Thursday, December 29, 2011

Book Review: The Daniel Fast

The Daniel Fast by Susan Gregory is a good book. Gregory encourages her readers to feed their souls, strengthen their spirits, and renew their bodies by being extremely disciplined about what they eat for a designated period of time and by praying and studying their Bibles, too. There’s nothing wrong with that. It’s a good thing to do. Gregory even provides recipes and devotionals to help her readers along the way. In fact, these take up most of the book. Gregory closes with a question and answer section for further clarification of her idea. And it is a good idea.

But it isn’t a fast.

And the Bible passage that it is based on wasn’t about a fast.

Scot McKnight, author of Fasting, defines fasting as “the natural, inevitable response of a person to a grievous sacred moment in life.” He says “The focus in the Christian tradition is not ‘if you fast you will get,’ but ‘when this happens, God’s people fast.’ Fasting is a response to a very serious situation, not an act that gets us from a good level to a better level” (pp. xix-xx).

In other words, we don’t fast because we want something from God—even a good thing like spiritual growth or a deeper relationship with Him. We fast because God calls us to it through the circumstances of life. If something good comes of the experience, that is a bonus for us.

In the first chapter of Daniel, he and his friends request a special diet. They do not make this request in order to fast or grow spiritually or even to become healthy, though. They do so out of obedience to God. The king has ordered them to eat food that has been sacrificed to idols. This will violate God’s law. They choose to obey God, and He honors their decision by making them healthier than anyone else in the king’s training program.

This is no different from Daniel’s choice to pray, though it landed him in the lion’s den, or Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego’s choice to not bow to an idol, though it landed them in the fiery furnace. In all three situations, the men chose to obey God, and God blessed their decision in return.

If you choose to follow Gregory’s Daniel Fast because you long to grow closer to God, I have no doubt He’ll honor that decision. He loves it when we devote ourselves to Him in disciplined and concentrated ways. But you won’t be fasting. You’ll be disciplining yourself to eat healthy foods, pray, and study God’s Word. The experience will be good for you.

Thank you, Tyndale House Publishers, for sending this book for my honest review.
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Thursday, December 22, 2011

Book Review: The Accidental Bride

Denise Hunter’s sequel to A Cowboy’s Touch is brilliant! As I had hoped, hoped, hoped it would, it tells the story of Shay, single mom to Olivia. (Now I’m just watching for Dylan’s story!)

In The Accidental Bride, Shay is struggling to keep the family farm. Once left on the courthouse steps on the way to elope and later abandoned by a husband, Shay is fiercely independent and determined to keep all men out of her life. Until she accidentally marries the one who left her on the courthouse steps.

I won’t give away the comedy of errors that made this marriage possible, but Shay doesn’t find them funny at all. Travis, her new husband, however, sees his opportunity to convince her he’s changed, matured, and learned his lesson. Not marrying her was the biggest mistake of his life. Using her tenuous farm situation, complicated by an accident that leaves her unable to care for the farm alone, Travis promises to help if Shay won’t annul the marriage for at least five months.

Themes in the story include learning to please God rather than people and remembering to take life’s problems to God first, seeking His help and will in order to make things right. I loved the story and the subtle lessons it contained. I recommend this book.

Thank you, Thomas Nelson Publishers, for sending a complimentary copy for my honest review.
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Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Book Review: To Be Perfectly Honest

If you like to laugh and appreciate a light-hearted approach to a deep subject, read To Be Perfectly Honest by Phil Callaway. I really enjoyed this book!

At his publisher’s insistence, Callaway made a vow to tell the truth for a whole year. He kept a journal of his experiences—challenges, insights, and failures—and used it to write this book.

Callaway wasn’t very good at telling the truth.

But he was completely honest about this throughout the book. At least, I think he was. It looks that way.

And Callaway learned a lot from this experiment. I was thankful he shared his insights with his readers. I especially liked his Honest Confessions at the end of each chapter.

Callaway’s e-mail conversations with people who challenge him to confess things, Ruth Madoff, and the post-Rapture pet care atheist are hysterical. His on-going ministry to Mormon missionaries and frustrations with humanity’s quirks are entertaining, too.

