Saturday, August 31, 2013

*Soul's Gate*

Soul's Gate, Wells Spring Novel Series #1

This story of Soul's Gate is as wild as a mountain waterfall, as refreshing as the smell of pinon pine and it glows more brightly than a campfire.
This is a story about the soul....
It is as complex as the lives of several individual people: Dana, Brandon, Marcus, Tamera and Reece, who are the fulfillment of an amazing prophecy.

Reece, appointed to be the leader, will train the four in how to enter human souls and wage war through the power of Christ on the evil that kills, steals, and destroys.
Together, these four warriors of the Kingdom will bind up the broken-hearted, set captives free and tear down strongholds. This is spiritual warfare.

I thought this book sounded really unique when Litfuse announced that volume two, Memory's Door would be touring soon. When the awesome Litfuse Group offered *both* books to people who had missed book one, I knew I needed to read them.

Then they came.... and I looked at them and thought "I'm going to read two thick books on spiritual warfare? Yikes!" You know what? Once I started Soul's Gate I didn't want to stop...and I was glad I had the next book waiting for me. This book is written as a novel, featuring main characters whose first reaction to Reece's teaching was much like my first reaction to this book: "I'm really not all that into spiritual warfare, but I sure like Reece's Christianity." They agree that Reece, a big guy who wears his Stetson cowboy hat and knows when to be tough on you and when you need tenderness, is the real deal as far as a follower of Christ.
And it's that sense of genuineness that helps to keep them all from stealing the car and escaping when Reece begins teaching them things that stretch their narrow understanding of "reality." Like Reece explains, *Every now and then we get a break from reality. A glimpse into the other world that is more real than the reality that we live in 99 percent of our days.*

And it all begins at a place that captured my heart as I read, a place that lives through James Rubart's descriptive writing: Well Spring Ranch. This place is beautiful, peaceful, and "The curtain is thinner there." In Dana, Marcus, and Brandon's lives, their transformation and renewal begins at Well Spring.

But it most certainly does not end there. It never will end. The journey of knowing God and living for Him in the power of Christ will not end in this life and will never end in eternity.

Memory's Door, Wells Spring Novel Series #2

When I was eleven my biggest dream was to be a novelist. It was fueled by reading The Chronicles of Narnia, and from story being chosen as the best my 7th grade English class.
But in eighth grade the dream took a major hit. I took journalism class (loved it) and at the end of the year tried out for the school paper. Didn’t get chosen. Rejected. In that moment I buried the dream and listened to a lie that sank its claws deep into my heart: “You can’t write.”
I believed the lie. But the dream refused to die throughout my teens. I subscribed to Writer’s Digest magazine. I dabbled in short stories. In my 20s I even went to a few one-day writing seminars. But I never showed my writing to anyone.

The Dream Comes Alive

Then in 2002, my wife announced she was going on a fast. Why? She didn’t know. How long? Same answer. After two and a half days a light bulb exploded over my head as I rode next to my wife in our car. I felt God say, “I’ve given you the skill and desire to write, when are you going to step into your destiny?”
I turned to Darci and said, “I know why you’re fasting. I’m supposed to be a novelist.”
She stared at me and said, “I’m hungry for three days, and you get the answer?”
We both burst into laughter. It was the perfect response to lighten a moment where I had to make a serious decision. Would I choose to step in? The obvious answer is yes. I dove in full-force to writing my first novel (ROOMS) and finished it in late ’05.
I won’t bore you with the details of how it was rejected and ultimately purchased (in early summer 2008) so suffice it to say it took significant perseverance and belief. That’s why, whatever your dream is, I encourage you to keep pressing in.  They can come true.

Friday, August 30, 2013

*The Journal*

This slim book is an excellent story as well as a window into the lives of the soldiers who fought the War Between the States.
This is a novel made up full of journal entries from both Yankees and Rebs, all writing in a little book that traveled widely during the war.
The journal was lost in battle, confiscated from a prisoner, stolen from a soldier's cot.... Each man who found it read the words of the ones who possessed it before, and then felt drawn to write in it himself. 
Even more strange, he felt like he understood the other men whose hands had held this book...
even though they were supposed to be enemies with nothing in common. 

Yet there it is, preserved in a journal: Yankees and Rebs both imagining the sweethearts they left behind, both writing home to the families they've left, both thinking about what waits for them after death if a bullet or a minnie ball finds it's mark.
Both encountering the One who made them all and gave His Son for them, becoming brothers in Christ.

Each man in this book revealed his heart in his brief entries, through simple words the way a man would, and each new owner of the journal was moved by the journeys to faith he found recorded there.

I highly recommend The Journal: Lost Memoirs from the Civil War .

