Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Book Review: "Indescribable"

Indescribable by Louie Giglio is one of my favorite kinds of devotional books. Pastor Louie, as he identifies himself to his readers, has developed 100 devotionals based on facts and observations from God's created world. He is letting the creation testify about the Creator, helping readers grow in faith and in knowledge of their wonderful God.

Pastor Louie identifies four scientific categories for his devotionals: space, earth, animals, and people. Kids and their parents can choose to read straight through the book or focus on one category at a time using the index on page 7.

As with most traditional devotionals, each starts with a Bible verse which is followed by information about something found in God's creation. Pastor Louie helps readers understand what this information can teach readers about God and His ways. He concludes with a short prayer. In addition, prayers are followed by a section called Be Amazed which teaches kids something new of interest about the topic of the devotional. Each devotional also has a full-color photograph or cartoon drawing for added fun.

I especially recommend this book to parents looking for a daily devotional they can read with their children before bedtime or at some other regular time of day. Tommy Nelson sent me a complimentary copy, so that I could share my thoughts with you.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Book Review: "God Gave Us Family"

I will enjoy reading this new book by Lisa Tawn Bergren to my children. It begins as a conversation between a wolf pup and his parents. The pup wants to know why some families are big and some are little. As the discussion continues, the pup's parents talk about adoption, single parent families, children raised by their grandparents, and extended families. They even touch on how some families do things differently than others. The point: when parents are caring for children that's a family. My favorite lines from the book: "Because we're family , we figure out how to get along. We need to love the family God gave us."

About two-thirds of the way through the book, Bergren changes it from a discussion between the wolf pup and his parents to a narrative of the wolf pup enjoying time with his cousins. I found this a little bit jarring and wondered if Bergren just ran out of topics for the wolf family to discuss. Bergren ended with the wolf pup being thankful for the family God gave him.

My favorite part of the book, the part I think my children will like best as well, is the sweet artwork by David Hohn. It goes perfectly with Bergren's words. I thank Waterbrook Multnomah Publishers for sending me a complimentary copy of this book, so I could share my thoughts about it with you.

Book Review: "The Delusion"

While I enjoyed reading The Delusion by Laura Gallier, give it a five-star rating, and look forward to reading the next book in the series, I have to caution parents to read it before giving it to their kids and to use discretion based on their child's maturity and sensitivity. The book carries a strong Christian message, but it is also a work of horror. And most of the teenagers portrayed in the book are not Christians, therefore their actions are true to those of kids who don't understand what living for Jesus means. This is essential to the plot and message of the book, but not all kids can understand this and some parents don't want their kids exposed to it even in a book with a Christian message.

That said, Gallier presents her readers with an intriguing story about a boy who is given the ability to see the unseen. His eyes are opened to the spiritual forces, both good and evil, at work in our world. He is horrified to see what happens when his friends make dark choices. He is confused when forces of light don't intervene. He is determined to help, to rescue the people he loves, but can't figure out how. To make matters worse, no one will believe what he's saying; they won't see their need for help.

The Delusion is intense, but it's message is brilliant. It's one I'll share with my older children. It's one I recommend. I thank Tyndale House Publishers for sending me a complimentary copy, so I could share my thoughts with you.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Book Review: "Fierce Hearted"

I have found all of Holley Gerth's books to be fun and encouraging, but Fierce Hearted is without a doubt my favorite yet. Throughout the forty short chapters of Fierce Hearted, Holley brings readers along on her personal journey to discover what a fierce-hearted woman is and how to become one herself. In the introduction, she tells readers that she tried not to write the book, yet she shares her stories, so her readers will realize they aren't the only ones going through whatever it is they are going through. She writes, "I want all of us to feel less alone and more comfortable in our God-sewn skin and a little surer that we are a force to be reckoned with in this world." I'm pretty certain we all want that!

Each chapter begins with a quote, most from current female writers of the same genre as Holley writes Fierce Hearted in. Many end with a resolution of some sort, printed in decorative type. Chapters are only three to five chapters long, so this makes a great purse book for reading during unexpected waiting times or for often-needed, middle of the day, encouragement breaks. Holley's page-long definition of a fierce-hearted woman, printed at the beginning and end of the book is worthy of a wall-hanging!

I thank Revell for sending me a complimentary copy of this book. I've enjoyed reading it and am happy to recommend it to you.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Book Review: "The Alphabet of Grief"

The concept of this book is so simple, it's brilliant. Knowing that people who are grieving, even the most voracious of readers, may find it difficult to process more than a few pages at a time, Chaplain and Spiritual Counselor Andrea Raynor has provided 26 reflections about navigating one's way through grief, each focusing on one word that starts with a different letter of the alphabet.

The concept is simple, but her reflections are both comforting and profound. Both those who are grieving and those who want to understand those who are grieving in order to offer help that will actually be helpful will appreciate Raynor's insights. Each reflections begins with a relevant quote from someone well-known and ends with a meditation and an affirmation, giving the reader one solid point to hang on to. Insights are explored through Raynor's personal experiences and those of her family and others who are close to her. She also refers to Scripture and presents the Christian point of view on life, death, and the afterlife, while recognizing that not everyone who reads the book may share her beliefs. In other words, she doesn't apologize for her beliefs, but she respects those who do not share them. Her goal is to offer help in time of sorrow to anyone who is grieving.

I thank Waterbrook Multnomah Publishers for sending me a complimentary copy of this book. I found it full of wisdom and truth. I'm happy to recommend it to you.

Monday, October 2, 2017

Book Review: "The Proving"

The Proving is one of Beverly Lewis's sweetest books yet. It's the story of a young woman who ran away from everyone she knew and loved rather than face and deal with painful circumstances. When this woman, Amanda Dienner, learns that her mother has died and left her an Amish bed-and-breakfast to run, she feels confused and unworthy. But she just happens to need a job. The one condition to her inheritance is that she must successfully run the business for one year. Mandy decides she'll do this and starts counting the days until she can sell her inheritance and leave again for good.

