shortlisted for a number of awards. She is a member of Mystery Writers of America and Sisters in Crime, and a past president of the latter. Photo: Duke Morse.

Crooked Lane Books, 336 pages.

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

(My star ratings: 5-I love it, 4-I like it, 3-It's OK, 2-I don't like it, 1-I hate it.)

Tuesday, September 28, 2021

If God is Love, Don't Be a Jerk by John Pavlovitz

Pavlovitz was at one time a successful evangelical pastor. Then he pursued a spiritual journey that took him to a place where he now says he would no longer describe himself in such terms. His is a messy faith, he says. He questions the existence of hell. He questions the purpose of prayer. While there is much about which Pavlovitz and I do not agree, I realize this is a valuable book that should be read by Christians, whatever their tribal description. He's not one of “us” any longer but, my goodness, does he have some insightful comments.

Pavlovitz writes as an insider. He has studied and preached the Bible for decades. He realizes he, like all of us, is working with an incomplete knowledge and understanding of what Scripture says. But he does know Jesus gave us one assignment, one great command: to love God, our neighbor, and ourselves. And Pavlovitz doesn't like how contemporary Christians are handling that assignment. He recognizes a “loveless, Jesus-less Christianity” that exists today. (89/2553) He wonders what happened to compassion, the essential aspect of following Jesus. He identifies toxic faith and bad theology. He knows when a counterfeit Christ is being presented. He is concerned that we are no longer representing a God that non-Christians would want to seek.

Pavlovitz's faith is messy. His theology is fluid. Nonetheless, his spiritual journey has yielded one statement he can hold on to: “faith shouldn't make you a jerk.” (684/2553) Rather, we should be people rooted in love for humanity (all of it, not just the unborn). We must stop being a barrier to God. Pavlovitz has observed the behavior of Christians during these last years, during the time of crisis, and has seen the façade of loving Christianity ripped away. Rather than wearing a face mask as a deeply spiritual act embodying love for neighbor, for example, not wearing one became a loveless act and a political weapon.

This is a thought provoking book. It is especially of interest to people who have left organized Christianity, feeling the rug has been pulled out from beneath them. You are not alone in your messy faith, Pavlovitz assures. You will be helped to imagine what being a Christian is like when walking out the command to love. This book is not for Christians who think they have their faith settled, however, who are dependent upon that hour Sunday morning for their spirituality. You are not ready for the uncomfortable work of reexamining your image of God and the love He commands.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

John Pavlovitz is a blogger, author, and pastor based in North Carolina. A 25 year veteran in the trenches of local church ministry, he is committed to equality, diversity, and justice – both inside and outside faith communities. When not actively working for a more compassionate planet, he enjoys spending time with his family, exercising, cooking, and having time in nature. He is the author of several previous books. You can find out more at

Westminster John Knox Press, 248 pages.

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

(My star ratings: 5-I love it, 4-I like it, 3-It's OK, 2-I don't like it, 1-I hate it.)

Monday, September 27, 2021

A Small Book About Why We Hide by Edward T Welch

About the Book:

We're human. We have insecurities. We fear failure. We have regrets. And we try to hide them from God and others. But that leads to isolation from God and others. Welch shows us how God speaks to us with gentleness, love and hope to lead us out of hiding and to live more openly and authentically. Each daily devotion focuses on a specific biblical truth, helping us turn to God for acceptance, security, and identity.

My Review:

Welch provides 50 devotions that are thoughtful reflections on biblical truths. I like the idea of reading one devotion a day or even one a week. Welch reminds us that turning to God for our identity and acceptance is not something automatic. We need to practice and the format of this book helps us do that. Welch concentrates on our letting Scripture reshape our life. He provides practical suggestions, such as how to talk to God, confess to Him, and listen for words of life.

I found a few of surprises in these devotional readings. Welch writes that the difficulties we have with other people in our relationships are typically found in our relationship with the Lord. (21) That made me stop and think! Welch also has a lesson on learning to fail well. He encourages us to embrace Jesus' compassion, turning to Him, helping us deal with perfectionism.