Mostly, though, I liked the way Callaway related to the people around him, patiently bearing with their imperfections, honestly confessing his, learning not to judge too quickly or too harshly, and ultimately wanting God’s best for everyone.

The book is subtly thought-provoking, and I had fun reading it. I thank Waterbrook Multnomah Publishers for sending a complimentary copy for my truly honest review. To quote the cover, “One man’s year of almost living truthfully could change your life. No lie.”
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Sunday, November 20, 2011

Book Review: Cliques, Hicks, and Ugly Sticks

Cliques, Hicks, and Ugly Sticks: Confessions of April Grace by K.D. McCrite is a really cute story for late-elementary-age girls. If you have a young daughter, I recommend this book, the second in a series, to her and to you. (I still remember loving it at that age when my mom read the books I was reading!)

April Grace is an 11-year-old girl entering her first semester of junior high. The story is set in the 80’s. (Does that make it an historical novel?! Oh, my! Can't be.) Yet April Grace, her family, and her community reminded me of the Walton’s and their little town. So picture Elizabeth in 80’s attire, and you know what April Grace is like. (She even has the red hair!)

Along with the normal challenges of junior high, April Grace must deal with unwanted house guests who take her older sister’s room forcing her sister to move into hers, her mom’s surprise and difficult pregnancy, and her placement under protest in the church’s Christmas play. Life is hard for this spunky, little girl. And she very honestly shares all of her feelings!

Yet she survives and learns many valuable life lessons along the way. Themes regarding family, community, compassion, self-esteem, forgiveness, and living out one’s faith are subtly woven throughout this fun story.

I thank Thomas Nelson Publishers for sending a complimentary eCopy for my honest review.
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Sunday, November 13, 2011

Book Review: Wonderland Creek

A book about a girl who reads too much—who could resist?! Wonderland Creek is the story of Alice, a young woman whose teachers recommended she give up the idea of becoming a teacher and become a librarian instead. Alice related better to her books than to the people in her world. But when her fiancĂ© breaks their engagement and she loses her dream job, Alice decides its time to run and hide. Taking books collected for an impoverished community, she hitches a ride with her aunt and uncle who drop her off on the steps of Acorn’s public library, promising to pick her up within two weeks. But the creek running through Acorn isn’t named Wonderland for nothing, and Alice quickly finds herself caught up in the adventure that will forever change her life.

Alice in Wonderland, the book (I’ve never seen the movie.), was too intense for me—like the Wizard of Oz, it gave me nightmares. Wonderland Creek had the same level of intensity in some places, making me want to throw the book across the room. I kept reading, though, and in the end, decided I really liked this story. It was kind of a cross between Alice in Wonderland and Catherine Marshall’s Christy, if you can imagine such a thing. I loved most of the characters and the historical setting—the great depression, the New Deal, packhorse librarians, unionization, and the conservation corps. The ending was perfect for the story. It’s one I recommend; just be ready to hang on tight in spots when unbelievable plot twists may temporarily frustrate you.

Bethany House Publishers sent a complimentary copy of this book for my honest review.
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Friday, November 11, 2011

Book Review: One Month to Live

One Month to Live by Kerry and Chris Shook is a book chock full of great advice on living an abundant Christian life. It’s divided into four sections of seven or eight short chapters each: Live Passionately, Love Completely, Learn Humbly, and Leave Boldly. Each chapter contains an analogy or two from life experiences such as mountain climbing, scuba diving, and roller coaster riding. Readers are encouraged to enjoy one chapter a day for thirty days while considering how they would live their lives if they knew they only had thirty days left.

The title, One Month to Live: Thirty Days to a No-Regrets Life, almost kept me from even considering the book. I chose to read it because I'd heard good things about the authors. But the concept itself sounded guilt-inducing, pressure filled, and perfectionistic. “Don’t waste a moment. Take advantage of every opportunity, or suffer the consequences and live with regret for the rest of your life!” This book is not that. The theme is simply the package that neatly wraps up all of the Shook’s ideas and leads readers to the corresponding website for more: www.onemonthtolive.com.

What the reader will find in this book is basic and sound, practical and biblical advice on Christian living. The Shooks encourage readers to love God, to love each other, to do whatever God leads them to do, and to encourage others to do the same. If you are looking for an upbeat and uplifting 30-day-devotional on how to live the Christian life, I recommend this book.