But returning means facing her family and her people. It also means making new friends of new and recurring guests and of the newcomer and his son whose help on the property she somehow inherited with the inn.

Through this imaginative story, Lewis has found a interesting way to present ideas about grief, forgiveness, relationships, sacrifice, and generally overcoming one's stuff. I enjoyed the read and am sure it's lessons will stick with me. Fans of Amish fiction will like this book as well. Bethany House sent me a complimentary copy; I read it because I wanted to and in order to share my thoughts with you.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Book Review: "I'm Not a Scaredy-Cat"

I'm Not a Scaredy-Cat: A Prayer for When You Wish You Were Brave is the newest children's book by Max Lucado. Inside Lucado introduces children to a spunky cat who likes to brag about how brave he is - except when he is not.

In actuality, this cat is pretty much afraid of everything. He lists several things he is afraid of, then recites the prayer he uses to help himself feel better, lists more fears, recites the prayer again, and so on. After each recitation of the prayer, the cat says to the reader, "And then you'll feel better."

If it weren't for those five words following every recitation of the prayer, I probably would have loved the book. But those words made the prayer feel to me like a magical feel-good formula instead of a sincere conversation with God. Lucado is absolutely right: when I am afraid, I feel better when I tell God what I am afraid of, and then affirm my confidence in His Presence, His goodness, and His love. I want my children to learn that they can do this, too. But I want them to place their confidence in God Himself, not in a few magic feel-better words.

The illustrations are darling, and I love the idea of teaching children to turn to God when they are afraid. For very young children being raised in relatively safe environments, this book is a fun read. Perhaps parents can use it as an introduction and begin to build from there. Kids who have experienced real trauma may be confused by this read.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Tommy Nelson Publishers, so I could share my thoughts about it with you.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Book Review: "Brave Girls Confidential"

Brave Girls Confidential is the second Brave Girls book I've received from Tommy Nelson to read and write about. I am just so impressed with this series. The characters - Hope, Glory, Honor, Gracie, Faith, and their friends - are delightful, not perfect, but sincere in their efforts to be God's girls, to know and honor Him, encouraging their pre-teen reading friends to do the same.

Brave Girls Confidential is a beautiful, hardcover book with darling illustrations both on the cover and throughout its pages. It starts with each character introducing herself followed by an introduction to the setting: a beach house sleepover that turns into personal story time. The following chapters are the girls' stories about their lives and lessons learned. Each story includes a set of questions for discussion. My husband and I plan to read this book with our daughters in the evenings for our devotional time.

Also included in the book are full page statements of lessons to remember such as "God can replace my fear with cheer." I can see my daughters copying the statements artistically themselves, then decorating them to hang on their walls or the refrigerator. The book concludes with game and activity ideas presented by each of the main characters.

If you have pre-teen or young teenage girls, I recommend this fun and inspirational book.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Book Review: "Daring to Hope"

In her second book, Daring to Hope, Katie Davis Majors not only gives her readers an update on her ministry and family life in Uganda but also shares her heart, her hurt, her joy. Through stories of people God has brought into her home and community, people she considers herself blessed to have served, Katie has developed a deeper understanding of God's love and of the way He blesses His children with His Presence. I was blessed and encouraged by her insights, something she hoped her readers would be. She wrote this book to help her readers draw closer to God.

As I was reading this book, I made notes on post-its and stuck them on the wall above my desk, insights I want to remind myself of often. (Some are in Katie's words; others summarized in mine. Some come straight from God's Word.):

  • God's Presence is the blessing.
  • God uses all for good.
  • The Lord will provide.
  • Practice the art of being interupted.
  • Small acts of love become whispers of God's glory.
  • God doesn't send us through the gauntlet; He walks with us through it.

To understand the meaning of these through Katie's experience, you'll want to read her book. Daring to Hope is one of my favorites this year. I thank Waterbrook Multnomah for sending a complimentary copy to me in exchange for my review.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Book Review: "Kids' NIV Visual Study Bible"

I know this is a kids' Bible, but I'm wanting to read through the whole thing myself! What a great reference work! Not only does it have the complete NIV text of the Bible, but every page has notes in the outside margins, bringing attention and explanation to particular verses. For example, on page 573, there is an explanation that the Azariah mentioned in 2 Kings 15:30 was another name for Uzziah mentioned in other places. This explanation offers suggestions for why one king had two names. This Bible also contains full-color pictures and maps and diagrams of family trees, infographics and introductions to the different books.

It's not a study Bible for little kids, but it would make a great reference for parents who include Bible teaching in their home school or for parents who want to study the Bible at home with their kids. It would also be great for older kids and teenagers (and maybe even some curious adults) who want to read the Bible for themselves.

Now that I think of it, perhaps ZonderKids should have called this the Family's NIV Visual Study Bible. In any case, I'm thankful for the copy they sent me, so I could share my thoughts about it here. I look forward to sharing this Bible with my family, and I recommend it for yours.

Book Review: "Crisis Shot"

In her newest police drama series, Line of Duty, Janice Cantore moves her stories from Long Beach, California to Rogue's Hollow, Oregon. In the first book, Crisis Shot, main character Tess O'Rourke doesn't want to make the move, but must due to circumstances beyond her control. She had hoped to become chief of police in a big city; now she finds herself adjusting to life in a small town.

A brutal murder, a missing person, a wounded dog, and a homeless drug addict keep her busy, though. With half the town supporting her efforts and the other half watching to see her fail, she must do her best just to do her job and to do what is best for her new town.

I always enjoy reading Cantore's books. I was partial to the Long Beach setting, having grown up near there, but I liked meeting the characters in this new town and watching Tess adapt to a new culture through tough circumstances. The story in Crisis Shot ended, but Tess's will go on. I'll look forward to reading what happens next in Rogue's Hollow, Oregon.