This is a book that should be read slowly with thoughtful reflection. None of us is immune to insecurities, fear and regrets. This book gives us the tools to take our struggles to the truth of Scripture, knowing we will find healing for deep issues. God created us to be open and honest with Him and others and this book will help us move along to that place.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

About the Author:

Edward T. Welch (MDiv,PhD) is a licensed psychologist and faculty member at the Christian Counseling & Educational Foundation (CCEF). He earned a PhD in counseling (neuropsychology) from the University of Utah and has a Master's in Divinity from Biblical Theological Seminary. He has been counseling for nearly 40 years and has written extensively on the topics of depression, fear, and addictions. He has written a number of biblical counseling books as well.

New Growth Press, 256 pages.

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

(My star ratings: 5-I love it, 4-I like it, 3-It's OK, 2-I don't like it, 1-I hate it.)

Sunday, September 26, 2021

One for the Hooks by Betty Hechtman

This novel is an entertaining cozy mystery for readers who enjoy all things with yarn, especially crochet. The narrative is a good combination of character relationship development and an amateur sleuth murder investigation.

There were several aspects of the novel I found interesting. There is the issue of yarn, buying a collection of small skeins of various colors and then coming up with a reasonable way to market them. I like the idea of creating kits, providing samples and some instruction. And the plus is the directions for the project at the end of the book.

Another aspect of the plot I liked was the whole real estate issue. It was interesting to read about readying a house for sale or for another use, such as short term rentals. Professionals in that area can create quite a presentation.

The plot also contains interesting relationship issues. I was rooting for Molly, our amateur sleuth to go with a particular one of the two men in her life. I was a little shocked by her decision at the end of the novel and it left lots of questions unanswered for me.

This is a good cozy mystery and of particular interest to those involved in yarn arts. It is a continuation of a long series featuring Molly Pink but I felt it read well on its own.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

Betty Hechtman has a degree in fine arts and has had a number of professions. She has been doing handcrafts and reading mysteries since childhood. She has always wanted to be a writer and has been doing it in various forms as long as she can remember.

Crooked Lane Books, 320 pages.

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

(My star ratings: 5-I love it, 4-I like it, 3-It's OK, 2-I don't like it, 1-I hate it.)

Friday, September 24, 2021

Shadow Ridge by M E Browning

I enjoyed this police procedure novel and my introduction to Browning. Jo Wyatt is quite the detective. I had a hard time liking her. She's got quite a sarcastic and critical mouth. She has an attitude and serious relationship issues. She seems to have not kept up in her training, not knowing much about cyber crimes, such as that email addresses could be spoofed. As the novel progressed and more of her story came out, I could understand her character but still found her a bit hard to like to the very end.

Jo's greatest positive trait is her tenacious attitude toward solving a mystery. While ruled a suicide initially, something doesn't set right with Jo and she digs and digs and digs. She alienates people right and left, except Squint, her faithful co-investigator. She finally gets to the bottom of the murder(s) and manages to make a friend, sort of, in the process.

The novel highlights the prejudice against women in law enforcement, at least in that area. Jo had been passed up for promotion, unjustly. But she might just have had the last word. We'll find out in the next novel in the series. This is a good novel for readers who like a balance of character development and police procedure with a good dose of suspense at the end.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

Colorado Book Award-winning author M. E. Browning writes the Jo Wyatt Mysteries and the Agatha-nominated and award-winning Mer Cavallo Mysteries (as Micki Browning). Browning also writes short stories and nonfiction. Her work has appeared in magazines, anthologies, and textbooks. An FBI National Academy graduate, she worked in municipal law enforcement for more than two decades and retired as a captain before turning to a life of crime fiction.

Crooked Lane Books, 296 pages.

(My star ratings: 5-I love it, 4-I like it, 3-It's OK, 2-I don't like it, 1-I hate it.)

Thursday, September 23, 2021

The Difficult Words of Jesus by Amy-Jill Levine

We have to admit that some of Jesus' words are hard to understand. Levine, a Jew and expert in all things Jewish, shares her insights on how those listening to Jesus speak would have understood his words. She identifies her book as one for people who want to struggle with Scripture they find disturbing.

I have mixed feelings about the book. On the positive side, Levine shares a wealth of information on the background of concepts and culture and society of Jesus' day. Readers who want insights in those areas will find much valuable information in this book.

Levine is not a Christian, however, so I have reservations about her truly understanding what Jesus meant. I found it interesting to read her comments on Christian theology as a non-Christian. She writes about the “call” of the gospel while noting it is something she has never felt. (140) She does not believe in hell (101) though she does have a good account of how it became accepted into Christian theology. (121-122) She is “not much a believer in demons,” (80) and says the book of Jonah is “manifestly fictional.” (81) She acknowledges that Jesus did see himself in the role of Jewish Messiah (83) but apparently does not accept he is so.

