Monday, January 31, 2011

Rooms by Jim Rubart

Book description:

On a rainy spring day in Seattle, young software tycoon Micah Taylor receives a cryptic, twenty-five-year-old letter from a great uncle he never knew. It claims a home awaits him on the Oregon coast that will turn his world inside out.


Suspecting a prank, Micah arrives at Cannon Beach to discover a stunning brand new nine-thousand square foot house. And after meeting Sarah Sabin at a nearby ice cream shop, he has two reasons to visit the beach every weekend.


When bizarre things start happening in the rooms of the home, Micah suspects they have some connection to his enigmatic new friend, Rick, the town mechanic. But Rick will only say the house is spiritual. This unnerves Micah because his faith slipped away like the tide years ago, and he wants to keep it that way.


But as he slowly discovers, the home isn’t just spiritual, it’s a physical manifestation of his soul, which God uses to heal Micah’s darkest wounds and lead him into an astonishing new destiny.

My review:

This could be a challenging book review to write. I loved this book - really loved it, but it is the type of book that I can't tell too much about or I could give too much away, but here goes....

As the book description says, the main character, Micah Taylor, is given a house on the beach. The more time he spends there, the more bizarre things happen to him. It turns out that the house's weird rooms are "rooms" in his heart.

I liked and enjoyed the main character. I found myself identifying with him and his struggles, defeats, and victories. At times, I found myself misty-eyed, other times smiling. The plot was awesome. The author has to be really talented and also guided by God to write this type of book. It could have been a weird book, but he does an excellent job of showing the battles in a man's soul by using rooms in a house, and instead of the book coming off as weird or bizarre, it comes off as inspiring, challenging, and even convicting.

 This book was one of those "read-in-one-sitting" books I mention occasionally, and suspenseful in the way that it was a definite page-turner. I was quickly drawn into the story, and was eager to see where the story would go, and I was not disappointed.

On the cover of the book, is an endorsement: "An extraordinary read. Part The Shack, part C.S. Lewis. I thoroughly hated The Shack and consider it heretical, but this book has some similarities, but it is so much better. There are no weird depictions of the Trinity in this book or other heresies. This is one of those Christian fiction books that will really make you think, and I often recommend books I review, but I very highly recommend this. If you want a book that will cause you to do some self-examination of your spiritual state and priorities, this book is for you. It is definitely worth reading, and could be one of those life-changing books that are talked about.

About the author:

James L. Rubart is a professional marketer whose Jr2 Marketing company clientele has included ABC, AT&T/Cingular, and Clear Channel Radio. He is also a professional speaker, writes recurring columns for Christian Fiction Online Magazine and Christian Women Online, and is on the board of the Northwest Christian Writers Association. Jim and his wife and their two teenage sons live just outside Seattle, Washington.

Rooms is available from Broadman & Holman Publishers.

Thanks to the Broadman & Holman for the review copy.

Check out the author's website at jimrubart.com.

Enemies Among Us by Bob Hamer

When undercover FBI agent Matt Hogan totals three vehicles in an out-of-policy Beverly Hills pursuit of a fleeing Arab drug runner, he incurs the wrath of the Bureau hierarchy. To avoid an almost certain suspension, he accepts a new assignment tracking terrorist cell groups while posing as a volunteer at a nonprofit charity. What he doesn't know is the ripples of danger from this case will threaten not only his life but the safety and security of the entire nation.

This is the kind of book I love. It has terrorist plots, undercover FBI work, great plot, and likable and believeable characters. Woven within the plot was also a strong Christian message. I really liked the main character, and hope the author does more books with him as the central character/hero of the story.

The story was made all the more believable and enjoyable for me knowing that the author is a former FBI agent who also did his share of undercover work. I highly recommend this book by a new fiction author, and though you women might enjoy it, I would recommend it more for men.

And one last thing I'd like to add: this book was curse-free and clean. I had a Christian fiction author defend curses and some other inappropriate content in a book of this style by saying in this type of book you have to have that - you do not have to, and this author proves that.

First chapter here.

About the author:

Bob Hamer spent twenty-six years as a "street agent" for the FBI, many of them in an undercover capacity. In assignments lasting anywhere from a day to more than three years, he successfully posed as a drug dealer, contract killer, fence, pedophile, degenerate gambler, weapons dealer, and white-collar criminal.