Tyndale House Publishers sent me a complimentary copy of this book, so I could share my thoughts with you.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Book Review: "To Wager Her Heart"

To Wager Her Heart is the third of Tamera Alexander's Belle Meade Plantation novels set in Nashville, TN just after the Civil War, a fictional story associated with the actual plantation and fictionalized versions of some of the people who lived there. Through this story, readers learn some of the history of Fisk University and its Jubilee Singers. They'll also learn about the development of the railroad in that area and across the U.S. They'll also meet a few other historical figures as brought to life through Alexander's imagination. This is how historical fiction is meant to be.

The main fictional characters are Alexandra Jamison and Sylas Rutledge. They meet when he visits her father for legal advice, but soon learn that the railroad accident in which her fiance' died is the one his father was blamed for causing. Though he's determined to prove his father's innocence, Alexandra wants nothing to do with Sy.

Thankfully for readers, circumstances throw the two together anyway. Each needs help from the other in order to pursue their dreams. That, along with the historical detail, made To Wager Her Heart a brilliant read. I thank Zondervan for sending a complimentary copy to me and am happy to tell you what I think.

Monday, September 4, 2017

Book Review: "The Promise of Dawn"

I really love that Lauraine Snelling has started a new series in a new place with new characters - who know the old characters and may encounter them someday. That's just too much fun! The Promise of Dawn is the story of how Rune and Signe Carlson immigrate from Norway to America with their three sons and one more child on the way. They don't follow the rest of the family to Blessing, though. Another branch of the family needs help with their logging business in Minnesota.

One of Snelling's greatest strengths, along with taking her readers right into whatever historical setting she chooses, is creating strong female characters who overcome whatever obstacles they face in order to create safe and nurturing homes and communities for their families. Her books inspire me to want to do the same. And though this is a historical novel, the themes of family, friendship, community, hard work, and trust in God are timeless. Like Ingeborg Bjorklund, Signe Carlson will be a mentor to everyone she meets - and to the readers who meet her through this new series.

I thank Bethany House Publishers for sending me a complimentary copy, so I could tell you about this book. I recommend it along with all of Snelling's previous works.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Book Review: "Unraveling"

Book 2 of a suspense-packed trilogy for young adults, Unraveling offered one surprising plot twist after another while guiding readers through several new worlds. Author Sara Ella has used her imagination to create six new realities, all connected to Ella's fictional version of our own. As her main character, Eliyana Ember, discovers and explores these realities, called reflections in the book, readers get to do so, too.

In the first book, Eliyana discovered the truth about her identity. In Unraveling she takes her place only to suddenly have everything start going wrong. The Verity and the Void are out of balance and evil is taking over. To further complicate matter, the two young men who must help El are competing for her affections as well. To fix what's gone wrong, she must go on a quest to learn how it all began, avoid those who would stop her, and make a most difficult choice.

I'm enjoying this trilogy and plan to pass the books on to my daughter. I recommend this series to you. Thomas Nelson Publishers sent me a complimentary copy, so I could share my opinion through this review.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Book Review: "Almost There"

In her new book, Almost There: Searching for Home in a Life on the Move, Bekah DiFelice gives her testimony through twelve stories of adjustments she and her husband made upon entering military life. She tells of getting married and moving away from home for the first time, of getting used to new homes and communities, of making friends, finding churches, parenting away from the support of extended family, and of trying to discern what's best for everyone involved. And as she tells her story, her testimony, she shares the lessons she learned along the way: lessons in trusting God through it all, lessons in letting Him be her heart's home.

DiFelice has a subtle sense of humor that makes her stories fun to read, yet her gift for words conveys deep truth as well. I found encouragement and gleaned useful insights from every chapter as I enjoyed reading this book, a gift from Tyndale House Publishers, so I could share my opinion with you. Whether or not you are part of a military family or find yourself moving every few years, DiFelice's stories will have something to teach you. I recommend this read!

Friday, August 4, 2017

Book Review: "Gathering the Threads"

The themes that Cindy Woodsmall explored through her latest series are relevant to all people, not unique to the Amish. That's part of what makes The Amish of Summer Grove series so fascinating. Readers will glean great insight as they learn along with Ariana Brenneman.

In the third and final book, Gathering the Threads, Ariana has returned to her home of origin, but her time living away has changed her. She's no longer willing to blindly obey - especially if doing so will hurt her or someone else. She's studying God's Word and clinging to it as the primary authority for her life. Needless to say, her father, fiance, and church leaders are not sure how to handle this. Ariana doesn't want to live in conflict with them, but she must stand up for what is right.

Her switched-at-birth sister of sorts, Skylar Nash, continues to struggle as well. Free to return to the family who raised her, she chooses to stay with her Amish family, living clean and working to discern who she really wants to be. Woodsmall ends each character's story perfectly. I recommend this read.

Waterbrook Multnomah Publishers sent me a complimentary copy in exchange for this review.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Book Review: "The Separatists"

I had a mixed reaction to The Separatists by Lis Wiehl. As in the first two books in this series, the plot is intense. People all around journalist Erica Sparks are either dying or conspiring in sinister ways. Sparks is battling hidden evil in the highest levels of the American government. That element of the book is what kept me reading, totally enthralled. Wiehl picks up on scary possibilities and reveals the worst-possible what-if's, putting her main character in all the right places in order to save the day.

But I had trouble connecting with that main character. I admired her strength and determination to overcome a seriously troubled past. But she broke my heart over and over again as she pushed the two most important people in her life away. Throughout the book, both her daughter and husband were practically screaming, "Please pay some attention to me!" or "Let me help you get through this." Yet Sparks had higher priorities. I won't spoil the ending, but I wasn't entirely satisfied.

Then again, all people have their strengths and weaknesses, and life is about figuring out how to manage both the best you can. Erica Sparks revealed this as she struggled to maintain her relationships and juggle priorities.