Readers who want to understand more of Jewish thought, especially as it relates to some of what Jesus said, will find this book informative. Evangelical Christians looking for Holy Spirit directed insights into what Jesus said may be disappointed. Miller suggests we cannot fully understand what Scripture means but we can make educated guesses. (xvii) She writes, “...while the Bible may have the first word on a number of questions, it will never have the last word.” (154) Those who want to struggle with Jesus' words in the context of Jewish thought will like this book. You will gain understanding about how a non-Christian wrestles with what Jesus' said.

My rating: 3/5 stars.

Amy-Jill Levine is University Professor of New Testament and Jewish Studies and Mary Jane Werthan Professor of Jewish Studies Emerita at Vanderbilt Divinity School and College of Arts and Sciences. She is an internationally renowned scholar and teacher and the author of numerous books. She is also the co-editor of the Jewish Annotated New Testament. She has done more than 500 programs across the globe for churches, clergy groups, and seminaries on the Bible, Christian-Jewish relations, and Religion, Gender, and Sexuality.

Abingdon Press, 176 pages.

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

(My star ratings: 5-I love it, 4-I like it, 3-It's OK, 2-I don't like it, 1-I hate it.)

5-Star-Life by Britney Ruby Miller Blog Tour

About the Book

Book:  5-Star Life

Author: Britney Ruby Miller

Genre: Self-Help, Inspirational

Release date: August 20, 2021

Britney Ruby Miller has faced overwhelming obstacles in her life—extreme challenges to her faith, her family, her marriage, and her business. Each of these challenges alone might have caused her to give up and shut down, closing herself off to all of her hopes and dreams. Instead, she fought back hard, engaging in a faithful fight to attain a 5-star life.

Are you allowing your negative life experiences to transform you—or to undermine you? No matter what obstacles you face, you can learn ways to fight back, “striving for 5” to reach a 5-star life.

Now the CEO of a chain of nationally ranked, high-end steakhouses, Britney has fought the battles of rejection, feelings of low self-esteem, family tragedy, infidelity, infertility, and the global pandemic that threatened not only to close her family’s business but also to decimate the entire restaurant industry. “I am so thankful that God helped me stretch, heal, learn, and grow from my journey so far,” says Britney. “There is absolutely no way I would have been able to function at such a high level at work, balancing so many plates at once, and be full of God’s love and peace even in the hardest of times, without having been transformed through a lifetime of experiences. God used all of my negative experiences to make my life more rich and full of joy and purpose.”

Britney’s ingredients for a 5-star life include:

* Partnering with God to live the life you were meant to live
* Working together for a strong family life
* Cultivating a unified, loving marriage
* Pursuing excellence at your job or business
* Giving back to others in your community and the world

With captivating stories and reflections to take you deeper into principles for success, this book will show you how to keep your faith and hope in the midst of challenges, setbacks, and even tragedy as you persevere with tenacity to attain your 5-star life of excellence.

Click here to get your copy!

My Review

This is an impressive memoir with lessons on Christian living. One might think Miller is a privileged woman, daughter of a successful business owner. But she is quite open in sharing her own tragedies and mistakes and how God saw her through. “He doesn't always rescue us from the consequences of our choices, but He is faithful to lead us back to higher ground if we let Him.” (965/3768)

This memoir contains good insights in two major areas. First is in living life. Miller is honest with her life because she hopes readers will be encouraged by her example to live their best life. She includes many life lessons on relationships, marriage, and parenting. She shares her feelings on her husband's infidelity and her own pain from miscarriages, and PTSD and anxiety after an automobile accident. Second, she tells us of her experiences in learning the restaurant industry, working through all the positions, finding mentors, and finally moving into management. She even shares how they made it through the Covid restrictions.

Miller invites us to see every crisis we might encounter “as an opportunity to learn and grow.” (3631/3768) She helps us do that by recounting her own experiences and the spiritual lessons she learned from them. The book contains practical information for business owners, such as in handling complaints, and for Christians, such as taking the steps to forgiveness. It is well written and inspiring.

My rating: 4/5 stars.


About the Author

Cent (JRCE), headquartered in Cincinnati, Ohio, which manages a portfolio of high-end steakhouses widely regarded as among the best in the nation. She directs the company’s seven steakhouses in Ohio, Kentucky, and Tennessee, leading a team of hundreds of employees.