Thank you, Waterbrook Multnomah Publishers, for sending a complimentary copy for my honest review.
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Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Book Review: Healing Is A Choice

Because I liked Stephen Arterburn’s book The Encounter so much, I decided to read Healing Is A Choice, too. It was different from The Encounter, as I knew it would be, but it’s definitely a worthwhile read. (The Encounter is fiction. Healing Is A Choice is psychological, self-help.) If you’ve been wounded, spiritually, socially, mentally, even physically, and still feel pain, this book offers sound and biblical advice to you.

I especially liked the format. Arterburn gives ten choices one must make in order for healing to occur. Following his explanation of each choice is a cultural lie that often keeps people from finding the courage to make the necessary healing choice. Arterburn clearly (and from a psychological and biblical perspective) shows why each lie is a lie. Finally, following the lie, are the corresponding workbook pages to the text. These give added clarity to Arterburn’s points and provide questions for the reader to work through, whether alone or with a small support group.

Throughout the book, Arterburn shares stories from his own life, lessons he learned while recovering from an unexpected and unwelcome divorce. He tells with great honesty of the lessons he learned about himself and changes he chose to make in order to avoid repeating mistakes in his second marriage. If he hadn’t chosen to heal and to grow and change, he might have run into the similar problems in his second marriage as he did in his first. But the book isn’t about recovering from divorce. This is the author’s personal application. The principles within the book can be applied to so many other life situations that cause pain. (Arterburn includes other people's life stories to show how this is true.)

I thank Thomas Nelson Publishers for giving me an eCopy of this book in exchange for my honest review. If you are healing or long to, or if you minister to those who need healing, I recommend this book to you.
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Thursday, November 3, 2011

Book Review: Wait No More

I loved the true story in the book, Wait No More. This is the story of how Team Rosati came to be. When John and Kelly Rosati were ready to start a family, they followed God’s leading and chose to adopt through the foster care system. They adopted once, then felt led to adopt again. They thought that was all, but God eventually brought two more children into their family. How it happened is amazing. I was blessed by the story.

Kelly tells the story in her voice, event by event. She tells of the great blessing, painful heartaches, daunting challenges, and driving love. She tells how God prepared and worked in their hearts and why they chose to obey each time. She tells a bit about how the system works and its pros and cons. Mostly, it’s a story of praise and thanksgiving as God creates a new family.

In the end, Kelly tells about the ministry they’ve become involved in through Focus on the Family, Wait No More. Through this ministry, Focus on the Family is encouraging families all over America to consider adopting foster kids and helping them to do so. To learn more, read the book, Wait No More.

I thank Tyndale House Publishers for sending a complimentary copy of this book for my honest review.
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Saturday, October 29, 2011

Book Review: 5 Conversations You Must Have with Your Son

I’m so happy! I’ve been terribly jealous of moms with daughters since Vicki Courtney wrote 5 Conversations You Must Have with Your Daughter. Now she’s written 5 Conversations You Must Have with Your Son. If you are a mother of sons ages newborn to 18, you need to read this book!

Conversations include:
  • Don’t define manhood by the culture’s wimpy standards. It’s OK to be a man!
  • What you don’t learn to conquer may become your master.
  • Not everyone’s doing it!
  • Boyhood is only for a season. P.S. It’s time to grow up!
  • Godly men are in short supply. Dare to become one!
Each conversation is covered in three to four chapters and is intended for mothers to have with sons. Yet, Courtney includes ideas for dad’s too—and recognizes that some topics are more comfortable between fathers and sons. Each conversation ends with a section called Dad:2:Dad which directs the reader to Courtney’s website for a list of activities, tools and resources her husband used with their sons. Readers are also invited to add their own suggestions to the list there.

Throughout the book, Courtney offers practical advice, personal experience stories, and wisdom from other sources. She helps mothers understand what lies their sons are hearing in today’s culture and tells why it’s essential and how to give sons truth at an early age (and also at any age in case your sons are already approaching adulthood).