Fans of political thrillers will enjoy this series. I thank Thomas Nelson Publisher for sending me a complimentary copy, so I could share my thoughts with you.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Book Review: "Real Artists Don't Starve"

Whatever your chosen art form (writing, painting, sculpting, taking pictures, composing, cooking, and so on), you will find Jeff Goins newest book, Real Artists Don't Starve, to be motivating, inspirational, and practical. In each of the twelve chapters, Goins cites examples from history and modern day, while sharing his own experiences in order to teach and encourage readers like us. His goal: to help us think and live differently, so we'll abandon the myth of the starving artist and instead find ways to thrive.

Each chapter explains one of Goins's Rules of the New Renaissance, principles every thriving artist lives by. Chapters are divided into three sections: Mind-Set, Market, and Money. These help artists motivate themselves to produce art, to put that art in front of an artists, and to make the money they need in order to make more art if making art is what they are called to do. I found useful advice and encouragement in every chapter while enjoying learning about the lives of several well-known and not-so-well-known artists.

If you consider yourself an artist, particularly a starving one, I recommend this book to you. Thomas Nelson sent me a complimentary copy in exchange for this review.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Book Review: "English Lessons"

Andrea Lucado's memoir of the year she spent studying in Oxford is a thought-provoking collection of essays revealing the insights she gained while living in a different culture. Andrea grew up in the church, the daughter of a well-known pastor and author. Discovering and learning how to relate to people who saw no need for God or who had rejected Him outright challenged her beliefs and provided a powerful education outside of her classes.

I enjoyed the way Andrea presented her story. She simply shared her thoughts, weaving from one event to another and back, revealing connections that led to lessons learned. She was honest about her struggles and challenges, showing how God kept her heart and mind open both to Him and to the truth He was teaching through her experiences and through all of the people she met. I also enjoyed reading her comparisons of Texas life with English culture and how she learned to savor both.

I thank Waterbrook Multnomah Publishers for sending me a complimentary copy of English Lessons, so I could share my thoughts about it with you. I recommend this read to those who like learning through the lives of people who are willing to share their stories.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Book Review: "The Lucky Few"

As Heather Avis puts it, when she and her husband said yes to adoption, they stepped off of the smoothly paved path through a carefully cultured rose garden and into a wildflower adventure. They never could have imagined what God had in store for them, yet even through great challenges, scary moments, and daily struggles, they are thankful they chose His way. As Heather tells the story in her book, The Lucky Few, she explains why.

As a new mother to four daughters with special concerns of their own, I appreciated the way Heather explained her thoughts and feelings every step of the way. Many times I thought, "Yes! It's just like that!" She put my own thoughts into words, and she made them okay. Heather felt relief whenever someone said something to normalize her unusual life. Her book gave that same feeling of normalcy to me.

If you have grown or are thinking about growing your family through adoption, this book will inspire you and give you hopeful perspective. And even if adoption isn't a path you plan to take, you'll find the Avis's story a fascinating testimony to God's amazing work in and through people who choose to follow Him faithfully. I highly recommend this read.

Zondervan sent me a complimentary copy, so I could share my honest opinion with you.

Friday, June 9, 2017

Book Review: "Princess Prayers"

I chose this complimentary Zondervan book for review because I knew my daughters would love it. But I was truly surprised and impressed by its content. I honestly expected it to be a little silly, perhaps just sappy sweet. Yet each prayer is well done and firmly anchored in Scripture. When you give this book to your daughter, you are introducing her to prayers for all occasions - when angry, when in need of forgiveness, for worship and praise and thanksgiving, when fearful, when waking and going to sleep, when savoring God's Presence and enjoying His Creation.

Princess Prayers is a board book that can be introduced to preschoolers, yet it looks grown up enough that older girls will enjoy it too. The artwork is sweet, showing five teenage princesses pausing to pray at various times throughout their day. The prayers are rhyming poems, eight lines long. Each ends with a corresponding Bible verse.

If you have young daughters, I recommend this book to you. I predict it will become a keepsake they'll continue to read as they grow.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Book Review: "A Stranger at Fellsworth"

Annabelle Thorley has a terrible choice to make. She can marry a man she doesn't love, knowing he'll mistreat her but provide financial security in uncertain times. Or she can run away from all she knows, hoping the uncle who once promised a safe haven in need will be willing to make good on his word.

A chance encounter with Owen Locke, a resident of her uncle's town and a friend of his as well, gives Annabelle courage to make the hard but hopeful choice. Instead of safety and a fresh start, however, both Annabelle and Owen find themselves surrounded by scandal, mystery, and danger.

Readers who enjoy historical Christian fiction, mystery, and romance will find everything they love in Sarah E. Ladd's newest book, A Stranger at Fellsworth, the third in her Treasures of Surrey series (not dependent on the first two books). I thank Thomas Nelson Publishers for sending me a complimentary copy in exchange for this honest review and recommend all of Ladd's novels to you.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Book Review: "Sacred Privilege"

Kay Warren's new book is written especially for ministry wives, and I found it a privilege to read. Within its pages Warren shares her life stories, stories of childhood, marriage, motherhood, friendship, and ministry, along with all the wisdom she's gleaned. She's as honest as she needs to be in order to make her points to encourage and bless fellow ministry wives.

Chapters cover all the essentials: sharing the dream with your spouse, accepting who you are, adapting to change, helping your children in their unique role, conflict, privacy, friendship, your personal spiritual growth, and more. I especially appreciated her personal testimony presented in stages throughout the book; it reminded me I'm not the only one facing some of these challenges and gave me fresh ideas for handling them well.

I recommend Sacred Privilege to all ministry wives and thank Revell for sending me a complimentary copy in exchange for this honest review.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Book Review: "The Ebb Tide"

I don't know how Beverly Lewis keeps coming up with such fresh ideas for Amish stories, but she does. The Ebb Tide is especially inspired. It's about a young woman approaching her decision point to join the church or not. But she's always longed to see the world and knows that once she joins the church, she'll be expected to put such dreams away forever. When an opportunity comes for her to spend at summer on the beach in Cape May, she begs her parents to let her go, promising to settle down and join the church when she returns.