A native Texan, Beth Harlow and her husband, Gale, live in Franklin, Tennessee, where one of the bloodiest battles of the Civil War was fought. They have three children and are members of Brentwood Church of Christ in Brentwood, Tennessee. Beth spends as much time as she can with her four grandchildren–Claudia, Lukas, Zachary, and Tegan–and spends the rest of her time painting, gardening, reading, and writing.  The Journal is her first novel.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

*Into The Free* and *When Mountains Move*

                                     Into the Free

I really wanted to read these books... and I'll admit that part of it was their covers. 
There's something lonely and soul-stirring about them. The first one features a single figure walking along a dirt road with fields on the side, A Southern environment, with flower blossoms around the edges. She is setting off into the unknown, shoulders squared, and she is carrying a heavy bag that weighs her down.  

                                          When Mountains Move

The other shows us two people against the awe-inspiring desolation of the Rockies. 
A man on horseback, riding away, a woman looking into the light, watching him leave.
There is a sense that all is not right about their parting...a sense that she wants to call him back, or that he wants to turn back. You can see that they matter to each other, but something is wrong.  

The other reason I knew I had to read these books was the reviews: I had heard that these books deal with powerful themes. That they are the kind that help you grow though reading them.

That in them you to meet people that never leave your memory. That you will want to know both God and your fellow man better after your reading journey.  
Those statements about these books are true. 
Into The Free is the sort of book that leaves me asking "How does the author do that... how does she write so well that some parts of the book hurt to read, and some parts fill you with hope?" 
What a gift Mrs. Cantrell has! When I opened the pages of this book, it was like opening the very door to Millie's world.

And Millie's world overwhelms me when I think about it: such a young girl navigating a youth of storm clouds and pitch-black swirling waters that threaten to drown her, the way they seem to drown her mother and father.
Millie loves her mother, and tries her hardest to love her father, but she is just a child and can't carry those burdens by herself! She can't understand what made her family the way it is. 

A moment surrounded by joy and acceptance comes from the Gypsies that return to town every year. An old Babushka gypsy and a young man named River both draw Millie... and both have so much life in them.  Their life spills over into Millie. 

In the author's note, Julie Cantrell said that Into the Free was her love song to Mississippi. I found that fascinating. That is a perfect description of what she created when she wrote this book. A love song spun around a place and a time and a young girl living and growing... and most of all the process of healing.  

And then....

When Mountains Move. The flowing, vivid way that Julie Cantrell described Mississippi is mirrored here in her word-paintings of Colorado. 

Through the eyes of Millie, we find out what being a very young rancher's bride would have been like in 1943. Bump and Millie are together taking on a piece of the world that will prove challenging and rewarding. 
An essentially abandoned corner of God's earth and a rodent infested shack of a house: and these "two desperate kids" need to turn them into a profitable ranch and a comfortable home. The blessing is that they both know how to support each other's confidence, and they are knitted together in their desire to accomplish this dream. 

  When Mountains Move  was so full of unexpected turns and surprises that there were times when I didn't know which characters I believed, who I supported, or even what outcome I was hoping for!
There is that much tension in this book... and that much resolution. 

Maybe it is safe to say that Millie's healing, which sprouted like a hopeful springtime baby leaf in book one, really begins to grow in this sequel.

The end of Into The Free is triumphant. As Millie chooses the gentle cowboy and the life he has to offer her, she breaks a link in the chains that others have bound her with. It seems to me that all lasting relationships are maintained by making the original choice over and over again. 
The same with following Christ: many recommitments over many more years, when you let Him renew you in His love and you trust Him again.  Millie reminded me of that truth as I read this story. 
Another thing I really like was that although Bump's love for Millie is very steady and faithful, it is also human love. He did falter, he did miss the mark. He disappointed her...and me, for her sake, as I read. 
At the same time... there is such a *goodness* about Bump, so much so that he makes a startling declaration near the end of the book, one that requires sacrificial love to make. 
I can't tell you what it is...but when you read it, you'll know, and you'll cry to think that his heart worked that way. 

The reality that love does heal wounds shines like the sun out of these pages. 

Julie Cantrell is the New York Times andUSA Today bestselling author of Into the Free, which won Christy Awards for Best Debut Novel and for Book of the Year 2013. Cantrell has served as editor-in-chief of the Southern Literary Review and is a recipient of the Mississippi Arts Commission Literary Fellowship. She and her family live in Mississippi, where they operate Valley House Farm. Her new novel, When Mountains Move, hits shelves September 1, 2013.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Buyer Beware: Finding Truth in The Market Place of Ideas.

Buyer Beware: Finding Truth in the Marketplace of Ideas

What are they selling?
What are you buying?

Our society and culture are described by authoress Janet Parshall as Vanity Fair, 
an allusion to Pilgrim's Progress. 