“When your father is a steakhouse baron, you don’t just show up and take over the family business when you come of age,” she says. Britney started working in one of the family restaurants at age fifteen and subsequently gained experience in all areas of the business, and she also attended culinary school. Britney was studying in the Lindner College of Business when 9/11 hit, prompting her to switch her major and earn a bachelor’s degree in religious studies from the University of Cincinnati before returning to the family business and eventually joining JRCE’s corporate team. She is currently pursuing an MBA from Xavier University.

In her corporate role, Britney’s leadership led to eight years of consecutive same-store sales growth, expanding the company while enhancing the key element on which its success depends: delivering absolutely incomparable total dining experiences in each market. When the economic effects of Covid-19 threatened not only her own business but also the entire restaurant industry and food supply chain nationwide, Britney became an energetic advocate for the restaurant industry and related industries on both state and federal levels.

Britney also helped to develop and launch one of her family’s main charitable endeavors, The Jeff Ruby Foundation. The foundation’s goal is to remove Cincinnati from the “Top 5 Childhood Poverty” lists by providing homes for foster children and lowering the number of kids in the county foster system. Brittney has been named to the “40 Under 40″ lists of the Cincinnati Business Courier and Cincinnati’s Venue magazine, and she is a frequent speaker on topics ranging from restaurant management to marketing to women in business. She serves as a board member of both The Jeff Ruby Foundation and the Cincinnati State Foundation, and she is a member of the Young Presidents Organization.

Britney is a dedicated wife and mother. She is married to Caleb Miller, a former linebacker for the Cincinnati Bengals, and they have four children. Committed to putting family first, Britney continually strives to balance family life and work demands, enriching both realms of her life.

More from Britney

How to keep going in the midst of challenges, setbacks, and even tragedy to attain a 5-star life of excellence.

Blog Stops

Happily Managing a Household of Boys, September 16

deb's Book Review, September 16

Debbie's Dusty Deliberations, September 17

Mary Hake, September 17

An Author's Take, September 18

Truth and Grace Homeschool Academy, September 19

Texas Book-aholic, September 20

Inklings and notions, September 21

For Him and My Family, September 22

Book Reviews From an Avid Reader, September 23

Ashley’s Clean Book Reviews, September 24

Because I said so -- and other adventures in Parenting, September 25

A Modern Day Fairy Tale, September 26

Musings of a Sassy Bookish Mama, September 27

Locks, Hooks and Books, September 28

The Meanderings of a Bookworm, September 29

The Space for Grace, September 29

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.

(My star ratings: 5-I love it, 4-I like it, 3-It's OK, 2-I don't like it, 1-I hate it.)

Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Cajun Kiss of Death by Ellen Boyd

This novel is an immersion in all things Cajun. It got off to a bit of a rough start for me as the story began with lots of people, food and getting together. It took me a while to figure out who belonged to whom and how they were all related, whether by birth or business or interest. This is the seventh book in the series and I realized I missed much of the previous material on relationships. There is a big list of characters at the beginning of the book. That should have clued me in to the vast number of people and their interactions.

The murder did not happen until a quarter of the way into the book. After the murder, there seemed to be a better focus on the plot line and I became more interested. Prior to the murder, I did have a little trouble maintaining my interest in the book.

Several of the characters are involved in food preparation and service. There is much about the various kinds of Cajun foods and when they are eaten. Part of the plot is the stealing of recipes and I was surprised to find out that such a practice is done often and really cannot be prosecuted. And if you want to make some of the delicious sounding foods, recipes are included.

I like Maggie as an amateur sleuth. She is persistent in her tracking down the murderer as people she loves are suspects, including her mother. But I do think the best part of this book is the setting. It's a good book for readers who would like to be immersed in Cajun atmosphere, from hospitality to delicious food.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

Ellen Byron is the Agatha Award winning author of the Cajun Country Mysteries, a USA Today bestselling series also winning multiple Best Humorous Mystery Lefty Awards from the Left Coast Crime conference. She also writes under the pen name of Maria DiRico. She is also a screen writer and has written over 200 national magazine articles. A native New Yorker, she attended Tulane University. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband and daughter. You can find out more at

Crooked Lane Books, 320 pages.