But Cape May holds unexpected insights and surprises. Readers get to watch Sallie Riehl wrestle with questions about her faith and her purpose and God's plan for her life. I especially loved how Lewis portrayed her family's response to her honest, coming-of-age struggle throughout the book. Sallie's and her family's emotions were so real and handled so well. Through a beautiful story, Lewis teaches grace, empathy, acceptance, and love.

I recommend this book which I received from Bethany House Published in exchange for this posting of my honest thoughts.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Book Review: "To the Farthest Shores"

To the Farthest Shores was the first Elizabeth Camden book I've had the pleasure to read. It's an historical novel set in California mostly in 1904. Readers meet civilian nurse Jenny Bennett working for the U. S. Army at the Presidio. Jenny has overcome a traumatic start to life in order to become the respected, at least by her patients, nurse that she is. But she is hiding painful secrets in her heart.

Lieutenant Ryan Gallagher was once Jenny's patient, then her fiance. But when his life took an unexpected turn, he broke things off suddenly and without explanation. Thinking Jenny would marry someone else and go on without, he is surprised to find her still serving there. Jenny wants answers that Ryan can't give, though he longs to do so. Readers will enjoy learning how these two strong characters find their way.

Included in the historical part of this novel is some fascinating information about the early days of the cultured pearl industry and predecessors of the CIA. I recommend this book to readers who love stories set back in time. Bethany House Publishers sent me my copy, so that I could share my thoughts with you.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Book Review: "Let's Be Real"

Let's Be Real by Natasha Bure reads a lot like the book of Proverbs. It contains lots of sincere advice, not necessarily in logical order, from the heart and experience of its author to encourage readers just younger than herself. In the first chapter in which Natasha wants to teach her readers to discover who they really are so that they can be real, she talks about subjects such as overcoming fear, obeying parents, not being a drama queen, choosing your clothing style, and researching your family tree. (Advice on overcoming fear and researching your family tree are placed in boxes for quick reference should the reader want to look more closely at these at a later time.)

In the following chapters, Natasha goes on the discuss friendship, convictions, dating, family, health, beauty, faith, and being true to yourself, validating her advice with examples from her own life. Girls who read this book will absorb Natasha's insights into all aspects of living healthy and well.

Zondervan sent me a complimentary copy of this book so I share my thoughts about it with you. Now I am passing it on to my girls. I think they'll like her style.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Book Review: "If I'm Found"

If I'm Found is the second book in Terri Blackstock's If I Run series; it's more intense than the first book and leads right into the third, If I Live, due out next March. In this second book, Casey Cox is still hiding from the law enforcement officers who framed her for murder while trying to prove her innocence. Dylan Roberts, a private investigator, hired by the victim's parents to find Casey, is now convinced of her innocence and working to bring the real killers to justice without letting them know that he is on to them.

But the pressure to prove her innocence while protecting her family from those who are after her, who would hurt them to get to her, isn't enough for Casey. Just as she did in the first book, she stumbles across a few more people in need of help: a falsely accused man and a severely misused child. Again Casey must put her safety and personal concern aside in order to find justice for other victims.

I recommend this book to fans of police drama and suspense. Zondervan sent me a complimentary copy, so that I could tell you what I think of it.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Book Review: "Pursued"

Tennessee Bureau of Investigation Agent Nikki Boyd experiences one traumatic event after another in this newest novel by Lisa Harris. In fact, the first all by itself would put most people out of commission for a time, yet Nikki just keeps on going.

She has to. After her sister's disappearance, still unresolved, she is determined to help others not experience the loss, confusion, and lack of closure that she has known. She has devoted her life to finding missing people, and Erika Hamilton is missing. Nikki is determined to solve the mystery no matter what.

I enjoyed reading this third book in the Nikki Boyd Files series and love where Harris is taking her readers as Nikki not only works to solve mysteries, but to discover her true niche in life. Work, family, romance, and health: all have blessings to enjoy and challenges to meet. Nikki is learning how to balance everything God's way, pursuing her calling while contemplating dreams.

I recommend this book to fans of Christian fiction, action-adventure, and mystery. Thank you, Revell, for sending me a complimentary copy in exchange for this review.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Book Review: "The Bible Explorer's Guide"

The Bible Explorer's Guide is a great new book from Zonderkidz. I chose it for review because one of my daughters just loves books full of quick facts and photos. But I am really impressed with all this book has to offer her. Each spread has a collection of facts on a particular topic moving in a logical way from Old Testament to New. There are facts on archaeology, culture, geography, and history, all put together in a way that helps kids see the Bible's authenticity and value for life. Personally, I loved the pictures of artifacts that showed me what some items I'd read about actually looked like. The book ends with a summary of Who's Who in the Old and New Testaments and a timeline of events.

The Bible Explorer's Guide is an intriguing reference book that I believe kids will want to browse through repeatedly. Younger children will enjoy the pictures then grow into the facts. Some may even find value in hanging onto this reference as a springboard for deeper study.

I recommend this book for any parent hoping to build their child's curiosity about and knowledge of God's Word.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Book Review: "Sandpiper Cove"

Adam Stone just wants to make a new life for himself in Sandpiper Cove. He enjoys his work, looks for ways to help his community, and leads a quiet life with the dog he rescued on his way into town. When vandals strike twice, though, Police Chief Lexi Graham shows up at his door wanting any information he can share to help her catch the criminals.

Lexi is a single mom, living with her mom and raising her son. She also just wants to make a new life for herself. She won't tell anyone what happened to the husband they'd never had a chance to meet. She simply wants to lose herself in taking care of her town.

I think this is my favorite of the Hope Harbor novels so far, though I have enjoyed all three. It's a hopeful book about starting fresh and going strong after whatever devastating circumstances come along. Adam and Lexi may be the main characters, but other characters, both new and familiar from other books, are moving forward through trying situations, too.

