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.

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.