Thursday, January 30, 2014

The Road to Mercy

The Road to Mercy

The Road to Mercy is a story about Life. Living it, Loving it, Misunderstanding it, Enduring it, Bearing it, Healing from its more broken days. 

A pregnant woman has been given a disturbing prognosis: Abort this unexpected baby or risk her own newly-fragile health. 
She chooses Life, for the baby and for herself, and she's willing to make the sacrifices needed to give them both the best chance possible.
Her husband agrees with his brave wife, and together Josh and Bethany prepare for eight months of challenges. 
Bethany will be heavily medicated, on high does of drugs that could be habit forming and may affect the child. 
Her style will certainly be cramped, as anything that stresses her could harm her barely stable condition. 
Mostly, she needs Josh to understand why she seems to be a different person. Between the mood-swings and the meds, she feels like a stranger to herself! 
But Josh seems to be barely coping. He's a rising star in the CCM world, touring and singing his heart out, and he's hardly ever home in Nashville. 
The last thing he's doing is supporting Bethany.
Frankly, as I read, I was grinding my teeth almost every time Josh appeared in the story. And that's a good thing. Here's why: Because it was real. 
Josh and Bethany were not perfect super-people. He, especially, was not. He worried about providing because he wanted to give her the best, and when he was caught up in the worry he got mad over things that weren't worth it. He made his wife cry. And he was concerned that the heavy medication was going to leave her addicted, which left her feeling pressured. He wanted to be a great husband and planned to be a great father, but he was human and he fell short. He sometimes focused more on himself and his image and career than he did on ministering to her. 
Yet... he was growing. He was moving toward a destination, on a journey of faith. Like his wife, he was on The Road to Mercy. 

Meanwhile, for Bethany, I rejoiced every time her angels came on the scene. Bethany's main angel was her friend Alex. I called her St. Alex throughout the story, because she was so patient and kind and forbearing. She was with Bethany through all the ups and downs. Alex defines "Friendship." 

And I saw two things in this story. When a woman decides to be brave and to sacrifice herself and take the difficult road of Pro-life, she needs all the support she can get. Whether she's married or not, she needs people to step in and be her Alex. 
No matter who we are, we are made in the image of God. And no matter what we believe, every human is inherently responsible to honor every other man and woman of any age or stage because they are also images of God. 
We know that life is precious and beyond our understanding, and we know that human life is especially sacred.
As Christians, we who have been given eternal life in Jesus Christ, we are doubly responsible to uphold life and to protect life, no matter who's life is at stake. 

The Road to Mercy affirms that in a fine piece of story telling. 

Thank you Fred and Nora St. Laurent at The Book Club Network, for my review copy! 

Kathy HarrisKathy Harris is an author by way of a "divine detour" into the Nashville entertainment business. After graduating with a Communications degree from Southern Illinois University, she moved to Nashville, Tennessee, to work with a well-known gospel music quartet. A few months later, The Oak Ridge Boys began their transition into country music, and Kathy had the opportunity to help build an entertainment empire from the ground up.

She worked her way to becoming a member of the Operations Management Team, eventually heading up the company's public relations and marketing department. A lifelong fascination for books and editing led to her working as a book agent for Oak Ridge Boys' vocalist Joe Bonsall. Joe, subsequently, published three books, including his bestselling inspirational biography, G.I. Joe & Lillie.

For several years, Kathy freelanced entertainer biographies and wrote, as well as ghost wrote, news stories and columns for various music publications. In 2007, she sold her first Christian non-fiction story, "Walk on Water," which was included in Thomas Nelson's All My Bad Habits I Learned from Grandpa. That fall, one of her devotions was included in The One Year Life Verse Devotional, published by Tyndale House. Kathy's writing is also included in Chicken Soup for the Soul Thanks, Mom.

An active member of American Christian Fiction Writers and former publicity officer for Middle Tennessee Christian Writers, Kathy lives near Nashville with her husband and their Shiloh Shepherd dog. She regularly interviews literary and music guests on her blog,

Abingdon Press released Kathy's Christian fiction debut, The Road to Mercy, in September 2012.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Beautiful Lies...

Beautiful Lies: You Are More Than *What Men Think *What the Mirror Reflects *What Magazines Tell You

Parents: If you have daughters in your care, I strongly suggest this book to you and to them. 
Beautiful Lies by Jennifer Strickland is a book about womanhood and the quest to be desirable, about our hunger for love and living life in our own skin. 

This ain't a how-to guide either. I doesn't throw solutions at a girl and give her pat suggestions. No, this is a hymn, a praise-song about life and health and the preciousness of being united with Christ. It is heart-story and poetry. And trust me, girls will understand and be moved by Jennifer's story.

This book is packed with hard-won wisdom from a woman who has earned the right to talk. Beginning at a very young age, Jennifer was a professional model who appearing in Vogue, Glamour and Cosmopolitan. It was a world where she had no value other than her measurements and her skin tone and her walk and how the designer's clothes hung on her. To the men and women who managed her world, she was a mannequin. 
They dressed her up, paraded her around, and used her body without any regard for the heart beating inside her. They used her until she wasn't sure if she had an identity beyond what the stylists and cameramen and agents decreed. 
Life grew darker and darker for her, and then, in the midst of depression and an eating disorder, Jesus broke into her life. And the Lord began to fill up her thirsty heart. God cherished her and delighted in her and healed her like no man had ever been able to do, and in His eyes she began to see her true reflection. 
Slowly, over a hard stretch of life, Jennifer found her true identity, the one God intended for her through all time. 
And now she has a message for girls: Your fate is not determined by what a man, of any age, thinks of you. 
Men break, men fall, men lie, even good men fail now and then. 
A man can't know you as well as God does, therefore a man can't decide what you're truly worth.
And the mirror can't capture your full beauty and potential either, because you aren't defined by how you look. 