Bob worked undercover against such diverse groups as La Cosa Nostra, the Sicilian Mafia, Mexican Mafia, Russian Mafia, Asian organized crime groups, and Los Angeles-based street gangs. His successful infiltration of NAMBLA (North American Man/Boy Love Association) resulted in the arrest of what one defendant called eight members of the "inner circle."

He received numerous awards throughout his career including the FBI Director’s Award for Distinguished Service, four United States Attorney Awards for Distinguished Service, and numerous letters of commendation including one from then U.S. Attorney Rudy Giuliani.

Now retired, he is a member of the Writers Guild of America and the Writers Guild of Canada and has written for TV. He also worked as the technical advisor for The Inside and Angela's Eyes and has consulted for Law & Order: SVU and Sleeper Cell. He appeared as a guest on The Oprah Winfrey Show, The Sean Hannity Show, Laura Ingraham, and other national and local TV and radio programs to discuss his role in the NAMBLA investigation.

In 2009, The Last Undercover was named as the Fifteenth Annual San Diego Book Awards Association, Best Memoir, General Interest.

A Marine Corps veteran and law school graduate, he is married and has two children.

Enemies Among Us is available from Fidelis Books, an imprint of Broadman & Holman Publishing.

Thanks to Broadman & Holman for the review copy.


If we're just passing through......

A guy on a blog I follow posted this on his blog. Worth reading: http://peterpollock.com/2011/01/if-were-just-passing-through-why-do-we-try-so-hard-to-settle-in/

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Journey To Riverbend by Henry McLaughlin

Michael Archer is nothing if not a man of his word. Though he was unable to save Ben Carstairs, Michael is determined to carry out Ben’s dying wish: to be reconciled with his father. Unfortunately, Sam Carstairs, one of the most ruthless businessmen on the frontier, has no use for his own son, much less a man of God seeking reconciliation.


Soon after arriving in Riverbend, Michael meets and falls for the stunning Rachel Stone while waiting for Sam to return from a business trip. Beautiful yet guarded, Rachel seems to be running from a past as dark as Michael’s.


When word reaches town that Sam has been kidnapped on the stagecoach home, Michael offers to join the search party formed by the local sheriff. With a budding romance behind him and a dangerous rescue ahead of him, he sets out on the trail, determined to complete his journey no matter the cost.
 
My review:
Henry McLaughlin is the 2009 winner of the Jerry B. Jenkins Christian Writers Guild Operation First Novel Contest. The winner wins cash and their first book published for free from Tyndale Publishing. This is his first novel, the result of winning that contest.
 
For a debut novel, this was a great one. It is set in the Old West, though I wouldn't call it a western, though it could be considered one. I liked his characters. They weren't perfect. The main two had had bad pasts, done their share of sinning.
 
The main theme of the story was reconciliation. A man trying to reconcile a man with his dead son. This novel is definitely  Christian, yet showed the imperfections and flaws of the characters. This may not be intended to be a story of hope, but it is. Though the characters are fictional, it brings home the truth that God can save anyone, no matter what their past was like, and make them a new person.
 
I enjoyed the novel, and got caught up in the story. I would liked to have seen some loose ends tied up at the end, but it still had a good ending. Though written by a man, and it is a book that men would enjoy, I think a lot of women would enjoy it also.
 
Read the first chapter here.
 

About the author:
Henry McLaughlin is the 2009 winner of the Jerry B. Jenkins Christian Writers Guild Operation First Novel Contest. He has a master's degree in social work and spent many years working in the public child welfare system. It was in this role that he first honed his writing skills in preparing concise and accurate court reports and petitions. He retired from that career in 1999 to work with Kenneth Copeland Ministries.


To improve his craft, Henry belongs to several Christian writer organizations; attends writers conferences, workshops, and retreats; and participates in online and local critique groups. He completed the Christian Writers Guild Craftsman course in April 2010.

Henry and his wife, Linda, have been married for over forty years and live in Saginaw, Texas. They have five children, the oldest of whom is in heaven, and one grandchild. Visit his website at henrymclaughlin.org

Journey To Riverbend is available from Tyndale Publishing

Thanks to Tyndale for the review copy.

Threatened by Hell.....

"The Lord just impressed on me that for someone in this service, it will be their last chance to come to an altar and pray."

Ever been in a church service where something like that was said? I have been - more than once. I was raised in a very conservative church - and still attend one - and have been in many revival services and camp meetings where the preachers thrived on telling horror stories to get people to the altar.