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

(My star ratings: 5-I love it, 4-I like it, 3-It's OK, 2-I don't like it, 1-I hate it.)

Tuesday, September 21, 2021

The Unlikely Yarn of the Dragon Lady by Sharon J Mondragon Blog Tour

About the book:

A knitting group’s change of scenery changes lives in unexpected ways

Margaret, Rose, Jane, and Fran had a good thing going: meet every week in the quiet of their peaceful chapel and knit prayer shawls. No muss, just ministry. That is, until their pastor boots them out of the church in his last-ditch effort to revive the dwindling congregation.

Uptight Margaret isn’t having it. Knitting prayer shawls where people can watch is the most ridiculous idea she’s ever heard of, and she’s heard plenty. Prayer belongs in the church, not out among the heathen masses. How are they supposed to knit holiness into these shawls if they’re constantly distracted by the public? But with no choice, the others embrace the challenge. They pack their knitting bags and drag Margaret—grumbling the whole way—to the mall with them. She can’t wait to prove them all wrong when it fails miserably, and show the pastor that she always knows best.

Without the familiar mold the group has been stuck in, their own losses, pain, and struggles rise to the surface. And the people and situations they encounter every time they try to sit quietly and knit are taking them a lot further out of their comfort zone than they ever imagined. Can they find the courage to tackle the increasing number of knotty issues they learn about in the community--or will the tangle be too much to unravel?

Sharon J. Mondragon’s debut is warm and delightful, full of real laughter, grief, and personality. It beautifully illustrates the power of women across generations to reach people for Christ.

To read an excerpt of The Unlikely Yarn of the Dragon Lady click here.

My Review:

This is a delightful novel for women, especially those who might be set in their ways. It is a well crafted story exploring what might happen when control is relinquished and God is allowed to move freely. Lives are changed, both those prayed for and those praying. Deep hurts are brought to light and hearts are healed.

The characters are well crafted too. There are young people in desperate need of prayerful love and direction. There are elderly women filled with love ready to burst out. There are a couple of dragon ladies too. Hard nosed, controlling. It is amazing to see what God can do when allowed to penetrate a controlling personality. Forced to get out of her comfort zone, Margaret declares, “Our ministry used to be such a neat and tidy operation, but now we never know what will happen next.” (3284/3424)

This is an entertaining novel but is also an encouraging one. Read it if you are ready to allow God freedom to work. And read even if you're not because you'll see what God can do. And if you are interested in a prayer shawl ministry, lots of information is included at the end of the book.

My rating: 5/5 stars.


About the author:

Sharon J. Mondragón writes about the place where kindness and courage meet. Her debut novel, The Unlikely Yarn of the Dragon Lady (originally titled The Heavenly Hugs Prayer Shawl Ministry) was the 2017 winner of the American Christian Fiction Writers Genesis award in the Short Novel Category, and she has also been recognized by The Saturday Evening Post where her short story, “I’ll Be Home for Christmas,” was an Honorable Mention Awardee in the 2014 their Great American Fiction Contest.

Mondragón has been active in prayer shawl ministry since 2008 and currently serves as facilitator for the prayer shawl ministry at her church, St. Paul Episcopal in Waxahachie, TX. She also knits with the Circle of Healing at Red Oak United Methodist Church. She is a Level 2 Certified Knitting Instructor through the Craft Yarn Council and teaches beginning knitting at a local yarn store.

Mondragón is the mother of five grown children and has four grandchildren. After 26 years as an Army wife, she has settled in Midlothian, TX with her hero/husband, her laptop, and her yarn stash.

Visit Sharon Mondragón’s website and blog at and follow her on Facebook (Sherry Mondragón) and Twitter (@SJ_Mondragón)

Kregel Publications, 272 pages.

I received a complimentary egalley of this book from the publisher. My comments are an independent and honest review. The rest of the copy of this post was provided by Audra Jennings PR.

(My star ratings: 5-I love it, 4-I like it, 3-It's OK, 2-I don't like it, 1-I hate it.)

Monday, September 20, 2021

The Lines Between Us by Amy Lynn Green

 About the Book:

A WWII novel of courage and conviction, based on the true experience of the men who fought fires as conscientious objectors and the women who fought prejudice to serve in the Women's Army Corps.