Reading this book is like running into the ocean, it is shocking and cleansing and refreshing and makes you want to shout. It is a liberating experience, and I intend to read this book again once a year to remind myself of the truth in it. When ever I'm tempted to accept the cultural box labeled "This is Beauty," I'm going to read Jennifer's book. She opens that sacred box and examines the contents. The culture tells us that beauty can be measured as curves in the right places, and slenderness, and smooth skin and plump lips and smoky eyes. 
Those definitions slice us into parts and then judge the parts harshly. 

Jennifer gives us permission to Be, just Be whomever God made you to be as a whole woman. 

Thank you Harvest House for my review copy!

About Jennifer

Jennifer Strickland's mission is to realign women and girls with their identity, worth and purpose. Drawing from her experiences as a former professional model, Jennifer inspires others to measure their beauty and value by more than what meets the eye.
As a speaker to girls and women as well as boys and men, Jennifer opens up about her painful experiences as a young fashion model in order to shed light on how the world often devalues women's worth. Further, she encourages men to use their voice, strength, and power to help restore the real beauty and value of women.

*With Autumns Return*

With Autumn's Return (Westward Winds, #3)

Romance, History and Mystery.... those three elements of a fine story come together in this single novel: With Autumn's Return.
Chapter one itself grabbed my attention. It was a murder trial, which sweeps us right into the world of legal counsel and courtrooms, and there we meet the defense attorney Jason Nordling.

Meanwhile, in this same town of Cheyenne, Elizabeth Harding has just hung out her shingle.
Elizabeth is a lady doctor who puts her skills to use serving anyone in need. She has a specific desire to aid the disadvantaged women whom "decent folk" habitually overlook.
In a town where reputation is everything, and loss of respectable clientele is the price she will pay, this is quite a stand to take.

Elizabeth's convictions and the way she lived them out make her an excellent role model.
With Autumn's Return could easily be given to a girl in high school, so that she could make the worthwhile acquaintance of Dr. Harding.

My Favorite Thing About This Book was the serious issues and questions that came about through the story. There are some important things to think about here.

Through Jason we explore justice and the law, and how those two sometimes contradict each other.
Also from Jason, we see how deep a cultural mindset can run even when it's wrong.
He was a force of opposition for Elizabeth when she decided to treat "indecent" patients.
Jason reminded me that even the best of us can find ourselves floating with the culture when we really need to swim against the current.

And from Doctor Harding herself, I was reminded that the heart of healing has always been the same, no matter what century.

Thank you Revell for my copy of With Autumn's Return.

Amanda Cabot
With both parents avid readers, it's no surprise that Amanda Cabot learned to read at an early age. From there it was only a small step to deciding to become a writer. Of course, deciding and becoming are two different things, as she soon discovered. Fortunately for the world, her first attempts at fiction were not published, but she did meet her goal of selling a novel by her thirtieth birthday. Since then she’s sold more than thirty novels under a variety of pseudonyms. When she’s not writing, Amanda enjoys sewing, cooking and – of course – reading.

Monday, January 27, 2014

*Shadowed by Grace*

Shadowed by Grace (Story of Monuments Men #1)

*Shadowed by Grace* is a very well-paced historical novel where the writing is sensory.
 I could feel the pounding in my head after the shells fell, I could see the glow of candlelight in the tiny restaurant where Rachel and Scott found near-normalcy for a short while, and when I read about Scott and Tyler flying along the roads in the Jeep, I wanted to grab for the dash-board! 

The plot of this novel hinges upon an obscure and fascinating aspect of the war years. 
I had never really thought about the art in a place like Italy during the war... art that was lost or pillaged and destroyed as the bombs fell and the armies entered and retreated. 

As my friend pointed out, a people's art embodies their history, flows out of their culture, and carries their hopes. 
So it is really neat that we had a contingency of men working to rescue and preserve the art and artifacts. They were called The Monuments Men. 

And that's what Lt. Scott Lindstrom is. 
Here's a quote from Shadowed by Grace to introduce you to him: 
"If he looked back, he'd see everything he had left behind in Philadelphia. He'd spent his education and career developing expertise in Italian Medieval and Renaissance art. He felt destined to help protect it..." 
Scott is a confident and quiet man.  
Another scene: "Scott approached the table and stood at ease. 'I'm here with the Monuments and Fine Arts Administration of the United States Army.  We desire to work with you to protect Rome's great artistic treasures and shore up any damaged monuments. If we can help with locating lost art, we will do that as well." 

And here is a glimpse into out heroine's psyche, as she wondered who would miss her if something happened while she was overseas: "There was no-one to wrap an arm around her and pull her close, whether to ward off the chill or because he couldn't get close enough." 
You can tell that Rachel is a woman with a tender, longing heart, and a desire to make a difference. 
She wants to use her camera skills to bring the war home to Americans, who can't imagine the horror and hope that mingle in a battle's wake. 
As Rachel says about her role, "Captain Rachel Justice, sir. Photographer with United Press. "

Something that stood out to be about Rachel especially was the way she reacted to the world of war.