In case you haven’t already figured it out, I highly recommend this book! I was thrilled to receive a complimentary copy of my own in exchange for this honest review.
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Book Review: The Doctor's Lady

This book wasn’t what I expected. I knew it was about a marriage of convenience between two people who wanted to establish a mission among native Americans in the early 1800’s, but I thought it would tell about them establishing the mission. Instead, it’s the story of their journey from New York to Oregon, first by ship, then by wagon, to establish the mission. It’s the story of how they learn to care for one another through all the hardship they endure along the way. It’s also the story of how they learn to overcome their own ideas and recognize their own weaknesses, so they can more fully rely on and submit to God.

I liked this book.

After the conclusion, Jody Hedlund explains that the book is based, pretty extensively, on the true story of Marcus and Narcissa Whitman—and their travelling companions. Narcissa and one of those companions, Eliza Spalding, were the first white women to cross the Continental Divide and travel to the West. They did this in 1836. Hedlund used Narcissa’s journals as the primary source for this book, The Doctor’s Lady.

If you enjoy historical fiction (in this case, mostly truth) with subtle, but powerful, messages about trusting in God and building a strong marriage, I recommend this book. I received a complimentary copy from Bethany House Publishers in exchange for this review.
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Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Book Review: The Encounter

I could not put this sweet story down! The Encounter is Stephen Arterburn’s parable about the power of forgiveness, as opposed to resentment, in a person’s life. After three divorces, pain killer addiction, and a failed suicide attempt, Jonathan Rush is desperate for help. His pastor sends him to Fairbanks, Alaska, the place where resentment and anger began to take over in him, to learn what he can about the mother who abandoned him. Jonathan is skeptical, but agrees to follow his pastor’s advice.

Along the way, he meets a local reporter, Erica Bingham, who chooses to help him, off the record, just because she’s curious. This story, which is a very quick read, tells of each stop they make on the way to discovery and the freeing lesson Jonathan learns as the story ends.

Following the story, Arterburn tells of two true stories that merged in his mind to create the parable. He talks about lessons he’s learned along the way and asks follow-up questions to help the reader consider more. I appreciated this section of the book, but the story, which spoke clearly for itself, was my favorite part. Anyone who struggles with anger, resentment, or the inability to forgive will benefit from reading this book. Those who just love a happy story should read it, too!

I thank Thomas Nelson Publishers for sending a complimentary eCopy of this book for my review.
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Monday, October 24, 2011

Book Review: Refuge on Crescent Hill

“The Bristow Mansion has guarded its secrets for generations. Until now . . .”

This statement from the cover of Refuge on Crescent Hill defines the novel perfectly! As a minor character attempts to solve an old family mystery, others stumble upon a mystery of their own. Perhaps deep secrets from the past can save Camden Bristow’s future.

As the story opens, Camden is without a job or a home. In desperation, she returns to the only home she’s ever known—her grandmother’s house, Bristow Mansion. Sadly, she just misses her grandmother’s memorial service by only a few days. Yet she quickly learns that her grandmother, in spite of Camden’s neglect, has left everything to her.

The town wants the property, though, and is determined to get it through unethical means. With new acquaintance Alex Yates’s help, Camden must find a way to save her childhood home and carry on her grandmother’s legacy.

Refuge on Crescent Hill by Melanie Dobson is a contemporary novel with an historical mystery. The main characters don’t even realize they are solving a mystery; they are just trying to solve a problem. Yet they uncover secrets as they go and stumble upon something bigger than they ever expected. I loved the way this story unfolded! I’m happy to recommend this book, and thank Kregel Publications for sending a complimentary copy for my review.
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Special Note from Kregel Publications: Refuge on Crescent Hill will be available on Amazon Kindle FREE for one week starting October 31! (And if you don't own your own Kindle, Amazon will let you download a free reader, so you can enjoy Kindle books on your PC.)

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Book Review: Heaven is for Real for Kids

Last year about this time, I reviewed the book, Heaven is for Real. I loved it! And now I get to review the children’s version, Heaven is for Real for Kids. This book is absolutely precious. If you have young children, you must read it to them!