The fair has plenty of rotten ideas and rotten doings that headline our news on a daily basis.
That is what is being sold: world-views, ideologies, words, theories, some of them very rotten.
Not all bad, but you can't just accept them as they come and go from fashion. 
Bad ideas will always be sold in this fallen world.

The question that Janet's newest book asks is: What are YOU buying from these vendors of thoughts and words? 

In Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress, the characters Christian and Faithful say they buy only the truth. 
The Truth is what the Word offers. The world offers quite another message. 

This book has chapters on the home, family, marriage, and more. 
In the chapter on the home, for example, there is insight into how the culture of broken families are failing our young people and sending shockwaves into the future. 

Janet Parshall is a smart cookie with a provocative radio program loaded with knowledgeable guests offering insight into the issues we face as we navigate Vanity Fair. 

This book, Buyer Beware: Finding Truth in the Market Place of Ideas is a base hit. 
I recommend it. 
It is plain speaking. 

Reviewed by Kirk Farrell. 

Janet ParshallJanet Parshall has been consistently profiled as one of the top 100 "talkers" in Talkers magazine, the leading trade publication of the talk industry. In 2011 and 2008, Janet was awarded the National Religious Broadcasters On-Air Personality of the Year. Janet was elected to the Board of Directors of the National Religious Broadcasters in 1998, and has served on its Executive Board since 2001. She is the recipient of the Excellence in Communications award from Women in Christian Media. Janet was also elected to Sigma Delta Omega for high attainments in the field of broadcasting.
Throughout her career, Janet has been a devoted advocate of the principles and policies that strengthen the family. In February 2005, Parshall was selected by President George W. Bush to represent the White House as public delegate to the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women. As a radio and television commentator, author, and advocate for the family, Janet speaks nationwide on public policy issues that impact family preservation and promotion. She has appeared on numerous national television and radio programs, including Crossfire, Hardball, Nightline, Larry King Live, Donahue, The 700 Club, Hannity & Colmes and NewsNight with Aaron Brown, and has also appeared on various other programs on CBS, NBC, ABC, CNN, MSNBC, CNBC, CBN, PBS, the BBC and NPR. Janet has also been featured in People magazine.
Janet is a graduate of Carroll College in Wisconsin. She was appointed twice by Wisconsin Governor Tommy Thompson to the Wisconsin Women's Council, and the Governor's Commission on Families and Children.
Janet is the author of several books, including her latest Buyer Beware: Finding Truth in the Marketplace of Ideas. She and her husband, Craig, live in Virginia, and have four children and six grandchildren.

*Man of God* by Charles Stanley

 Man of God: Leading Your Family by Allowing God to Lead You

This book should be handed out to every new father at the hospital.
We make sure that the man has an appropriate baby car seat before he drives his infant home,
how can we not ensure that he has practical, Godly guidance for the most world-changing work a man with children will do: fatherhood?

Of course, the principles in this book are not for fatherhood alone, but for every aspect of manhood. And these truths need to be pressed into the hearts and minds of men before they hold their first child, ideally before they marry. 

I shared this book with a friend who agreed to help me write the review. 
My friend was raised by a distant father whose actions bordered on abuse more than once. 
The wounds left by this sort of upbringing run deep and last long. 
The marriage and family she saw modeled before her as a child are nothing she wants to imitate. 

Reading this book was a part of the healing process for her... 
Sometimes she cried as she read about the tenderness a father should bestow on his children, 
of the steady love that should rule a man's marriage. 
Sometimes she was angered as she thought about the "men" who don't live for God and their family...they live for themselves, putting earthly priorities before heavenly ones, their worldview manifested in many different ways. 

But she was left full of hope after she closed this book...full of hope that men exist who know they are broken and hopeless on their own, who become true MEN, real MEN by living the way real men were made to: humble and teachable before God, following Jesus and leading their children after them after Him. 

And although it would be a wonderful blessing to be that man from the time your children are babies, so that they have memories of Godly men filling their minds, 
 it is NEVER TO LATE to become a man of God. NEVER. 
If you have breath in your lungs and access to one other living person, 
then God still has work for you to do for Him that only a Man of God can do. 
Your children may be grown.... but let me tell you, my friend would be so full of joy 
if she could see her father live out good, godly manhood in his next decades, 
even though she has moved out of his house, she still watches him, still thinks about him.
 Someday he will have grandchildren that he can influence. 
There are young people in a church in his neighborhood, crying out for a strong, 
solid Man of God in their lives. He could be that man! 
At 40, at 50, at 60, at 70! 

So young men, please, read this book. The world needs you out there in the years of your youth, living for Christ. Showing us how real men live: grounded in Scripture and overflowing with a loving, Gospel saturated spirit. 
And older men. Don't ever think it is too late to become a Man of God. It never is. 
It never is. 