Sometimes she was brave, and sometimes she was timid. I found that to be just as it should be.
If Rachel had never wavered in fear, she wouldn't have been real. 

And one more item of note, pay close attention to the love story. 
Scott upholds high standards of honor and uprightness toward Rachel, even before there is any romance. Oh for a time when the majority of men would treat women this way, protecting them and treating them with respect and dignity even in a war zone.  

Thank you Litfuse for my review copy! 

Cara Putman
Cara C. Putman lives in Indiana with her husband and four children. She’s an attorney and a teacher at her church as well as lecturer at Purdue. She has loved reading and writing from a young age and now realizes it was all training for writing books. She loves bringing history and romance to life.

An honors graduate of the University of Nebraska and George Mason University School of Law, Cara left small town Nebraska and headed to Washington, D.C., to launch her career in public policy. 

Cara is an author chasing hard after God as she lives a crazy life. She invites you to join her on that journey.

*The Headmistress of Rosemere*

The Headmistress of Rosemere (Whispers on the Moors #2)

The Headmistress of Rosemere..... volume two in the *Whispers on the Moors* series.
It is here!

For those of you who entered the world of the Regency English countryside with book one, The Heiress of Winterwood, you may remember the hero, Graham Sterling.

And you may remember that Graham had a brother, the younger Sterling.
William Sterling. We meet William again in this book.

When this story begins, William is already on the path to sobriety and better decisions, yet he still has a lot of growing and changing to do before he fits the role of hero.
He must learn to look outside of himself, to help others. He must find a way to make the best choices possible in the present as he faces up to the consequences of his past.

And William has a lot of past to reckon with.... like "threats on his life" and that sort of thing.

And there, stepping into his life at this point, is Patience Creighton.
In the beginning, she is in the background, as a tenant and teacher at the girl's school on William's estate. Yet soon Patience is at the forefront of William's mind, his affections, and his life purpose.

Oh, what a woman can do to a man! {Which sounds like something out of a Vince Gill song!}

And Patience and William are only the main characters, there is a whole supporting cast.
We meet Patience's grieving mother, her returning brother, and her sweet friend and fellow teacher Cassandra, as well as the young ladies from their classes, and the pet goat and unofficial mascot of Rosemere.

I have a guess about who will be the third book's heroine... I'm eager to see if I'm right!

Looking forward to The Lady of Willowgrove Hall.

Thank you Litfuse and Sarah Ladd for my review copy!

Sarah E. LaddHello, I am Sarah E. Ladd, author of "The Heiress of Winterwood", which is an inspirational romance novel set in Regency England. This book is the first book of the "Whispers on the Moors" series and will release April 2013. 

I would love to connect with you on Facebook and talk about all things Regency! Be sure to like my page for updates:

Sunday, January 26, 2014

*Stranger Things*

Stranger Things

Erin Healy's writing is incredible. I could go on an on about it. 
It is dream-like, lucid and urgent, so that I saw and felt what was happening. 
It is also observant writing. Two men shoving their way through a room are described as clumsy, and then the narrator adds: "Or not clumsy, just free of all respect for anything outside their own skin."
Notice how she gave us a glimpse into their psyche gleaned from their actions?
And another line that paints a picture: "The afternoon sun cut through her jacket at a comforting angle." 
I love that... the shafts of sunlight falling over me and warming me. 
Erin Healy uses words like each one is a jewel that deserves the best setting and arrangement possible, and each paragraph is crafted and centered to enhance the beauty of the whole story. 
You get the feeling that she loves working with language. 

The character building in Stranger Things is top-notch. Erin introduces us to the men and women who live this story in the present day, and she goes back into the past and shows us flashes of their lives. 

There is Amber, a young woman who lived the horror of sex trafficking and was rescued by her older brother. Now Amber and Christopher, and his friends William and Kaleo, dedicate every resource they can spare to operating Fire Followers, which is a ministry to women in sex slavery. 
The name comes from the beautiful plants that resurrect shortly after a devastating wildfire. Those Fire Followers are especially lovely because they rise out of scorched ground when all seems hopeless. 

And that is Christopher's all-consuming passion: To see every abused woman- faceless, voiceless, nameless- to see each of them as a whole and restored and truly alive individual. 

Enter Serena, biology teacher. Her parents also run a rescue mission, and she has been aware of exploitation's ugly face since she was a child. 
It makes no sense when a bright-and-rebellious student accused her of sexually exploiting him. 
In one felled swoop, her orderly life has been ripped out of her hands. 

How do the threads connect? That's where Erin gives us a full-fledged mystery. 349 excellent pages worth of mystery, while your brain races to figure out what is real. 
Keep in mind what Serena's father says: "Reality is both more and less than it seems." 

Stranger Things isn't only a wonderful, enthralling novel. It also points another beam of light at the evil crouching in the corners of our world. Sex-slavery seems so distant and so seamy that it doesn't concern us, but it does. Oh, it does. As Christopher learned, more and more American girls are being lured into sex trafficking not out of abject physical poverty, but out of emotional and relational lack. They're looking for love, and a "groomer" offers them affection, care, and a shoulder to lean on. Next moment, they're gone.
Please keep the vulnerable girls in your prayers, as well 

Thank you Booksneeze for my review copy. This was my first Erin Healy novel, and I am moving her others up to the top of my TBR list. 
What a joy to discover them! 