There is the one that was a favorite for a while about a man that stole some kind of chemical from his job that when it came into contact with water, would burst into flames. He was using it to impress some buddies and got careless. The chemical got all over him - and water. His body kept bursting into flames no matter what the doctors did - for his sweat kept triggering the chemical. They eventually had to peel his skin off to stop it. It made a lovely story to impress the horrors of Hell upon the listeners.

There were others. Stories of people who didn't go to the altar and were mowed down by a car when they stepped out of the church. OK, not that bad, but almost.

I am reading a book right now that a good friend of mine suggested I read - or more like it, bugged me until I bought it. :-) The book is He Loves Me by Wayne Jacobson. I have read three chapters so far, and it is definitely a book I need to read. The third chapter is where I got the title of this blog post: Threatened by Hell. Even before I read it, I was having similar thoughts as to what he wrote, and have made comments about it on my blog before.

Looking back over my life, all too many of my trips to the altar were because I was scared into going. Sure, I may have felt conviction and God's urging to go, but what would usually result in my going was a scary story told by the minister.

Sad to say, most of my life, I have tried to be a Christian to escape Hell - and to make my family happy. Never have I served God out of love for Him, or because He loved me. Is it any wonder I am so messed up?!

There are a lot of people who would say it doesn't matter how you get people to the altar, as long as they go - but is that really true? Can people truly have a relationship with God if they have been scared into it? Going back to the book I mentioned, the author used this illustration: of telling someone you know that you'd enjoy spending more time with them and becoming better friends. Then adding - "and if you don't, I will hunt you down and torture you." What kind of friendship would that be? Or to take it another direction, asking someone to marry you and tell them if they refuse, you will torture them beyond imagination. They might marry you, but what kind of marriage would that be? (That one was my idea!)

Sound absurd? Maybe, but is it any more absurd than scaring someone into a relationship with God? A relationship where you feel if you digress in the least that God is waiting to throw you into Hell? Is that really going to work? Maybe for some people.

I might be wrong, but I would wager a guess that a lot of the people who are scared into going to the altar and pray do not get a lasting relationship with God. And given some time, they have gone back to where they were in the first place. That happened to me. Over and over again.

How much better if people came to pray because they felt and believed that God loved them. No matter what they have done - or will do.

There are churches that tell you that you can live as you want, and go to Heaven. That its all covered. Their God is so loving that He overlooks all sins and welcomes you into Heaven.

I think there needs to be balance. Yes, God is a God of judgment, and maybe that needs to be pointed out occasionally, but He is also a God of love, and that is what will truly win people to Him. That is what needs to be the basis of any relationship, including the one with God.

The author of the book I mentioned made an interesting point in the same chapter about hell: If the only reason I'm even responding to Him is to serve my own self-interest and escape a fiery eternity in hell, am I really loving Him, or myself? Good question. And I would say it is the latter.

Jesus Himself told some scary stories - the rich man in hell wanting Lazarus to bring him a drop of water, the wedding guest without a wedding garment.... but He told many more that weren't like that.

So, any thoughts? Is it a bad thing to scare people to the altar? Should we have many messages on hell?

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Rhythm of Secrets




This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
Rhythm of Secrets
Kregel Publications (December 22, 2010)
by
Patti Lacy

 
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Patti Lacy, Baylor graduate, taught community college humanities until God called her to span seas and secrets in her novels, An Irishwoman's Tale and What the Bayou Saw. She has two grown children and a dog named Laura. She and her husband can be seen jog-walking the streets of Normal, Illinois, an amazing place to live for a woman born in a car. For more information, visit Patti's website at http://www.pattilacy.com/, her blog at www.pattilacy.com/blog, and her Facebook daily Artbites.



ABOUT THE BOOK

Sheila Franklin has masqueraded as the precocious daughter of avant-garde parents in colorful 1940s New Orleans, a teen desperate for love and acceptance, and an unwed mother sent North with her shame.

After marrying Edward, Sheila artfully masks her secrets, allowing Edward to gain prominence as a conservative pastor. When one phone call from a disillusioned Vietnam veteran destroys her cover, Sheila faces an impossible choice: save her son and his beloved…or imperil Edward’s ambitions.

Inspired by a true story, The Rhythm of Secrets intermingles jazz, classical, and sacred music in a symphony trumpeting God’s grace.