I recommend this book and the others in the series to fans of inspirational Christian fiction. I thank Revell for sending a complimentary copy, so I could share my opinion with you.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Book Review: "Tranquility"

I am really enjoying this little coloring book for grown-ups. When I need a break in the middle of a hectic day, I can sit with it, read the words, then color in the simple patterns while I reflect on sentences that capture my attention. This keeps my hands busy while my brain goes to work, contemplating and praying about whatever comes to mind. After that, there is space for me to record my own thoughts and prayers. I leave my break encouraged by Scripture, healthy ideas, and meaningful time with God.

I love that the book has a little bit of everything. There are colorful drawings to enjoy, drawings to color, and blank spaces for drawings of my own. There are devotional thoughts, Bible verses, prayers, and lines for recording my own ideas.

If you are longing to develop some creative devotional time, Tranquility will help you start. I thank Tyndale House for sending me a complimentary copy for my own quiet time.

Book Review: "As Kingfishers Catch Fire"

I was so excited when Waterbrook Multnomah Publishers offered me this newest book by Eugene Peterson for review. I've read several of his books and always appreciate his fresh insights into God's Word.

I was especially delighted when I realized he wrote this book for those who preach and teach God's Word. In the introduction he explains, "When I prepare and preach a sermon, I need constant reminding that I am part of a company that has a rich and varied genealogy. I do not start from scratch. I do not make up something new." What he does, and what he's teaching his readers to do is "to enter into the biblical company of prototypical preachers and work out of the traditions they had developed under the guidance of the Holy Spirit."

As Kingfishers Catch Fire is a compilation of Peterson's sermons exploring the messages of seven biblical preachers: Moses, David, Isaiah, Solomon, Peter, Paul, and John of Patmos. For each of these men, he gives his readers an introduction and seven sermons. And as he does so, he reveals his own personal journey of learning to live the ways of God by studying His Word.

I recommend this book to anyone wishing to build on the foundation of God's Word in their own life.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Book Review: "Deep Extraction"

Deep Extraction by DiAnn Mills is the second book in her FBI Task Force series, though it really stands alone. In this book, Special Agent Tori Templeton is brought on the case to solve the murder of her best friend’s husband. Her partner, convinced of her friend’s guilt, questions her ability to work the case without bias. But a new member to the task force, Deputy US Marshal Cole Jeffers, turns out to be an unexpected ally. Together they must solve the murder and also learn who set off a bomb at one of the victim’s oil rig sites. All becomes quite confusing and intense for the team as suspects and dangers multiply faster than answers to questions come in.

Overall, I enjoyed reading the book, but I didn’t always find the characters’ personalities or motivations to be believable. Max was over-the-top cantankerous. Lance seemed much older than the age given him. I wasn’t sure if Tori’s mother was an encourager or a problem to be dealt with. Sally didn’t seem like someone capable of the task given her near the end. Stronger personality development would have greatly enhanced this story.

Still the crimes and their surprising connections as all began to unfold kept the book interesting. Fans of law enforcement stories will enjoy Deep Extraction. I thank Tyndale House Publishers for sending me a complimentary copy in exchange for this review.

Friday, April 7, 2017

Book Review: "The Way of Letting Go"

In her new book, The Way of Letting Go, author Wilma Derksen shares the lessons in forgiveness that she learned as she struggled to forgive her daughter’s killer. The book is mostly memoir as Derkson tells the part of her story relevant to the lesson, then summarizes with a simple statement proclaiming the particular lesson she had to learn through it. Most chapters also have a related lesson from the teachings of Jesus, Who is presented in this book as the Nazarene. Derksen’s experiences in learning to forgive span more than twenty years.

Though the pain Derksen experienced was horrific, she has presented her lessons in such a way as to make the relevant for anyone who has experienced any kind of trauma or pain, for anyone who struggles to forgive. I love that Derksen teaches her readers to live forgiveness. In Chapter 23, she writes, “Because the world is broken—and it is broken in so many ways—forgiveness is a virtue. We not only forgive, but we also need to be forgiving. It should be part of our character.” The lessons in this book will help readers learn how to let God’s Spirit make forgiveness a growing virtue in their lives.

I thank Zondervan for sending me a complimentary copy of this book, so that I could share my thoughts about it with you. I highly recommend this read.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Book Review: "Still Life"

While I enjoyed reading Dani Pettrey’s new book, Still Life, which is the second book in her Chesapeake Valor series, and am most definitely looking forward to read the third book, Blind Spot, to be released in October, I found Still Life a little challenging to read. Within this series, there are kinda/sorta eight main characters and Pettrey is juggling them all at once. I loved this when I was reading the first book, but it took me a while to remember who was who and then to keep them all straight as I began reading Still Life. The main focus of Still Life is on Avery Tate and Parker Mitchell, but the other characters, except one who is missing, all play a big role.

My other struggle was to follow all the story lines. As the book began, Avery and Tanner stumbled into a case that Declan then got an official call to work on. Avery invited Parker to help, too. But soon the team had to divide their time in order to work on another, more urgent case. At the same time, Kate was focused on finding the missing team member – and on convincing the team to not give up on him – while Parker remained determined to solve his former girlfriend’s murder.

While I plan to keep reading to learn what becomes of everyone and how each case is resolved, I sometimes felt, while reading Still Life, that there was just so much to take in that I didn’t know where to look. That said, I’m looking forward to reading the next book, but I may make a cheat sheet to remind me of who’s who before I start. I thank Bethany House Publishers for sending me a complimentary copy of this book, so I could share my thoughts with you.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Book Review: "Life After"

I love reading Katie Ganshert’s books, and her newest one, Life After, is the most soul-touching one yet. All of Ganshert’s books so far have shown the struggles of characters who’ve suffered loss, who are dealing with disappointment and grief. The main character in Life After, though, is the sole survivor of a terrorist attack. Complicating her trauma is the tragic loss of her mother in her pre-teen years. Autumn Manning suffers from survivor’s guilt on more than one front and must learn how to continue on.