Erin Healy    Erin Healy is a supernatural-suspense novelist and an award-winning fiction editor. She began working with Ted Dekker in 2002 and edited twelve of his heart-pounding stories before their collaboration on KISS, the first novel to seat her on "the other side of the desk."

Erin is the owner of WordWright Editorial Services, a consulting firm specializing in fiction book development. She lives with her family in Colorado.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

I Will Be Found by You

I Will Be Found by You: Reconnecting with the Living God-The Key That Unlocks Everything Important

I Will Be Found By You is proof that the size of a book doesn't determine how profound its impact will be. For anyone like me who tends to think of serious books as being lengthy, please don't overlook this slight volume.

This book is about the God that wants to be found, and the people whom He has called to seek Him.
This seeking is at once sacred and simple.... sacred because this is God Himself we are approaching, simple because we may all speak to Him.

It is difficult to be so human and yet a child of God at the same time.
We fall, we fail, we flounder.
We knock, and when a door opens sometimes we are afraid to step inside.
We try to discern what the meanings are and where God is leading us, but sometimes all we know is that we don't know yet.
Sometimes we come out of a dry period with a clear lesson to hang onto.
Sometimes it isn't that easy to pin down a lesson or a reason.
The only thing that may comfort a seeker who's in the darkness is the promise that no life experience is wasted. God is with you and working in you in everything. He promised it is so.

The idea of seeking God can so quickly turn into a checklist of things to do, and although those things are very valuable, they aren't ends unto themselves.
Devotional time is a time to get to Know Somebody.
It's so easy to forget that there is a Real, Living, Loving Person who misses us and wants to hear from us. He wants to hear cares, prayers, praises, songs, outpourings of whatever. Prayer is pouring our your heart like water before the Lord, and knowing that He hears.

"I am seeking for more than just knowledge. I am seeking the heart of God."
~Francis Frangipane.

Thank you to The Booketeria for my review copy.

Francis FrangipaneFrancis Frangipane is a Christian evangelical minister and author. He is the founding pastor of River of Life Ministries in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, United States. In 2002, he also launched an international, online school called In Christ's Image Training (ICIT). This training lays a foundation of truth based on four principal themes: Christlikeness, humility, prayer and unity. ICIT has students in over seventy nations. 

Additionally, over the past decades, Frangipane has served on a number of other ministry boards. However, in recent years he has gradually resigned from these various boards. As of June 2009, he has also retired from his position as senior pastor of River of Life Ministries. In this more simplified life, Frangipane is devoting himself to prayer and the ministry of God's word.

Francis Frangipane has an active partnership with the Mission America Coalition, consisting of leaders from 81 denominations and over 400 ministries and networks. He is also a welcomed teacher in various Charismatic and Evangelical church settings, in both the black and white communities

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

*Claiming Mariah*

Claiming Mariah

I haven't read a Western in a while, but I'm glad I read this one. There are strong ties to the land in this story, as there should be in a Western, and strong ties to family, as there should be in every story. 

Claiming Mariah celebrates hope and love and finding where you belong and breaking the chains of your past, and the small things like how it feels to try to tame a wild cat that comes around for food. 

Slade Donovan and Mariah Malone are supposed to intensely dislike each other. 
Her father's theft left his father desperate and on the path to an early grave. 
It doesn't matter that the elder Malone repented before he died. That didn't solve the Donovan's problems. 
The Malone ranch, the Lazy M, was bought and paid for with stolen gold, all but blood money. And by rights that ranch belongs to the Donovan boys. 
The only justice they can get, the only payment for their years of broken dreams, is to take back what should be theirs. 

And so one late Spring morning, two of the Donovans arrive at Mariah's dooryard. The older one, Slade, brings evidence that her father's guilt was broader and deeper than she ever imagined. All the land will never make up for putting a bullet in a man's head.
The soft-spoken younger brother, Buck, seems to be the only thing restraining Slade's fury. 

The two men move right onto the ranch, and begin taking stock of the assets and opportunities while Mariah and her Grandmother make plans to move out. As Mariah crosses paths with Slade and Buck, her perceptions of them change. They aren't bitter and bloodthirsty for revenge. 
They share the same goal she did: to do hard, honest, profitable work. They appreciate what a fine ranch this could be, and they want to make the most of it. They bring experience and expertise to the operation. And Slade loves and protects his family with the same intensity as Mariah applies to hers.

We meet a whole bunch of well drawn characters.... from Mariah's friend Sally the vivacious young preacher's wife, to Jimmy the youngest ranch hand, to Mariah's Grandmother, to Slade's own brother Buck. 
{I think Buck deserves to have his own book. That would be really neat, to see how his story goes on from here. Please?!}

I had first seen this book last year, when it came out as e-book only. I'm really glad that Tyndale decided to publish it as a paperback as well, so that I can share it. 

Thank you to Pam Hillman and Tyndale BlogNetwork for my review copy. 