Monday, August 26, 2013

Timothy: A Little Fish with a Big Purpose!

Timothy: A Little Fish with a Big Purpose!

What child wouldn't love a story about a little yellow fish, named Timothy, who is swimming on his way to visit his Grandma fish, when God uses his simple act of picking up a coin to be a part of one of Jesus' miracles?

The miracle recounted in Matthew 17: 24, 25, and 26 is told as a story in this book.
Details about how much Timothy loves his Grandma (a round, bright pink fish that just looks grandmother-ish!) and about how beautiful their underwater home in the Sea of Galilee is, make this a story that lets little ones imagine as they listen or read along.

The fact that parents can then explain the Scriptures behind the story, Scriptures the story is carefully woven from, make it a wonderful reading experience!  I can picture how Timothy's story would inspire and remind it's readers to continue in obedience to the Lord, because each obedient act, even if it seems to be small, is being used by God to build up his Kingdom! And that means that all of us little fish and little children have big purposes!

I have a feeling that Timothy: A Little Fish with a Big Purpose is going to be a "Read-it-Again!" children's book.

Thank you Cross Focused Reviews for my review copy!

Brad Riley

 In 1997, Pastor Brad Riley and his wife, Beth, launched Faith Chapel Church in O’Fallon, Missouri, where they still serve with their two daughters, Emma and Sophia. Faith Chapel has formed a long-term relationship with “La Casa de Samuel,” an orphanage in Venezuela, and 25% of the proceeds from sales of Timothy: A Little Fish with a Big Purpose is sent to support the ministry.
Brad also serves as a Board of Regent for North Central University and on the Board of the “Dispensary of Hope”–a nonprofit social venture that provides sustainable access to medicine for underinsured communities.


Rescued: One Family's Miraculous Story of Survival

A father, mother and daughter, flying in a small plane to visit a second daughter, crash into the wilderness of the mountains. They survive the impact, but all are injured. Rescuers must locate them and get them to safety out of that rough, dangerous terrain... 
The pilot and father, Brian Brown, understands the mission of the rescuers...he is himself a fire captain who has responded to many life and death situations. He knows he needs to keep a clear head and push through the pain to help save his own family. 

This story is told from multiple points of view... from the rescued and the rescuers.
I identified strongly with the rescued, the Brown family...three of whom were in the plane when it went down: Brian, his wife Jayann and their daughter Heather.
The emotions they went through grip you as you read, and I found myself praying  hard that my own family would be protected in their journeyings.
Their story reminds me just how frail I am as a human being. As N. D Wilson points out, we little people can't get too hot or too cold, we can't be left out in the wilds, we need water, we need food, we need sleep. Our lives are so fragile! Every breath I take is a free gift from the One who preserves our lives. I can't control whether I survive or not in daily life, never mind a plane crash! That their lives were preserved through this crash is a miracle.
Truly, this rescue was an act of God, working through brave men and women who give their all and yet wouldn't want to be called heroes.

The rescuer's accounts are amazing to read. From the dispatcher who took the 911 call that Heather was able to get out from the mountainside with her last bit of cell battery and a flickering signal, to the men that operated the helicopter hoist that lifted them to safety, these are people gifted in what they do, willing to sacrifice themselves to help another. 
I especially loved the chance to get into the mind of a firefighter, to hear a little about what drew Mr. Brown himself and several of the rescuers to this challenging, and rewarding, field. 

For these men and women, it's a calling. Their passion for this unique work, work that has the power to save lives while statistically cutting ten years off their own lifespan, pours out of this book. 
And like they say: Once fire-fighting gets into your blood, it typically never leaves.

Thank you Reader's Favorite for sending me Rescued: One Family's Miraculous Story of Survival  to review!

"Rescued really has many meanings as the book reaches out to a variety of audiences such as men, rescuers, pilots, firefighters, and families in crisis. For each group of people it will have its own meaning, but I feel it also shares my deepest meaning, ‘hope.’ In this true life experience, my family and I not only had our lives spared, but I personally feel as though my soul was rescued through true hope and faith in God’s work. I always believed in God, but now I am a child of God.”
Brian Brown, author of Rescued

Brian BrownBrian Brown is a Fire Captain with the Cosumnes fire department and a Deputy Chief for the Wilton fire district in California. He and his team respond to 5000 emergency calls a year. Brian and his wife, Jayann, and daughter Heather were in the War Eagle crash while his older daughter, Tabitha, awaited their arrival in Idaho. Brian and Jayann have been married for 29 years. 