When Colton Burpo, now 12, was 4, he almost died. While in the hospital, he had an experience of visiting Heaven, talking with Jesus, meeting relatives who’d died, whom he’d never met, but who recognized and were happy to see him. After his experience, Colton knew things he couldn’t have known unless he’d actually visited Heaven. And his descriptions of what he saw there were consistent with what the Bible says, though a child his age wouldn’t have in-depth knowledge of biblical descriptions of Heaven.

The grown-up version tells the story from Colton’s father’s point of view. The children’s version tells kids, in Colton’s own words, what Heaven is like. Each page has a picture, a sentence or two about something Colton saw in Heaven, and a corresponding Bible verse. Colton himself told the artist how the pictures should look. Words, illustrations, and Scripture together paint a beautiful picture of Heaven, helping the reader anticipate going there someday. Colton’s story closes with a prayer for the reader to say.

The book opens with a letter to parents from Colton’s parents. It closes with a Q & A section giving parents more information about Colton’s experience. Heaven is for Real for Kids is a hopeful book for children and their parents to enjoy.

Thank you, Thomas Nelson Publishers, for sending a complimentary eCopy of this book for my honest review.
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Saturday, October 22, 2011

Book Review: His Steadfast Love

I usually enjoy historical novels set during the Civil War. I struggled with this one, though. To me, the forbidden love that was the focus of the plot was unreal. It couldn’t have existed. This made the rest of the story unbelievable as well.

His Steadfast Love opens with Amber and Kent meeting for the first time at her father’s church. Kent is a soldier from the North, stationed in Texas just before the war. Amber and Kent see each other at church four or five times, always surrounded by other people. Then Amber’s father invites Kent to Sunday dinner. Accompanied by Amber’s brother, Kent and Amber take a walk on the beach where Kent suddenly tells the brother and sister that he’s opposed to slavery. Amber and Daniel are offended at his disapproval of their way of life, but suddenly Daniel sees a few dolphins and Kent takes the moment to pull Amber into his arms to ask if he can call on her. He had just picked a fight with her and before that they had hardly talked—ever. Amber asks Kent to please wait.

The two don’t see or communicate with each other for six months. Then Kent shows up for an unexpected visit. His purpose: to tell the family that the nation is at war, to declare that he is on the Union side, and to ask if he can keep in touch with Amber. Her dad says absolutely not and sends Kent away.

It seems to me that six months before the Civil War, tensions between the North and South would have been so strong that Amber and Kent would never have been attracted to each other. He probably wouldn’t have even been welcomed into a Southern church. But even if he had been and they had been interested in one another, they didn’t have time or opportunity to develop the deep and committed love that is the basis for the whole story. This made the book very difficult to read.

Thomas Nelson Publishers sent a complimentary copy of this book for my honest review.
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Thursday, October 13, 2011

Book Review: A Sound Among the Trees

Marielle Bishop doesn’t know what she’s getting herself into when she agrees to move into her new husband’s dead first wife’s childhood home with the grandmother who raised the first wife so that the first wife's children won’t have to move from the only home they’ve ever known. She starts learning quickly, though. Either the house is cursed or haunted, or something deeper is going on.

I can’t say much more without giving crucial information away. But Susan Meissner has done it again. I love this story which, like her others, blends the present with the past teaching those who live now what those who lived then learned. A good section of the book contains Susannah Page’s Civil War letters which help the women of this story, Marielle, Adelaide, and Caroline, discover what’s really going on at Holly Oak, so that healing can take place at last.

Caroline was my favorite character. She’s the dead first wife’s mother, Adelaide’s daughter, and the mentally disturbed, drug addicted runaway who returns to Holly Oak with an urgent message for all. Hers is a story of redemption and grace and restoring the past by helping those headed into the future. Sometimes God uses those who've suffered deeply to bring healing to those who may not even realize they are in pain--and that's a truly beautiful thing!

I thank Waterbrook Multnomah Publishers for sending a complimentary copy of this book for my honest review.
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Note to the Publisher: Though I'm a dedicated Susan Meissner fan, I almost skipped this book just because of its cover. You decapitated Susannah! Why, oh, why, oh, why would you do that?!

Friday, October 7, 2011

Book Review: Shadow in Serenity

Shadow in Serenity is a beautiful story of forgiveness and redemption—and of learning to trust God’s power to forgive and redeem. This story touched my heart.