Award-winning author Pam Hillman writes inspirational fiction set in the turbulent times of the American West and the Gilded Age. Her debut novel, Stealing Jake, was a finalist in the International Digital Awards and the 2013 EPIC eBook Awards. Claiming Mariah, her second novel, won Romance Writers of America’s prestigious Golden Heart. She lives in Mississippi with her husband and family. Visit her website at

The Big Book Of Laugh-Out-Loud Jokes

The Big Book of Laugh-Out-Loud Jokes for Kids: A 3-In-1 Collection

I'm a bit of a joke book collector/connoisseur.
I have the Reader's Digest America The Beautiful book which is full of humorous and witty stories,
I have the Reader's Digest Quotable Quotes book, I have a few kid's joke collections, and I have my favorite of all time The Elephant Joke Book.
{Truly brilliant, the Elephant Joke Book is.}
So I was happy to ask for this book from Revell, because I need some new material.

This 181 page long book is stocked with one-liners and knock-knocks... the kind that you can actually enjoy hearing your kids repeat. I snickered and smiled as I read.
Here, for your laughing pleasure, are a few of my favorites.

"Did you hear about the actor who fell through the floor? It was just a stage he was going through."
"What should you do when you're in a jam? Grab some bread and peanut butter."
"Who earns their living driving customers away? A taxi service!"

The Tongue-Twisters, Things-to-Think-About, and Did-You-Knows break up the jokes very nicely, and are also fun to memorize and repeat.
Say this fast: Six slimy snails sailed silently.

Here's a question for you: Why doesn't glue stick to the inside of the bottle?
And: If a fly didn't have wings, would we call it a walk?

Yep... if you have been blessed with a stand-up comedian in the form of a kid ages seven to twelve, then this one's worth looking into.

You'll soon be regaled with jokes like this one:
"How do you keep someone in suspense?
I'll tell you later. "

So thank you Revell, for my review copy.

Monday, January 13, 2014

*The Dancing Master*

The Dancing Master

I like this book!  It kept me reading for a full 24 hours, in every moment I had. 
*The Dancing Master* is a very good story. 

The elements of the plot include: legacies of wealth and weighty secrets, love that slowly and stubbornly blooms in unexpected places, murder and mystery, and forgiveness being given when it seems impossible. 

The way Julie writes captures all the different tones of the story... the tender moments and the reserved moments and the shocking ones.  
And the cast of characters she created and their intertwining relationships all felt fresh and new. 

Julia Midwinter.... At first she seemed petty, selfish, shallow, and spoiled, yet all the while room is being made in her heart for better character to grow! 

Alec Valcourt... a man who was willing to give up everything, including his standing in the world's eyes, to protect his family. Alec is a true gentlemen, with sterling character. He was quick to extend grace and cared deeply about those around him. He would not let anyone compromise themselves if he could help it. 

And Amelia, Julia's mother, a woman whose ideals and personality put her in conflict with Julia. 
She cannot understand her mother's sense of duty and loyalty toward Buckleigh Manor, or  her mothers choices regarding Julia's own life and happiness. 

There is a whole slew of characters, and plenty of potential for love triangles, and none of it was cliched. They were all so redeemable that I wanted to stay in their stories! 

Thank you Julie, Litfuse, and Bethany House for my review copy! 

Julie KlassenJulie Klassen loves all things Jane—Jane Eyre and Jane Austen. She has been an advertising manager, fiction editor, and now works as a full-time novelist. Her 3rd book, The Silent Governess, won the Christy Award for Historical Romance, and was also a finalist in the Minnesota Book Awards, ForeWord Reviews Book of the Year Awards, and the RITA Awards. Her latest books, The Maid of Fairbourne Hall and The Girl in the Gatehouse, have also won Christy Awards. Julie is a graduate of the University of Illinois. She and her husband have two sons and live near St. Paul, Minnesota.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

The Global War on Christians.

The Global War on Christians: Dispatches from the Front Lines of Anti-Christian Persecution

This is probably the most important book I will read for a while.
It was a sobering way to begin this new year, and it is a very needed reminder that we are not yet in the world where all is well.

How do I review this book except to say Read It. No matter where you hail from or what you believe, you are a human being, and your rights and freedoms are inextricably tied to the rights and freedoms of all other human beings.
The liberty and health of our American society is connected to the liberty and healthy of societies around the world.
When a group of people raise their voices in a cry for help, when someone is oppressed and persecuted, the world needs to sit up and listen.

In this new book, John Allen Jr. makes a strong, factual, non-sensationalist case that there is a global war going on against Christians.
The persecution comes from varied aggressors and takes on many forms... from physical violence and torture and execution to economic sanctions and repression of free speech.
There is a battlefront in almost every country in the world today, even countries where Christians make up the majority.

Perhaps that is the most essential aspect of this book: the author systematically dismantles the common myths about persecution.
Persecution doesn't only occur where believers are a minority group. Some of the worst offenses are in nations with an overwhelmingly Christian majority.

And persecution isn't driven only, or even primarily, by Islam.
Persecution isn't always driven by an opposing religion either. Sometimes attacks on Christians stem from nationalism. Citizens of a country view their culture as a comprehensive whole, and some view a "foreign" religion as a threat to their traditions and identity. A threat big enough to murder over.

The numbers of believers losing their lives in the upheaval of persecution is on the rise.
There are more Christians becoming martyrs now than ever.
We all need to be informed, and many of us need to become articulate voices for peace and freedom for all people.