Eileen ChambersEileen M. Chambers is an independent filmmaker and author of numerous nonfiction books. The daughter of a World War II U.S. Army Ranger, Chambers’ work often focuses on the stories of common people who rise to greatness through adversity. She is the owner of Montana Blue, a writer-friendly, audience-specific company that enables writers and filmmakers to develop their projects and reach their best audience.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

*I Saul*

I, Saul

I, Saul is... 
An adrenaline rush, as we watch quiet professor Augustine Aquinas Knox answer a strange text message/phone call from a dear friend in dire trouble.
Then we watch Augie prepare a Smith and Wesson .9 millimeter handgun, purchase a flight ticket and head off on an adventure that like all great adventures, he never expected, which is full of turns and plot twists that we readers don't see coming!

I, Saul is...
 A look into the Apostle Paul's life, often told in his own words and always vividly described from Paul's youth to his adult years before and then after he was transformed by our Lord, all the way to his final days, when Paul overflowed with boldness in the Spirit as he was held in a terrible prison. 

In our day and age, we have lots of debate about whether Biblical writings are "authentic," 
about whether old-looking bits of parchments with unbiblical writings on them (about Jesus' wife, for example) are true, and the world is rocked with each new discovery.

Now imagine that the parchments that Paul referred to in his letter to Timothy still existed today, preserved in almost their exact original condition. Imagine that they were found... 
Imagine that the humble Professor Augie Knox, his best friend and mentor Roger- a man who knows the Bible and the places of the Bible better than the back of his own hand but has yet to know personal redemption through Jesus, and Augie's beautiful fiancee Sofia are what stands between Paul's preserved memoir being a gift to the world or it becoming a payday for corrupt and greedy people. 

Imagine that even stronger  than the adventure, of which there is a bucketful, is the theme 
of spiritual renewal, especially amid complex family relationships. 

I am delighted with this book.  
I am very grateful to have received a copy from the publisher to review here at my blog.
 {Hi Worthy!!! Waves hand at Worthy Publishing.} 

I am also in a state of terrible suspense, because the ending of I, Saul, while it wraps up this first part of the adventure quite nicely, also lays wonderful groundwork for a sequel.
So now I need to wait for I, Paul. Well, I guess I can tell y'all to read this one in the meanwhile.

 Author of more than 180 books with sales of more than 70 million copies, including the best-selling Left Behind series, Jerry B. Jenkins is former vice president for publishing and currently chairman of the board of trustees for the Moody Bible Institute of Chicago. Jerry’s writing has appeared in Time, Reader’s Digest, Parade, Guideposts, and dozens of Christian periodicals. Twenty of his books have reached The New York Timesbest-seller list (seven debuting number one). 
 The Breakthrough, the final book in Jerry’s Precinct 11 trilogy, released from Tyndale House Publishers in September 2012.

James MacDonald (D. Min. Phoenix Seminary) is married to his high school sweetheart, Kathy, and both are from Ontario, Canada. He is the father of three grown children, two daughters-in-law, a son-in-law, and grandfather to five amazing grandsons. James’ ministry focuses on the unapologetic proclamation of God’s Word. In 1988, along with a small group of ministry partners, James and Kathy planted Harvest Bible Chapel ( which now has 13,000 people meeting at seven locations across Chicagoland each weekend.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Letters from Ruby

Letters from Ruby is a book that hit me right in the heart. 

The descriptions left me *tasting* the story: the town of Victory, St. Jacks Across the Tracks Church, and the parishioners, especially the dear ladies, who are members of the Church. 

When Calvin entered the Church for Morning Prayer, he never expected to meet four ladies who would shape his life. Recognizing them at first as Pearls, Brooch, and The Two Purses, Calvin soon learned that they are Ruby, Esther Rose, Mary and Avis... and each one will touch his heart and help him grow in a different way. 

The young Reverend Calvin is a character for sure. His first moments after his arrival involve him attempting to break into his new Church's locked door with a long bladed chef's knife which he retrieved from the kitchen set his parents had given him as a going-away present. 
Little did Calvin imagine he would end up in the backseat of a police cruiser 
because he was wielding the knife in that unorthodox manner! 
Yes, the Reverend is nearly arrested on his first day in town. 

Letters from Ruby receives its title from the letters that Ruby sends Calvin after he is sent to a new Church in Boston, three years after his arrival in Victory. In those three years he and Ruby bonded so well, through happiness and sadness.  
Her letters to him are full of sweet reminiscence and sober reflections about loved ones, her youth, how quickly time passes. Her wisdom is imparted in Calvin's soul as he reads her words to him. There are lines that made me cry as I thought about them. 
I was delighted by the letters interspersed through the chapters: I love letters. 
Over the years I have had the privilege of writing and receiving handwritten letters, 
there is something special about them. St. Paul's New Testament letters are some of my favorite parts of Scripture, because God's Word came through Paul in letter form: written, sealed, and delivered to people who knew they were loved and cared for. 