Since the attack on Pearl Harbor, Gordon Hooper and his buddy Jack Armitage have stuck to their values as conscientious objectors. Much to their families' and country's chagrin, they volunteer as smokejumpers rather than enlisting, parachuting into and extinguishing raging wildfires in Oregon. But the number of winter blazes they're called to seems suspiciously high, and when an accident leaves Jack badly injured, Gordon realizes the facts don't add up.

A member of the Women's Army Corps, Dorie Armitage has long been ashamed of her brother's pacifism, but she's shocked by news of his accident. Determined to find out why he was harmed, she arrives at the national forest under the guise of conducting an army report . . . and finds herself forced to work with Gordon. He believes it's wrong to lie; she's willing to do whatever it takes for justice to be done. As they search for clues, Gordon and Dorie must wrestle with their convictions about war and peace and decide what to do with the troubling secrets they discover.

You can read an excerpt here.

My Review:

This is Green's second novel and it is another good one. (You can read my review of her first one, Things We Didn't Say.) I had no idea of the strong feelings people had in the mid-1940s toward conscientious objectors, especially after the attack on Pearl Harbor. Green does a wonderful job of taking us into the midst of the heat of disagreeing about being part of the war effort. She has also crafted believable and engaging characters. Gordon is a deeply honest man and has deep convictions about being a pacifist. His character is thought provoking, making me ask questions about when, if ever, it is right to go to war to stop evil. Reading groups will have much to discuss on this issue. There are also some other issues explored in the novel, including the government keeping information secret and the treatment of blacks in the general war effort.

It is clear Green has done a great deal of research in molding this novel around historical facts. I appreciate the depiction of the dangerous work of the smokejumpers in Oregon. I also liked the setting of Fort Lawton near Seattle and the women who served there. I can tell Green read many personal accounts of service in both areas.

This is a good novel for readers who enjoy historical fiction from WW II but are ready for something other than plots set in war zones. You'll learn about another aspect of the war, that on the home front.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

About the Author:

Amy Lynn Green is a publicist by day and a novelist on nights and weekends. History has always been one of her passions, and she loves speaking with book clubs, writing groups, and libraries all around the country. Her debut novel, Things We Didn't Say, is a Carol Award finalist, was nominated for a 2021 Minnesota Book Award and received a starred review from both Booklist and Library Journal. Amy and her husband live in Minneapolis, Minnesota. You can find out more at Photo: © Roger Smith Photography.

Bethany House Publishers, 384 pages.

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

(My star ratings: 5-I love it, 4-I like it, 3-It's OK, 2-I don't like it, 1-I hate it.)

Sunday, September 19, 2021

Death and Sensibility by Elizabeth Blake

This is a good cozy mystery for lovers of literature and all things Regency. While the occasion is a conference of the Jane Austen Society and there is much about Austen, there are references and allusions to many authors, such as Keats and Milton. The heroine, Erin, is well crafted. She is known for her passion in solving murder mysteries (I've missed the first in this series). Blake gives Erin an interesting motivation for her sleuthing pursuits. Erin had watched helpless as her mother died of cancer. Now, solving murders gave her a illusion of control. (1806/4615) Erin wrestles with personal issues in the form of two men romantically interested in her, as she pursues identifying the murderer. Blake provides a good balance of personal story intermixed with murder investigation progression.

I liked how Blake firmly placed the plot in location. The setting is the quaint English town of York. We get a good idea of the community, its history and geography with such interesting actions as walking the surrounding wall. The history of the area is inserted into the plot in a reasonable way.

I like how so many suspects come to light as past secrets and character relationships are revealed. The revelation of the villain did not come as a surprise and astute readers will probably figure out the individual along the way.

I enjoyed this cozy mystery for its interesting characters and informative setting. I liked the literary bent to the plot. I also liked the great critique of Hallmark Christmas movies as they are compared to great literature.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

Elizabeth Blake is the pseudonym of Carole Bugge who also writes as C E Lawrence. She is the author of ten novels, six novellas, and multiple short stories and poems as well as being a notable playwright. She is the winner of several awards for her poetry, fiction and playwright material. She has a BA in English from Duke University. She teaches creative writing at NYU and Gotham Writers Workshop and is a Fellow of the International Writers Retreat at Hawthornden Castle, Scotland, as well as Writer in Residence at Byrdcliffe Arts Colony in Woodstock, New York. You can find out more at

Crooked Lane Books, 336 pages.

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

(My star ratings: 5-I love it, 4-I like it, 3-It's OK, 2-I don't like it, 1-I hate it.)