*The Global War on Christians* should be on your "current events" shelf, the message should be in your heart.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

*The Painted Table*

The Painted Table: Honoring Mother--By Not Becoming Her

Your past doesn't have to limit your present or chain your future....

My first reaction after finishing The Painted Table: the beginning of this story is horrible, the ending is wonderful. And when I say horrible, I mean true to the dark realities of life and very worth reading.
There were many times I wanted to put this book down, because that's how well the author tells us this hard story, but do not set this one aside.

The Painted table is the story of a woman and her daughters.
Saffee and Joann are our main characters, the mother and the eldest daughter.
Because no life is lived in isolation, their story involves many more people, each one portrayed sensitively and genuinely.

This story chronicles Joann's fall into the frightening world of mental illness, and Saffee's attempts to rise up and define her own life beyond her mother's behavior.
I really appreciated the way Suzanne spliced their stories together seamlessly. She let me view both of them with compassion. She made both of them real people.

If I had only had Saffee's story, I would have judged Joann for the childhood she gave her girls, and for the way she distorted their view of life. I would have never looked beyond Joann's actions to the youth she herself had experienced and the trauma that she was dealing with.
If I had only had Joann's story, I wouldn't have been able to see the full effects of isolation and guilt and withdrawal that she and her family experienced.

This book made me ask questions about mental illness and the heavy stigma attached to it.
As young Saffee observes, people visit and bring meals to a neighbor if the neighbor suffers a broken body. There is a community of support that rallies around. She wonders why people who live with an inward pain don't draw the same concern.

I wanted to badly for someone to read out and nurture and help Saffee and her sister April, and maybe even shed a little light into Joann's life, yet few people even tried. As my friend and I agreed when we discussed this book, people were probably afraid to try because they didn't understand. There was no easy solution for Joann, and her actions made people uncomfortable. So they didn't really try.
And at the same time, Saffee feared letting anyone know what was going on and so unwittingly cut off the help that might have come.

The Painted Table is a valuable book. It makes you consider your own legacy, your impact on the future, and it makes you want to support anyone in a home like Joann and Saffee's in whatever way will best bless them. Even if it's just listening and not judging.

Thank you Litfuse for my review copy!

  Suzanne Field, a graduate of the University of Minnesota, has taught English as a Second Language in China, Ukraine, and Hawaii. She has also been a magazine editor and home-school teacher. She and her husband have five children and divide their time between Kansas and Hawaii where she is a tutor and mentor

Friday, January 10, 2014

*The Prodigal*

  The Prodigal: A Ragamuffin Story

A preacher whose message consisted of "We've got to do better!"
A pulpit-pounder who wasn't excited about grace and truth and mercy,
but was very vocal about morality, and improving our behavior and image.
Pastor Jack intended to do right and he intended to light fires of rightness under his parishioners.
The theme of his sermons sold really well: Jack Chisholm ran a mega-church that he had built up from the ground.
And yet this hard-working preacher somehow managed to fail miserably.

One day his face is the image of Christianity, the next day his face is the image of hypocrisy and deceit. He's all over the internet thanks to a Youtube video that shows him in a bar in Mexico with his beautiful assistant.
Before Jack even knows what happened, if anything, he's been run out of his Church by his elders,
his wife and child had been spirited away into hiding from the media, and everything he tried so hard to achieve was gone like smoke dissipating.
How could something as solid as his morality have crumbled that way?
How could Pastor Chisholm be one and the same person as exile Jack the Prodigal?

This story enfleshes the message of Gospel Grace and Acceptance within a story that makes you smile and sigh and cheer for Jack as you watch his transformation.
A small town, a crew of people both understanding and unforgiving, some serious life being lived, some choices that need to be made, and a burning thirst for a fresh start all come together and sweep Jack away in the tide.
It's time for us all to stop trying to have it all together.
That's the coolest thing about this book.
We all pretend at times. We pretend things, to avoid looking like we're inefficient and insufficient and incompetent. Especially as Christians.
And it is incredible to think that, like Jack, we don't need to fear being dumped and disowned when our real, battered and broken self is discovered. God isn't going to dump us, and real friends won't either.

As one of Jack's friends says,
"Better the battered soul who lives his life on a voyage of discovery
than the timid soul who never finds out who he is."

Thank you Booksneeze for my review copy!

Greg GarrettGreg Garrett is the author of novels, including the new The Prodigal (with Brennan Manning), Free Bird (chosen by Publishers' Weekly and the Denver Rocky Mountain News as one of the best fiction debuts of 2002), Cycling, and Shame, the memoirs Crossing Myself and No Idea, and works on theology, popular culture, politics, and narrative including The Gospel according to Hollywood, The Gospel Reloaded (with Chris Seay), Holy Superheroes, Stories from the Edge, We Get to Carry Each Other: The Gospel according to U2, The Other Jesus, One Fine Potion: The Literary Magic of Harry Potter, and Faithful Citizenship. Greg is also--with Brian McLaren, Lauren Winner, Phylis Tickle, Chris Seay, and other writers--involved in The Voice project, a scripture project for Thomas Nelson. Greg is 2013 Centennial Professor at Baylor University, writer in residence at the Episcopal Theological Seminary of the Southwest, and Residential Scholar at Gladstone's Library in Wales. He lives in Austin, Texas with his family