Letters from Ruby gets a five star from me... this story deserves it. 

Some of my favorite lines: 

"You remind me of him...It's odd to think neither of you ever shared this earth with the other."

"You think you have all the time in the world to get to know someone, but a year, two years, fifty years- it's never enough. 
There is always something you never said out loud, although you always meant to. 
It hides somewhere in your heart waiting for the right moment to come out. Sometimes you miss the moment. Sometimes you don't realize there was anything still hidden
 until it's too late to uncover."  

"Two hours later, Calvin was holding Natalie Stewart in his arms. 
She had a bright red mark on her forehead and impossibly small fingers. 
And when he felt her newborn warmth and the pounding of her strong newborn heart, the last three weeks vanished." 

Adam Thomas was ordained to the Episcopal priesthood in 2008 at the age of 25, making him one of the first priests from the millennial generation. His unique voice in the faith community emanates from a combination of his youth, honesty, humor, and tech-savvy nature. A self-described nerd, Adam is the author of Digital Disciple. He also writes the blog, belongs to the Christian Century Blogging Community and, and knows everything about Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Adam lives in Weymouth, Massachusetts.

Viking Vinland an Original Saga by Gary L. Doman.

Mythic. Very mythic. 
That's what I would say if you asked me about Viking Vinland... 
This story has Viking history, which intertwined with Christianity as the Gospel spread,
 and a lot of Viking mythology. 
It is steeped in an understanding of both the history and the myth, weaving the two together. 

Reading this book sparked some imagination on my part: What would it have been like to be a 
Christian in the days of the Vikings? 
Just the setting alone would have tested you: icy water in the fiords, frozen lands populated with large beasts, and the Vikings themselves, some of whom clung to their old religions and fought ruthlessly to keep them.

Now imagine it from the perspective of a young Viking, who only admired Christians when they gave him and his renegades a good fight as he raided their ships. 
Now imagine that this young Viking is called into the mythic world, given a commission to kill a giant serpent, drawn into a prophecy where he will be aided by dwarves and battled by giants. 

The imagine that he fights his enemies and pushes on bravely at cost to himself, 
and he comes to the end of the journey, and he finds that he has not been called by the old "gods" he served, but by the One God who is Eternal. 

Thank you to the author through Pump up Your Book Promotions for my copy of this book

I am a self-described eccentric with, as becomes evident in my writings, an interest in just about everything. I consider myself a philosopher above all else, but what I like to write are tales of (somewhat erudite) adventure. My pen-surname, pronounced in the way that I prefer, rhymes with the French word for "novel": "roman".

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

*A Home At Trail's End*

 A Home at Trail's End (Homeward on the Oregon Trail, #3)

In short? This is a great book!
In a sweet, wholesome way Melody Carlson has painted a picture of frontier life that we can savor and learn from through her Homeward on The Oregon Trail Series. 
The third and final book is now here (Yay!) A Home At Trail's End. 
Aside from being a happy conclusion to a satisfying set of books that would even 
make a great mother daughter read-aloud, there are several things
 I really, really appreciate about this story. 

One is the heroine herself: Elizabeth is a mother to two living children and widow who has recently come to love again. I enjoyed the depth that Elizabeth gave the book... she already had a lot of experience with trials and sadness, yet retains her joy of living. 
She has a good store of wisdom, 
much of it a gift from her godly parents (whom we get to meet!) 
She's humble, and she knows she's still on the journey of faith and life. 

Another thing that really delighted me is the homey details that let you imagine what it was like to start a farm in Oregon in the 1850's. 
Melody describes Elizabeth saving fruit pits and seeds and carefully sprouting them, 
hoping to someday transplant them to a little orchard.
We read about candling the hen's eggs, separating the eggs they can eat from the fertile ones that they need to give back to the mama hens so eggs can turn into chicks. 

Yep. A Home At Trail's End is a five-star book! 

Melody CarlsonOne book at a time. Just like so many other things in life, one step at a time, one day at a time, this writing career happened one book at a time for me. And it continues to do so.

I’m the first one to admit that it’s amazing to do what you love for a living. And I feel very blessed that I can do that. But it’s only because of you (my readers) that I’m able to write as a livelihood. The connection we have—and I experience this connection regularly through the fabulous emails and letters I receive—is what really keeps me going. I love hearing your reactions to my stories and characters, and I so appreciate you taking the time to write to me. Thank you—thank you—thank you! On the same token, I want to thank every single one of you (even the ones who don’t write to me) for reading my books. That too is part of our connection. And I hope in the next twenty years that we will continue to stay connected.
I try to keep up with the emails and letters and facebook messages, but because I’m always working on a new book, it’s very easy to get behind. Like right now...I am way behind.