Endorsements:

“A vibrant journey across time in search of the greatest truth of all: grace.”—Tosca Lee, author of Havah: The Story of Eve and Demon: A Memoir
“No longer a ‘well-kept secret,’ Patti Lacy is a master storyteller who speaks to the soul with a powerful and unique rhythm, weaving a tale so emotionally rich that story and reader become one.”—Julie Lessman, author of The Daughters of Boston series and A Hope Undaunted
“Patti Lacy pens another beautifully written story in The Rhythm of Secrets. I couldn’t put it down!”—Melanie Dobson, award-winning author of The Black Cloister
“The Rhythm of Secrets is a stirring story of faith and endurance that will keep readers turning the page until every last secret is revealed.”—Tina Ann Forkner, author of Ruby Among Us and Rose House



If you would like to read an excerpt of Rhythm of Secrets, go HERE.

A Trail of Ink by Mel Starr

Some valuable books have been stolen from Master John Wyclif, the well known scholar and Bible translator. He calls upon his friend and former pupil, Hugh de Singleton, to investigate. Hugh's investigation leads him to Oxford where he again encounters Kate, the only woman who has tempted him to leave bachelor life behind, but Kate has another serious suitor. As Hugh's pursuit of Kate becomes more successful, mysterious accidents begin to occur. Are these accidents tied to the missing books, or to his pursuit of Kate?


One of the stolen books turns up alongside the drowned body of a poor Oxford scholar. Another accident? Hugh certainly doesn’t think so, but it will take all of his surgeon’s skills to prove.

My review:
I like this series of books. They are totally different from the suspense/mystery novels I read. This series is set in the 1300's, which requires methods of detecting and investigating than what we have today.

The main character is Hugh de Singleton, who is both a surgeon and bailiff. As I commented on an earlier book in this series, I find the methods of surgery and doctoring in that day fascinating.

This book, Trail of Ink, starts off a bit slowly, but then picked up and grabbed my interest. The story involves stolen books, and I figured it wasn't going to be a story involving murder and mayhem, but I was wrong. Thought it may have been slower getting to the suspenseful moments than the two books that preceded this one, it has a lot of suspense in it also, and even some romance thrown in - although that is also a lot different than modern day romances.

The author has studied medieval surgery and medieval English, and that comes across in the book. Reading his books are like stepping into medieval times. He paints a great picture of what life was like in that day, and adds mystery and suspense to make it even more enjoyable.

I have one complaint about the book. There is a glossary in the front of the book to define some of the unfamiliar words in the book, but there are still several used that are not in the glossary. I would have liked a definition of those also.

I highly recommend this series. No, it isn't like reading a fast paced suspense novel set in modern times, but this book, and the other two in the series, make an enjoyable read and you won't be disappointed.

About the author:

Mel Starr was born and grew up in Kalamazoo, Michigan. He graduated from Spring Arbor High School in 1960, and Greenville College (Illinois) in 1964. He received a MA in history from Western Michigan University in 1970. He taught history in Michigan public schools for thirty-nine years, thirty-five of those in Portage, MI, where he retired in 2003 as chairman of the social studies department of Portage Northern High School.

Mel married Susan Brock in 1965, and they have two daughters; Amy (Kevin) Kwilinski, of Kennesaw, GA, and Jennifer (Jeremy) Reivitt, of Portage, MI. Mel and Susan have seven grandchildren.

A Trail of Ink is available from Monarch books, an imprint of Kregel Publications.

Thanks to Kregel for the review copy.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Reviewing books

I feel like blogging, so instead of posting something controversial as I usually do when I am trying to think up something to blog about, I am going to talk about reviewing books. I have friends ask me about it occasionally, so I shall enlighten anyone still curious.

I had posted several book reviews on my own, and found I enjoyed it. Two of my friends at one point suggested I contact some publishers and see if they had some kind of program for bloggers to review books, and many do. I got hooked up with a few by asking, and my good blogging friend, Molly, also helped me get hooked up with a couple.

Different publishers ask for different things, but generally I post a blurb about the book, taken from the publisher's website or Amazon.com, write a review of it - what I thought of the book, put a bio of the author and picture, and that is it. Have I given negative reviews? Yes, a few. Some authors can handle it, some can't.

I also have some "pet peeves" that I will comment on, but that doesn't necessarily make a negative review overall. One is cursing. I have heard all of the excuses and reasons, but I am still 100% convinced none should appear in a Christian book. If the author wants to do it, let him or her go to secular fiction. This isn't a blog post about that, but Christians shouldn't even use those words, so why use them and subject their readers to them?