Brennan ManningRichard Francis Xavier Manning, known as Brennan Manning (April 27, 1934 – April 12, 2013)was an American author, friar, priest, contemplative and speaker.Born and raised in Depression-era New York City, Manning finished high school, enlisted in the US Marine Corps, and fought in the Korean War. After returning to the United States, he enrolled at Saint Francis University in Loretto, Pennsylvania. Upon his graduation from the seminary in 1963, Manning was ordained a Franciscan priest.[2]

In the late 1960s, Manning joined the Little Brothers of Jesus of Charles de Foucauld, a religious institute committed to an uncloistered, contemplative life among the poor. Manning transported water via donkey, worked as a mason's assistant and a dishwasher in France, was imprisoned (by choice) in Switzerland, and spent six months in a remote cave somewhere in the Zaragoza desert. In the 1970s, Manning returned to the United States and began writing after confronting his alcoholism

Monday, January 6, 2014

*99 Stories from the Bible*

I love this Bible story book.
Here is the world and happenings of the Bible, from Creation to the Ascension, painted in bright, bold, colors, the illustrations simple but memorable at the same time.
The little people that populate this world have {mostly} happy faces, and funny rounded noses that kids will surely point out. :-)
The Garden of Eden paintings include rich green hills, snow covered mountains, blue clear water, and lots of flora and fauna.
I bet the kids will really enjoy pointing out the hedgehogs, the hummingbirds sipping from scarlet flowers and the elephant!

I would say this book will be beloved by children ages two to six, although I hate assigning age ranges to books because that seems to imply that a book has an expiration date. Rumor has it that I still curl up sometimes with my children's Bible... It reminds me of my family legacy, and of the hours spent with Mom and Dad looking at pictures and hearing Bible stories. That's why I see this children's Bible as being a great read-aloud for the littles, and then a very fine choice for beginning readers. The print is big enough that young eyes can follow along with the stories, and the words are simple enough that they can practice reading with them.

The stories are short and sweet, each one condensed to just a few paragraphs. A tiny child will understand the big lesson from these stories: God is always watching over His children, always with His people to protect them and comfort them and set them free.

Thank you Kregel for my review copy!

Sunday, January 5, 2014

*Carolina Gold*

Carolina Gold

*Carolina Gold* is the second book I've read by Dorothy Love. The first was *Beyond all Measure,* a romance that was engaging and sweet and funny too, and I really enjoyed it. 
So I was happy to accept this one from Litfuse for review! 

*Carolina Gold* has a more serious tone, I think. 

Charlotte Fraser is a seeker of Divine guidance and a woman who invests her energy in working toward her goals. She is also a woman whose faith and personal initiative have been tested by loss. The death of her mother, the War Between the States appearing on her doorstep, the death of her father, and the ruin of her plantation home have all invaded her life. Yet slowly, goodness begins to flow back into her world, in the form of some love-starved children and a widower who was a trained physician. 

Charlotte was a reserved character, always polite and she sometimes seemed distant as well. 
That made her an intriguing character, because the quiet, inward personality seems to be rare in novels. 
Charlotte possesses a warm and beating heart, she just expressed it with deliberate action instead of effusive words and emotions. I appreciate this about her, the way she loved in a common sense way, doing what needed to be done without fanfare. 

Her strength and resolve are the same way, very present with no ostentatious display. 
Charlotte has taken on a whole world of responsibility, and she deals with trials as they come. 
And trials come. The rice fields need much attention and care if there is ever to be a crop, and the workers available are mostly newly freed slaves. The tension remains as the townspeople, masters, and overseers must decide how to relate to men and women who were always "just slaves." 

The writing is detailed, with descriptions of people, places, and happenings. 
I have always liked a book where scenes are set with care. "In the musty parlor, dark rectangles on the faded cabbage rose wallpaper marked the places where seascapes and family portraits had once hung." 
Can't you imagine all of this in your mind as you read? I could immediately smell the must, the scent of a damp, closed off room, see the cabbage-roses... big, bold prints of a flower that may look better in a garden than on a wall, and I could imagine the sadness at seeing the paintings and portraits missing from their place.

Or how about this line... "And she cared desperately for Fairhaven. The ravaged house and gardens, the green-and-gold marshes, and the crooked tidal creeks pulled on her like the moon on tides. It had always been her refuge... "

Thank you Litfuse and Mrs. Love for my review copy! 

Dorothy LoveBefore returning to her writing roots in historical fiction, Dorothy Love published twelve novels for young adults. Her work has garnered numerous honors from the American Library Association, the Friends of American Writers, the International Reading Association, the New York Public Library, and many others.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Turnaround At Home

Turnaround at Home: Giving a Stronger Spiritual Legacy Than You Received

"The family is a living, breathing organism and has been established as the place in which God's Love, His Word, and His Grace can be experienced in a tangible manner. It's where we learn submission, authority, compassion, discipline, and instruction."

 Jack and Lisa Hibbs' new book, Turnaround At Home, begins with that profound and plain statement.
This is a book that ministers to the Christian parent who wants to give their kids a great legacy, even if the one they received from their own parents wasn't optimal.

Too many people swing to one extreme or another, either dismissing the dysfunction of the past as inconsequential and pretending it doesn't affect them, or resenting their parent's mistakes to the point that they overlook any possibility of their parents having taught them something good.
Both are understandable, especially the latter. Children who have grown up in any kind of abusive of neglectful home will need to work through the lingering effects. Ignoring the problem won't help.