As Autumn wrestles with feelings of unworthiness, one victim’s daughter becomes obsessed with her. When the attack first happened, the survivor, Autumn, was mistakenly identified as this child’s mom. Twelve-year-old Reese Elliott decides that this is a connection worth exploring and begins writing letter to Autumn. When her father learns what she’s doing, he tries to put a stop to it. But Reese is determined.

As the connection grows between Autumn and the Elliott’s, all three, with the loving, though sometimes misdirected support of family learn how to trust God with what has come to be. I am thankful that Waterbrook Multnomah Publishers sent me a complimentary copy of this book to read. I recommend it anyone who has known tragedy, disappointment, or grief.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Book Review: "The Dog Who Was There"

It may not have been possible for a dog like Barley to understand all that was happening in Jerusalem in those days surrounding Jesus’ death and resurrection, but through his eyes, author Ron Marasco brings readers to a deeper understand of grace and the difference that Kingdom living makes. I couldn’t put this book down! A loyal and innocent dog experiencing the harshness of life and maintaining his sweet spirit makes a compelling character able to carry the message we all need to hear—through fresh eyes whenever possible—over and over again.

Barley’s journey begins with his mother and an adoring little boy. Barley knows contentment until he experiences trauma, then finds contentment again. And so, the story goes . . . not unlike most lives. But Barley’s ups and downs, tragedies and blessings make him a witness, and even a participant in several Passion Week events. Readers see this, and the resulting transformations of the people who Barley encounters who encounter Christ.

Thomas Nelson Publishers sent me a complimentary copy of this book, so I could share my opinion with you. As you prepare for Easter, this book may help you see it in a new and unique way.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Book Review: "Cherish"

The title of this book says it well: Cherish: The One Word That Changes Everything for Your Marriage. In fact, as author Gary Thomas presents it, cherish could be the one word that changes everything in most of our meaningful relationships. We get to practice and perfect with our spouses, but many of the concepts in this book can be applied to other people we love, too.

Cherish is the sequel, of sorts, to Sacred Marriage. In that book, Thomas explored learning to truly love your spouse. This book, of course, explores cherish. As Thomas explains it, “To truly cherish something is to go out of our way to show it off, protect it, and honor it. We want others to see and recognize and affirm the value that we see . . . when we cherish a person, we will put time, thought, and effort into honoring, showcasing, and protecting them . . . Learning to truly cherish each other turns marriage from an obligation into delight. It lifts marriage above a commitment to a precious priority.” The chapters of this book tell couples how.

I highly recommend this book to all married couples, then to anyone who wants to learn better how to cherish people as Jesus does. Zondervan sent me a complimentary copy, so I could share this opinion with you.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Book Review: "Your Magnificent Chooser"

I love the concept John Ortberg presents in his new children’s book, Your Magnificent Chooser. It’s an introduction to free will for children. They have the ability to make choices and must make many every day. As they grow they must learn what they can and cannot choose and how to respond when they face choices they don’t like. They get to choose their attitude. They can choose to let God direct their choices.

The illustrations in this book (by Robert Dunn) are whimsical and sweet. I love the soft colors and fuzzy texture. The matching expressions on the children’s and choosers' faces are great.

I was a little bit disappointed in the text, though. The rhyme patterns were inconsistent and, therefore, challenging to read aloud. The words don't just roll off the reader's tongue.

Also some of the choices Ortberg presented at the beginning of the book were ones that young children don’t yet get to make – whether or not to take a bath or go to bed. He does move from those choices into choosing to have a right attitude when told to do something one doesn't want to do or choosing to get along when friends’ choices conflict. I just fear that these great concepts as presented may be beyond a young child’s understanding.

That said, the book can serve as an introduction, a tool for parents to use as they talk with their children further about choices they can and can’t make. I received a complimentary copy of this book from Tyndale Kids, so I could share my thoughts about it with you.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Book Review: "The Newcomer"

Suzanne Woods Fisher's The Newcomer is the second book in her Amish Beginnings series. I love the setting of these novels: pre-Revolutionary War America, Penn's Woods. The first book brought the little community across the ocean from Germany. This book finds them attempting to settle their new land. To do so, however, they must overcome unexpected obstacles, endure life-threatening trials, and learn to get along with new neighbors, all without compromising their faith.

At times, the book made me anxious. Some of the problems these characters faced seemed hopeless! But there were moments of fun as well. I enjoyed Fisher's portrayal of Benjamin Franklin and his wife; she chose a great role for him to play in her book. I also enjoyed learning how the Amish ended up in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania and about other faith groups attempting to settle in America, too.

If you enjoy Amish or historical fiction with a hint of romance thrown in, I recommend this book to you. Revell sent me a complimentary copy, so I could share my thoughts with you.

Friday, February 3, 2017

Book Review: "Maybe It's You"

Maybe It's You by Candace Calvert is her third Crisis Team book set in California. The first two were set in Sacramento and San Diego, respectively. This one takes readers to Los Angeles. The city may be different, but the main character will be familiar to readers of the first two books. This is Sloane Ferrell's story. Readers knew her as the grumpy and difficult Sloane Wilder, but now she's changed her name and her ways. She's desperately trying to start fresh, to live a quiet life helping those who come for treatment in the hospital's ER.

When she rescues a troubled teenager and refuses to accept recognition for her heroism, she gains the attention that she does not want though. Reporters take notice, and so do people from her past.

Micah Prescott notices, too. His job is to boost the hospital's image. His passion is to be there to assist in traumatic situations as a volunteer crisis responder. Both roles put him in Sloane's path.

Whether or not, you've read the first two books of the series, you can enjoy this one. I recommend all of Calvert's books which highlight different major cities while giving readers a glimpse into crisis response and emergency medicine. Tyndale House Publishers sent me a copy of Maybe It's You, so I could post these thoughts.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Book Review: "31 Verses to Write on Your Heart"

I'm loving this new devotional book written by Liz Curtis Higgs. She carefully probed into 31 well-known and, therefore, sometimes taken for granted Bible verses and brought out some healthy insights in order to help readers cherish them again while working to commit them to memory. Readers who are familiar with Higgs's style will recognize her unique phrase-by-phrase commentary disguised as compassion and fun.