 But I hope you know that as I write new books, creating new characters with new problems, I am thinking of you and I’m hoping that I’m making something you’ll enjoy reading as much as I enjoy writing.
Melody Carlson

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

*Death By Living*

Death by Living: Life Is Meant to Be Spent
Last month, I read N. D. Wilson's Notes from the Tilt-A-Whirl. 
Well, read is the wrong word. I experienced it.
This book had me swinging from snow-melt streams to small children laughing.
It made me replay my own memories and dive into the author's descriptions.
Notes from the Tilt-A_Whirl starts off in familiar territory and then opens up our horizons so that we see that our daily life in this world is an adventure in the amazing.

Death by Living is another turn-you-upside-down-open-your-eyes book.

We've probably all heard the phrase "You're dyin' from the moment you're born."

This is usually considered to be a cynical assessment, and sometimes the person saying it means it that way. But here's the thing: It's true.
And that truth, rightly understood, is what makes this book so powerful.

We need to spend our lives fully, or to use the C. S. Lewis phrase that I love, King Tirian's thought for how he wants to die in The Last Battle: selling his life dearly.
It must be a kind of combination of living with your hands open, giving it all, and living so that you take it all in, in the reality of the moment.
This book is a meditation on life and death, a meditation that lets us see the snowflakes rushing at us when we're night driving, that makes us pause and watch the slow golden float of dust in a sunbeam, that takes us back to our ancestors close or distant, and all the people who lived for them and died for them, whose choices in their life gave us our lives.

This is a book that you will want to read slow and contemplate, but then you will want to read fast because it makes so much sense and you are being pulled into the stories that the author tells, identifying with them.

Some quotes (because I can't resist)

"The God who looked on you with joy when you were small and racing across His gift of green grass on His gift of feet beneath His gift of sky watched by His gift of a mother with His gift of Love in His gift of her eyes, is the same God who will look on you as that race finally ends. He is the same, but we have changed, between our opening lines and our final page." 

"Lay your life down. Your heartbeats cannot be hoarded. Your reservoir of breaths is draining away. You have hands, blister them while you can. You have bones, make them strain. They can carry nothing in the grave. You have lungs, let them spill with laughter." 

"This (The fact that we can't hold every impression of every moment) shouldn't inspire melancholy; it should only tinge the sweet with the bitter. Don't resent the moments simply because they cannot be frozen. Taste them. Savor them. Give thanks for daily bread. Manna doesn't keep overnight. More will come in the morning." 

When a story is told: "An experience is always created, captured, given and hopefully received. The gift is always one of vicarious experience. A critic told me recently that she remembers scenes from one of my newer adventure novels (The Dragon's Tooth) not as scenes from a book, but more like personal memories from her own experiences. She couldn't have made me happier.
Fiction loves to thwart the filing systems of the mind. 
And the mind loves to be thwarted."

Thank you Booksneeze for sending me me Death by Living to review.
I'm passing this one on to at least three family members.

N.D. Wilson
 I was born in 1978 to a couple of Jesus People hippies. An older sister was waiting for me. A younger followed.
My father accidentally became a pastor (it’s a long story and I was very young) and has been one ever since. I remember attending church in a large auto body shop, with a beer truck pulled off to the side and frogs and crickets singing back-up. I also remember chasing one of my friends around afterward, and causing her to fall and peel open her chin on the concrete. After that, I caught her easily.
In pre-school, I dug up a dead (and at that point furless) cat in my sandbox. We never learned who had buried it, but I would like to thank them. It was an exciting day. I carried it to the kitchen door of our duplex and told my mother that I had discovered a chicken.
My father helped to found a school with a classical emphasis, which I attended K-12. I have a real fondness for the classics (ancient and modern) as a result. Through my elementary years I spent innumerable hours enjoying and getting into trouble with my friend Joe Casebolt. He lived on the edge of town with creek, large barn, fields, and abandoned rock quarry readily available. We floated the creek on a large chunk of Styrofoam (and sank), went fishing (and got caught) in a bull pasture, collected dozens of mouse skulls (from owl pellets), and took possession of the abandoned combine in the the old quarry. In some elementary grade or other, we were assigned a class presentation on the subject of religion. We constructed an idol (of sorts) out of legos and when the time came we walked calmly to the front of the room, bound a lego-man to a popsicle stake, and lit him on fire. His head swelled up nicely. I couldn’t tell you what grade we received, but our classmates approved.
Speaking of fire, when I was in sixth grade, my mother gathered the family around the television to watch a documentary entitled “The Story of English”. Instead, after noticing the kitchen light flick off, I investigated, and found the ceiling crackling merrily. The roof burned off, we avoided finishing the documentary, and then we went to live with some friends who were house-sitting for someone else. The backyard was a large pond, and over that summer, I became closely acquainted with turtles, streptococcus and penicillin shots in the rear end.
After my turtle-and-shot period, after high school and college, I met (it’s complicated), a surfer girl from Santa Cruz, California. And I love her. Never having desired to be entirely governed by reason, I asked her to marry me one month after we met, and I offered her my great-grandmother’s ring. In a momentary but sufficient lapse of judgment, she took it, and I haven’t stopped smiling since. At least not for long. Now, we have five imaginative and jolly children, and they serve as our primary source of entertainment.
Not everything I write is for children, but all of it is childish. I love the dark flavor of Flannery O’Connor and the supra-realism of Borges, though I can’t help but try to add the laughter of G. K. Chesterton. P. G. Wodehouse and C. S. Lewis have been with me my entire life, and always will be. J. R. R. Tolkien cannot be imitated.
Now you know me. But not really. Because I left out all the joy of the dinner table, how my parents read and inked everything I wrote, and the collective imagination that I shared (and share) with my sisters. You haven’t heard about the fabulous eight months during which I had a dog named Tyler, or my Grandfathers’ war stories, or anything about birthdays or Christmas. And there’s nothing in here about Zorro. Oh, well.