Turnaround At Home strikes the Biblical balance of honestly evaluating your past legacy and then hopefully moving forward to craft a better one with your own family.
Jack and Lisa present the idea of Remembering and Changing, a process that involves looking squarely at what your parents did give you and determining to change your own patterns for the better through the power of Christ.

As the old saying goes, if you forget where you came from you won't know where you're going.
After understanding how the pieces that you were given fit together, you can chose to do something better for your children. That is Casting The Vision, a vision that includes strengthening your marriage, winning your children to Christ, and then launching our youth.

The thing that makes this whole book so understandable is the analogy of the three-fold cord.
The Hibbs explain that a child's legacy is made up of the Spiritual, the Emotional, and the Social. Spiritual: What is inside their hearts.
Emotional: How they express themselves and reveal themselves.
Social: How they live their legacy out with respect and responsibility.
{My paraphrases.}
Jack and Lisa explain that sometimes you get a strong cord in one or two areas, and the third one is absent or a little frayed.  A family of unbelievers may give their child a great social and emotional legacy, and a Christian family may nail the spiritual and miss the emotional completely.
The idea is to weave all three together tightly.

Turnaround at Home, with the testimonies, ideas and principles inside it, make it a very good tool to have in the family building toolbox, destined to see a lot of use as we build broken legacies back up.

Thank you David C. Cook for my review copy!

Jack and Lisa Hibbs founded Calvary Chapel Chino Hills, which now ministers to thousands of people each week. Jack hosts a worldwide radio broadcast encouraging listeners to develop a Biblical worldview that is practical both in and out of the home. Jack and Lisa have two married daughters, two grandchildren and live in southern California.
Kurt Bruner is a best-selling author and former Vice President with Focus on the Family. He now serves as the pastor of spiritual formation at Lake Pointe Church near Dallas, Texas and hosts to help church leaders create a culture of intentional families. Kurt and his wife, Olivia, have four children. 

*No One To Trust*

No One to Trust (Hidden Identity, #1)

Readers of Lynette's newest novel, the first in the Hidden Identity Series, be warned.
This is a fast, ingenious, roller-coaster of a ride, so buckle your seat belt....
and carry a handcuff key in your pocket.

This book features a rather ordinary- if there ever is such a thing!- woman as our heroine.
Summer Abernathy is a dedicated lawyer who works in the field of family law.
She is also a startled, shocked wife, because it seems that she man she married isn't the man she married!

So maybe "Kyle Abernathy" didn't tell his wife everything... and perhaps that means that she never truly trusted him, because she gave her heart to a man with a false identity.
Yet the secrets he knows and the contacts he made in his previous life may just save Summer now.

Wanted by trained assassins.
Loved by a woman who never fully knew him.
Protected, for now, by the US Marshals.
"Kyle Abernathy" is on the run.
Who will betray him next?
When it seems like there's No One to Trust, who do you turn to?

*Cue Phil Collins 'In The Air Tonight', turned up loud*

{This review would not be complete without a few words about The Villain.
Raimondi. He gave ruthless orders, he oozed with slime, and he handled lots of snakes.}
Thank you Revell Blog Tours for my copy!

Lynette Eason Lynette Eason grew up in Greenville, SC. She graduated from the University of South Carolina, Columbia, and then obtained her masters in education from Converse College. Author of twenty inspirational romantic suspense books, she is also a member of American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) and Romance Writers of America (RWA). In 1996, Lynette married "the boy next door" and now she and her husband and their two children make their home in Spartanburg, South Carolina."

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Best of 2013!

Favorite Mysteries:

Seeds of EvidenceBack on Murder (A Roland March Mystery, #1)

The Corruptible (A Ray Quinn Mystery)The Night Watchman

Deadline (Ollie Chandler #1)Dominion (Ollie Chandler #2)

Deception (Ollie Chandler #3)

Fire StormStress Test

Unspoken                                The Advent of Murder (Faith Morgan Mystery #2)

The Justice Game                                    Bloody Point

Avenged (Pacific Coast Justice, #3)


Uniform Decisions: My Life in the LAPD and the North Hollywood Shootout

Historical and Meaningful:

Snow on the TulipsBlowing on Dandelions (Love Blossoms in Oregon #1)

Grace's PicturesWedded to War (Heroines Behind the Lines, #1)

Into the WhirlwindThe Spymistress

All God's Children (The Peacemakers, #1)Mistaken: First Impressions Are Never What They Seem

When the Clouds Roll By (Till We Meet Again #1)Samson: A Savior Will Rise

When Mountains Move (Into the Free #2)                                 Promise to Return

The Bargain (Plain City Peace, #1)                                Burning Sky: A Novel of the American Frontier

Widow of Gettysburg (Heroines Behind the Lines #2)                               Fireflies in December

Castles of the Heart                         

Into the Free (Into the Free #1)

Modern and Great Stories:

Perfecting KateIn Broken Places

Past DarknessSlow Moon Rising

Catch a Falling StarSapphire Ice

Darkness Before DawnRunning Lean

DerailedSweet September

Unlimited: A NovelEvery Waking Moment

To Know You                               Grounded

Letters From Ruby                                Jennifer: An O'Malley Love Story

Biblical Fiction, and Beautiful:

The Well (The Living Water Series, #1)                              When Jesus Wept