Carny Sullivan is a single mom, a widow, raising her son in the safe, small town she fell in love with when she fell in love with her husband. Having grown up in a carnival environment with two con artists for parents, Carny treasures stability, security, and honesty.

When Logan Briscoe comes to town offering a deal too good to be true, Carny knows right away it’s a scam. But, in the town’s desperation for economic improvement, no one will believe her. Carny must find a way to prove that Logan is a fraud before he forever disappears with the life savings of all her friends.

At the end of the book, author Terri Blackstock shares the story of how God led her from writing for the secular romance market to writing Christian novels. Shadow in Serenity was originally published under a different title for the secular world. Blackstock has reworked it—and redeemed it, so to speak—giving a beautiful, and true, message to a great story.

I received a complimentary copy of this book for my review. I’m happy to recommend it to you.
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Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Book Review: The Christian Zombie Killer's Handbook

I guess I’m a sucker for a good gimmick. When I saw the title, The Christian Zombie Killer’s Handbook: Slaying the Dead Within, my curiosity got the better of me. I had to give the book a look. (If I’d have had to pay for it, I would have been able to resist, but since Thomas Nelson Publishers was offering an eCopy for free in exchange for this review . . .)

It’s a good book. Author Jeff Kinley alternates chapters between the on-going fictional Zombie story analogy and some good solid biblical instruction. Personally, I didn’t really care for the Zombie story—I think Zombies are a guy thing. If that’s not a fair statement, let’s just say Zombies aren’t my thing. They're the least intelligent monster out there, after all. But the analogy was interesting and the teaching was right on target—clearly stated, easy to follow and understand. If Kinley’s goal was to present this message to an audience of people who might not otherwise be interested in learning about humanity’s sin nature and what the Bible has to say about conquering it, then he found an interesting way to reach that goal.

Then again, when I showed the book to my teenage son, he was pretty skeptical. I guess he’s not a sucker for a gimmick like his mom.
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Monday, October 3, 2011

Book Review: Waking Hours

I just finished reading the first book in Lis Wiehl’s new East Salem series. Yay, Lis! I’ve read and enjoyed all three books of her other series, but with those I had some concerns. For this series, Wiehl has a new co-author, Pete Nelson. Perhaps that made all the difference. Or maybe Wiehl started this new series in order to take her stories in a different direction. Either way, I really liked this book.

Waking Hours is a supernatural thriller/mystery. When a gruesome murder takes places in East Salem, New York, forensic psychiatrist Dani Harris is called to assist the DA. Tommy Gunderson, an old friend from high school, formerly a pro-football player, now studying to become a private detective, is also drawn into the case when one of the teenage boys he mentors is called in for questioning.

Dani invites Tommy to be her assistant and the two go to work together in an X-Files kind of way. Tommy is a growing Christian who suspects there’s a spiritual battle going on, not just a physical crime. Dani is all science. If you can’t see it and prove it, it shouldn’t be a concern.

Because of the gruesome nature of the murder and supernatural elements introduced at the beginning of the book, I at first thought, I’d walked into a horror story. But it doesn’t go that direction. The supernatural element is almost a side story—and will be continued in the next book. The mystery itself gets solved satisfactorily within the human realm.

I’m happy to recommend Waking Hours to you and will be watching for the next book in the East Salem series! Thank you, Thomas Nelson Publishers, for sending a complimentary copy of this book for my honest review.
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Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Book Review: Night Night Blessings

I had the same concerns with Night Night Blessings as I did with the children’s book I reviewed yesterday. Picture books just don’t convert to eBooks very well. In this case, the text that went with the pictures didn’t even land on the same page. I can’t imagine how confusing that would be for a child. It’s crucial that the words and pictures go together.

That thought aside, the illustrations in Night Night Blessings are adorable. I especially liked the little critters scattered randomly throughout. As for the story, it’s a bedtime poem-prayer. The child in the pictures is thanking God for every part of a routine day from pancakes for breakfast, to time with friends and family, to bathtub fun, to God’s love, presence, and care.

The rhyme itself didn’t come naturally. I often had to think about it and work it out. This would be a challenge for parents trying to read the story aloud to active toddlers. Parents might want to practice it first. I also wasn’t sure about the child’s age. One moment she’s playing leap frog and kick ball with friends like an elementary age child would do. The next she’s building with blocks like a preschooler.