*On Distant Shores*

On Distant Shores (Wings of the Nightingale, #2)

It is a wonderful sign to see that so many books are being written about World War Two. The men and women who served this country, both at home and overseas, gave up their dreams at the least and many gave their lives, yet their stories have often remained untold. 
Many times, the veteran's own family hadn't heard the stories.
That was a generation marked by quiet sacrifice. 

It is authors like Sarah Sundin who are helping us to learn our history and sparking the desire in us to hear the stories of the men and women who lived through those days. 
By creating vivid characters and doing extensive research, then marrying the plot and the people together, Sarah is giving us an engaging series of books! 

I haven't yet read book one of the Wings of the Nightingale series, With Every Letter,
but by the first chapter of On Distant Shores and I knew I wanted to read the whole series!

This series has enough character's in common among the books that it must be like a delightful reunion to read them in order, but they stand alone enough so that you could jump right in beginning with book two.

I realized as I began reviewing this book that there are a *lot* of plot surprises in here
that I don't want to give away, and so I am going to try not to!
Suffice it to say that there is much character growth in this very good ways.  Georgie and Hutch are people we would love to be friends with, likable from the first time you meet them. They, like us, still have a lot of maturing and learning to do, and few things push you further and test you more than a war zone and the struggles and losses that war brings. Watching them change and be sanctified, conformed into the image of Christ, through this 426 page novel is what makes the story so wonderful. 

And talk about giving me a new appreciation for pharmacists and flight nurses!
I don't think I've ever thought much about either's role in WWII,
and they were critical roles indeed.

So, add unique skills and valuable work that is realistically depicted to the list of things that made Georgie and Hutch come alive as great characters in a very well-written novel.

Thank you so much to much Litfuse Publicity, Revell and Sarah Sundin for my copy of On Distant Shores!
headshot sarah sundin

Although I come from a home wallpapered in books, I only briefly envisioned myself as a writer, when my sister and I co-wrote Funny Dancing Fruits and Vegetables complete with crayon illustrations.
poster: ration pointThen I discovered science. I loved learning about the intricacies of God's creation, so I studied chemistry in college, and then got my doctorate in pharmacy—not a typical career path for a writer.
In pharmacy school, I met my husband, Dave. We settled in northern California and were blessed by three bright, funny children.

Then on January 6, 2000, I woke from a dream so intriguing I had to write it down. I proceeded to write a really bad 750-page contemporary Christian romance. Burn-it-when-I-die bad. But the Lord used it to call me into writing. I joined a critique group, attended writers' conferences, and joined American Christian Fiction Writers. These all taught me about the craft of writing and the publishing industry, and introduced me to writers, editors, and agents.

I first submitted the manuscript for A Distant Melody in 2003, and over the next five years I accumulated a pile of "good" rejection letters from editors and agents. Finally in 2008, a submission at Mount Hermon Christian Writers' Conference led to the sale of the Wings of Glory series. In 2011, I received the Writer of the Year Award at the Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference, and A Memory Between Us was a finalist in the Inspirational Reader’s Choice Awards.

Between writing and driving kids to tennis and karate, I work on-call as a hospital pharmacist and teach Sunday school and women's Bible studies. I enjoy speaking to school, community, women's, historical, and church groups, and belong to the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association. Visit my speaking page to see a list of topics

The Lord has called you for a purpose. If He gave you a dream, persevere and never give up. If He gave you the dream to write fiction, then write! Read as much as you can. Join a critique group, attend conferences, and join American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW). Keep reading, keep writing, keep submitting, and learn from all you do. The Lord's plan may or may not include publication, but His plans are always good!