Each short chapter starts with one verse followed by Higgs's in-depth study and gentle thoughts.Chapters end with a prayer, a Bible memory tip, the verse presented in the NIV version, and a place for readers to write the verse in a version of their choice. The book ends with a recap of the 31 Bible memory tips and a study guide for personal or group use.

I thank Waterbrook Multnomah Publishers for sending me a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for this honest review. Though I've known all of these verses for most of my life, Higgs has shown there's always something new to learn. God loves revealing richer, deeper meaning when we're willing to look for it.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Book Review: "Liked"

If you have a teenage daughter, Kari Kampakis has written a book that is well worth investing in. Throughout this book, Liked, Kampakis mentors young women in the art of making real friends while navigating the confusing world of social media with wisdom and integrity. Kampakis has four daughters, herself, so she has thought this through thoroughly. She writes as an experienced mentor who cares for and wants the best for young girls. (The book is full of great insights and reminders for women of all ages, though, so when you purchase this book for your daughter, you will want to read it, too!)

Throughout the book, Kampakis emphasizes the importance of in-person friendships and teaches her readers how to strengthen these. She also identifies the pros and cons of social media, offering warnings and suggesting limits regarding on-line activities. Overall, she teaches that a relationship with God is most important and that God is the One Who gives wisdom and guidance for all other relationships. She teaches her readers how to make Him Lord of their lives and to practice listening for His voice. Each chapter features one element for girls to develop in their lives: identity, confidence, kindness, character, commitment, connection, wisdom, humility, courage, and direction.

I thank Thomas Nelson Publishers for sending me a complimentary copy of this book. I'm going to share it with my daughter now.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Book Review: "The Returning"

As a reader, I usually get frustrated when one installment of a series ends with a cliffhanger then picks up in the next installment, not right where it left off but several years later, skipping over all that happened from the moment of crisis to the beginning of the next book. So, I felt skeptical when I learned that Rachelle Dekker’s final book of the Seer Trilogy would start twenty years after the second book ended. Dekker handled the transition perfectly, though, giving just enough detail about events that happened in between and just enough reminders about all that had happened in the earlier books to help readers move easily from one point in time to another without feeling like they’d missed something significant. Through this trilogy, she’s shown her skill through an epic story that points readers to the message all people need to hear.

The Returning is Elise’s story. Daughter of Carrington and Remko Brant, Elise was stolen away as a baby and raised on lies about how she came to live separated from almost all other people in the middle of Authority City. Aaron and the Seers are ready to act, though, to awaken a sedated population to Truth. Elise has no idea who these people are, but her role among them will be one of the most significant of all.

Tyndale House Publishers sent me a complimentary copy of this book. I found it fascinating and am happy to recommend it to you. Just don’t forget to read the first two books of the trilogy first.
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The oldest daughter of New York Times bestselling author Ted Dekker, Rachelle Dekker was inspired early on to discover truth through the avenue of storytelling. She graduated with a degree in communications and spent several years in marketing and corporate recruiting before making the transition to write full-time. She lives in Nashville with her husband, Daniel, and their diva cat, Blair.
Q&A with Rachelle Dekker about her newest book, The Returning
What themes are explored in The Returning, the final book of the Seer Series?
Identity is something I am always exploring, so that’s no different in The Returning. But in this novel I took a really hard look at forgiveness and how that relates to our journey of discovering who we really are.
How have Carrington and Remko developed as characters throughout this series?
Well, we meet them as young adults, just out of their teen years, and we find them middle-aged in book three. So we’ve journeyed quite a bit of life with them. They have grown and changed, as people do, and even in this last novel they struggle with remembering their true identities. I believe life is always stretching us and showing us different ways to love, so their growth reflects that.
You talk about the power of belief in the book. What is the purpose of faith, and what makes faith so powerful in people’s lives?
Belief and faith are everything. We form our own realities. We make judgments based on the past and what we think the future will bring; then we shape our idea of what we are capable of around those beliefs. Imagine if we truly believed we were infinite sons and daughters of the creator. How different would the world look then? When we believe and have faith in who the Father calls us, then the world looks pretty different.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Book Review: "The Innkeeper of Ivy Hill"

Until now, Julie Klassen has only written stand-alone novels. Her newest book, however, is the first in a series set in Ivy Hill in England in 1820. It's a regency romance with an emphasis on the regency, just the right touch of romance thrown in. I loved reading it.

Through this novel's pages, readers will meet most of the inhabitants of the village of Ivy Hill. They'll learn about inn keeping, the Royal Mail, and coaching. They'll see women making their entrance into the business world, helping each other, and earning respect. They'll also see how members of a community come to depend on each other and how relationships of all kinds can be restored and begin to thrive when people choose to give each other the benefit of the doubt, take chances, and forgive.

Klassen has filled her English village with interesting characters and helps her readers care for every one. She's also placed them in a beautiful story that ends nicely with a sweet promise of more. Bethany House Publishers sent me a complimentary copy of this book. I'm happy to share my thoughts about it with you.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Book Review: "A Spectacle of Glory"

I've appreciated the encouragement and insight that I gain from Joni Eareckson Tada's devotionals since I read Diamond in the Dust several years ago. I've read that book more than once, but I watch for Tada's new books, too.

Her newest release is a little different but still full of wisdom and encouragement for those who need someone to tell them to hang in there; God is faithful and can be trusted in all situations, all the time.

A Spectacle of Glory focuses on helping readers to let God's light shine through their lives - like His light shone through the burning bush that caught Moses' attention. God shines through us as we handle circumstances His way, so others can see His work, His character, and come to know Him like we do.

Each of the 365 devotionals has a Scripture reference at the top. After reading the passage in their Bibles, readers will be ready for Tada's thoughts about it. She concludes every thought with a prayer. I received a complimentary copy of this devotional from a publicist, so I could share my impression with you. If you haven't yet found a daily devotional for 2017, I recommend this one to you.