If I were going to invest $10 in a book for my child’s library, I would probably choose a different one. Children may love the pictures, but parents will get their tongues tied trying to read the words in rhythm.

Tommy Nelson Publishers sent a complimentary eCopy of this book for my review.
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Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Book Review: Thank You, God, for Blessing Me

Thank You, God, for Blessing Me by Max Lucado didn't work very well as an eBook. Written for babies, it's a Read 2 Me book about Little Hermie. The book is adorable, but the layout didn't work as intended in eBook format. Besides that, I strongly believe that babies need books they can hold, flip the pages of and chew on. That's how they fall in love with reading! (You wouldn't want your baby to chew on your eBook device, would you? I think that would be dangerous for both the baby and the eBook device.)

The story itself is very sweet. Thank You, God, for Blessing Me is a 20 line poem-prayer with five pictures: four lines of poem for each picture. In the poem, Hermie thanks God for everything he encounters through his day from morning until night: self, food, friends, creation. He also asks God to help him be the best he can be.

Illustrations are done by Frank Endersby. They go perfectly with the poem-prayer. The bright colors and funny critter faces are sure to appeal to the book's intended readers (and to their mommies and maybe even daddies, too).

I thank Tommy Nelson Publishers for sending a complimentary eCopy of this book for my review. If you have small children (or grandchildren), I recommend the 10-page board book to you.
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Book Review: The Baker's Wife

I chose The Baker’s Wife for review out of author loyalty. I’ve enjoyed both of Erin Healy’s other books (Never Let You Go and The Promises She Keeps), so I hoped I would enjoy this one, too, though it’s description didn’t really intrigue me.

Erin Healy did not disappoint me. This book turned out to be my favorite of the three. I’m happy to recommend it to you!

The baker’s wife is a former pastor’s wife—same husband, new career, brought on by unjust circumstances. The two, along with their grown son, continue their ministry of outreach to hurting people by turning their marriage hobby into a community business.

Unfortunately, when the baker’s wife is involved in a mysterious accident resulting in a missing person’s case, the man responsible for forcing them out of the church determines he must destroy them as well. The baker’s wife and two unlikely allies must work quickly to solve the mystery and set things right.

I enjoyed the story and also appreciated Healy’s subtle questions about and insights into what is a sincere Christian life. Diane Hall, the somewhat wrongly convicted murderess, was one of my favorite characters; I appreciated her side story and the message it contained.

If you enjoy a good mystery with a thought-provoking message, you’ll want to read this book!
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Oops! Disclaimer here: Thank you, Thomas Nelson Publishers, for sending a complimentary copy of this book for my honest review.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Book Review: Attracted to Fire

How do you protect a suicidal drug addict with a price on her head? If she’s the vice president’s daughter, you imprison her on a remote ranch in Texas with six secret service agents, her own personal doctor and nurse, a cook and two ranch hands, a father and son.

Believing her parents are more interested in social causes and politics than in her, Lindsay Hall is determined to ruin their reputation by ruining hers even if this means destroying herself in the process. For reasons only he knows, the vice president handpicks secret service agent Meghan Conners to stay by his daughter’s side, to protect her from herself and other threats. Meghan joins Ash Zinder’s team for this assignment against Zinder’s wishes. He believes women have no place in the secret service. Meghan must show him he’s wrong while keeping her focus and protecting Lindsay.

Attracted to Fire is the second DiAnn Mills book I’ve been privileged to read. This one is exceptional! Action and adventure. Conspiracy. Suspense. And a bit of romance, of course.

My only frustration was with the cover art. As in the first DiAnn Mills book I read, the main character as pictured on the cover doesn’t match Mills description of her. More than once, Mills says Meghan has reddish blonde hair. The character on the cover is a brunette. But that’s only a minor nuisance. The quality of the story more than made up for it. I just don't understand why this detail would be overlooked.

I thank Tyndale Publishers for sending a complimentary copy of this book for my review. I am happy to recommend it to fans of the romance/suspense genre.
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Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Book Review: Ascent from Darkness

This ain’t no bedtime story! I know. I actually read several chapters before bed last night, and then I prayed myself to sleep. I finished the book today. If you’ve put your trust in Christ, there’s nothing to fear in this book—not one thing. But it’s still one very creepy story.