The other, is Christian content. There has been a lot of debate about what constitutes Christian fiction, which is what I mostly review - but it bothers me when a Christian author writes a book for a Christian publisher, and God is not in the story anywhere. Yeah, I get the good overcomes evil thing, but hey, it IS Christian fiction, so why try to hide the fact?!

The books are free in exchange for a review, which for a book lover like me is awesome - I'd do a lot for free books, or music.

One highlight for me is when an author comments on my review. That means a lot.

Now, if anyone is still reading, here is a list of who I review for, and how they all work.

1) Authors. I occasionally get emails from an author asking me to review their book. I don't always do it, as I have gotten offers from secular books that I had no interest in.

2) Publicists. I haven't accepted many from them, as they are often not up my alley, such as the one I recently got for how to get healing by communicating with angels. Uh, no thanks.

3) B&B Media Group. When I contacted David C. Cook Publishing, I was forwarded to a lady from B&B. They are publicists that offer a lot of David C. Cook books, among other authors and publishers. They have a website where I can look for books to review, then email my contact there and ask for a review copy. She also sends out emails occasionally about books up for review.

4) Bethhany House Publishers. Bethany sends out an occasional email with books to review, fiction and non-fiction, usually in separate emails. To request a book, I just click on a link for the book in the email and click that I want to review it. When I post my review, I email a link to my contact. I also post a review on Amazon as per their request (or another retail site) I don't get many books from them.

5) Christian Fiction Blog Alliance. Possibly my favorite place to review for. It is run by a great lady who gets paid by authors to have their books reviewed by her book reviewers. Towards the end of each month, she sends out a list of around 8 books for 2 months away, all fiction, with the dates they are to be reviewed for. For example, she will send out the March list next week. I just reply with the books I want to review. On the date(s) the books are to be reviewed, she puts a HTML code on her blog, and I copy and paste it - has a blurb about the book, author, etc, and add my review to it.

6) First. This operates similar to the one mentioned above, but there are differing amounts of books, and not just for a certain month. One thing I don't like, is there is a limited amount of copies for this one, so it is first come, first serve. They also provide an HTML code to use, which I take advantage of.

7) Harvest House. I can just go to their website, find a book or books I am interested in, and send my list to my contact. I post a review, send it in, and also post one on Amazon.

8) Kregel Publishing. I get occasional emails from them with books to review, but can also check out their catalog or site and ask for books. I don't review many for Kregel.

9) Revell. My contact at Revell sends out occasional emails with one book offered for review, usually fiction, but not always. I reply and tell her I want it. After I read it, I post a review on the dates she indicated, and send her a link.

10) Thomas Nelson. They have a site, Booksneeze, where they put books up for review. I go there, pick one, click "request to review" and they send it out. There is no time period usually. When I am ready, I go back on and submit my link to the review and a link to my Amazon review. One drawback, you can only have one book at a time, and sometimes they put up something I want badly, but I already have a book.

11) Tyndale. They operate pretty much like Thomas Nelson, but they put up fewer books, so I haven't reviewed many books for them. And you can only have one out at a time for them also.

12) Waterbrook/Multnomah. They also operate like Tyndale and Nelson, but in addition, I have to also post my review - not just the link - on their site. In addition to only being allowed one book a time, there is also the drawback that once you request a book, you cannot even pull up the available books for review. Weird, and a pain.

13) Winepress. They have a site where I can pick books to review. I send my requests in to my contact. She also occasionally emails me with book offers. When I post the review, I email her a link. As a very nice follow up, she sends me a thank-you note by mail to thank me for my review. Not necessary, but a very nice gesture.

14) Zondervan. Another "one book at a time" publisher. I go to their website, pick out any book - has to be a book, no Bibles, etc - and put in my request. After I review the book, I post a review, then go on their site and post the link and link to the Amazon review.

15) Strang. Fairly new to me. I had gotten a couple of books from a lady who worked there at one point, but it was hit and miss. Just recently, they made their system better. My contact emails me a list of books for the next month, and I email her back with the books I want. Once I post a review and post the links on their site, they mail me out the next book.

16) Litfuse. This is a publicity group. They email out review offers one book a time. There are limited copies, so it is first come. first serve. Once my review is posted, I email a link to the lady in charge. They spread the review dates out over several days, assigning different days to reviewers.