And yet it somehow manages to end so happily!

This is something only God can do, and that gives all of us hope. If God can overcome Satan on this level, saving a man who dedicated his life by blood to the evil one, God can save anyone. Are you listening? Anyone! Our God is just that powerful.

As I read the story, it was eye-opening to read of Michael Leehan’s determination to attack and destroy Christians and the methods he used. He memorized Scripture, then attended services pretending to be a Christian. He used his knowledge of Scripture to twist it and confuse those who were weak in faith. And somehow he always knew whom he could prey on—and whom he had to leave alone. This definitely makes one think.

I was also impressed at the way God worked with Leehan, never allowing him to kill anyone, though he had decided to more than once, and putting strong, determined, and spiritually-sensitive Christians in his life over and over again.

Of his story, Leehan says, “'Ascent from Darkness' addresses issues pertaining to hopelessness, depression, mental illness, spiritual warfare, incarceration, addictions, and many other struggles with which you or someone else you may know may be afflicted. My intent in writing this book is to shed God’s light into these dark circumstances and to give hope to those who feel hopeless.” I believe he accomplished this mission, and I pray this book finds its way into the hands of those who will be encouraged by his words.

After telling the story, Leehan continues, “Remember, no matter how badly you think you’ve sinned or what kind of mess you may have made of your life, it probably pales in comparison to mine. Never give up, never lose hope. Jesus Christ specializes in fixing broken messes just like us.”

I’m so thankful this is true! Thomas Nelson Publishers sent a complimentary copy of this book for my honest review. I recommend it—just not before you go to sleep!
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Thursday, September 8, 2011

Book Review: Falls Like Lightning

Falls Like Lightning by Shawn Grady is the story of smokejumper Silas Kent and his ex-girlfriend Elle Westmore. Not having seen each other since his sudden departure several years before, they are caught off guard when he’s called to lead a team to fight a massive fire in the Sierra Nevadas, and she’s called to fly them in.

Complicating matters for Elle are her concern for her young daughter who has been suffering from sudden seizures and her reluctance to fly over the area where her father’s plane mysteriously disappeared never to be found a few years before. With thousands of homes at risk, though, Elle must put her personal feelings aside and serve as only she can.

Falls Like Lightning is an action-adventure suspense novel with just a touch of romance. I had trouble following at first; the story was there, but character development was indistinct. Elle was easy to follow because she was the only main female character. But, at first, I kept getting Silas and Caleb confused. Bo’s sudden entrance came out of left field and made me wonder if I’d accidently picked up another book. Once everyone got on the plane and started their flight over the Sierra Nevadas, though, it all became mostly clear.

I liked the story overall. I don’t recall seeing much of God in it, which surprises me coming from Bethany House. It's a good, clean story written by a Christian author. Two people with extraordinary careers found each other again, overcame great difficulties, and lived happily ever after. The end.

Bethany House Publishers sent a complimentary copy of this book for my honest review.
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Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Book Review: Gabby, God's Little Angel

Gabby, God’s Little Angel is a guardian angel on her first assignment. Her job is to keep Sophie safe. Since Gabby and Sophie both tend to be a little bit accident prone, it’s a challenge for Gabby. But by protecting Sophie, she shows her God’s love and care.

The story is based on Psalm 91:9, 11, “The Lord is your protection . . . . He has put his angels in charge of you. They will watch over you wherever you go.”

While it is a sweet story with darling pictures, it left me with some concerns. If the message is that God sends angels to keep us safe because He loves us, what will children think when they get hurt? What happens when they really do fall out of trees or off their ponies? What happens when injuries occur?

What’s more, while Gabby is absolutely adorable, she’s a child herself, appearing younger than Sophie and prone to accidents, too. She comes through for Sophie in the end in the story, but she’s not what I’d want my children to picture when they think of angels watching over them. I’d have reservations about what they’d learn from this book. The intent is good, God loves you and sends angels to watch over you, but what comes through is a little mixed up.

Thomas Nelson Publishers sent a complimentary eCopy of this book for my honest review.
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