Quite a list. To keep track, I use Google Spreadsheets. As soon as I request a book, I put it on the spreadsheet along with the author, who I am reviewing it for, the required date(s), if any, and a place to mark when the review is done. I also shade in the line with light grey when the review is posted. It works great for me, as long as I remember to check it. Occasionally, I will still get a book in the mail and not sure who I am reviewing it for, and when, and I have to do some research.

Well, that is it. How I got started, and how I do it.

Fatal Judgment by Irene Hannon

U.S. Marshal Jake Taylor has seen plenty of action during his years in law enforcement. But he'd rather go back to Iraq than face his next assignment: protection detail for federal judge Liz Michaels. His feelings toward the coldhearted workaholic haven't warmed in the five years since she drove her husband--and Jake's best friend--to despair . . . and possible suicide.



As the danger mounts and Jake gets to know Liz better, he's forced to revise his opinion of her. And when it becomes clear that an unknown enemy may want her dead, the stakes are raised. Because now both her life--and his heart--are in danger.


Full of suspense and romance, Fatal Judgment is a thrilling story that will keep you turning the pages late into the night

My review:
Irene Hannon is still a fairly new author to me, this being the fourth book of hers that I have read, and in my opinion, she just keeps getting better. Her last series, Heroes of Quantico, was about FBI agents. This new series, Guardians of Justice is series is about three siblings bound by blood and a passion for justice.

I really enjoyed her first series, but it looks like this one may be even better. Great plot, characters, a lot of suspense. I really, really enjoyed this book. Once I started reading it, I could not put it down. The author also did a great job of portraying the work of a US marshal and also of a judge. The book had a great ending, and I was actually sorry to come the end. I am looking forward to more in this series.

About the author:
Irene Hannon is the author of more than 25 novels, including the CBA bestsellers Against All Odds, An Eye for an Eye, and In Harm's Way. Her books have been honored with the coveted RITA Award from Romance Writers of America, the HOLT Medallion, the Daphne du Maurier award, and the Reviewer's Choice Award from Romantic Times BOOKreviews magazine. She lives in Missouri.


For more information about Irene and her books, visit her website at http://www.irenehannon.com/.

Available January 2011 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group


Thanks to Revell for the review copy.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Trusting God to Get You Through by Jason Crabb

Don’t quit now! Your greatest blessings are on the other side of your struggles.

Best known as the powerhouse lead vocalist for the Crabb Family, one of gospel’s most acclaimed and awarded groups, Grammy award-winning artist Jason Crabb has gone through a lot to get where he is today.

In Trusting God to Get You Through he tells his inspiring story, incorporating the lyrics from the hit song “Through the Fire” to share the lessons he has learned along the way. From the rough-and-tumble beginnings of his childhood to the emotional rollercoaster of fame and success, he tells the story of a God who reaches down and touches ordinary lives.

My review:
I am a big fan of the Crabb Family, and have several of their CDs, and was disappointed when they broke up and went their separate ways. However, Jason's solo CD is great and he is doing well in his solo endeavor. When I had the opportunity to review Jason's book, I grabbed it, and was not disappointed.

He tells a lot of stories from the road - good, bad, funny, tells a lot about his growing up years and how they got started in their ministry. The book is woven around the Crabb Family's best song ever, "Through The Fire." Each chapter is about a line in the song.

Jason is very honest in this book. He tells of his struggles and battles, of he and his wife going through two miscarriages, and how hard it was to keep faith and keep doing what he needed to be doing at that time.

Though the book does talk a lot about the minstry of the Crabb Family, and now his own solo ministry, this is a book of encouragement. One does not need to be a Crabb Family fan, or even a Southern Gospel fan, to enjoy this book and be helped by it. It is interesting, easy to read, and is very encouraging.

Read the first chapter here.

About the author:
Jason Crabb is the oldest of the Crabb sons and the lead male vocalist for the group The Crabb Family. His debut solo album, Jason Crabb, won a 2010 Grammy. The album was also nominated for a Dove Award for Country Album of the Year at the 41st GMA Dove Awards.


Crabb was voted "Favorite Male Vocalist" at the first annual Harmony Honors Awards and "Favorite Young Artist" at the 2000 Singing News Fan Awards. In 2004, he was voted 2004 Gospel Music Male Vocalist of the Year. He has been nominated for many other awards during his career.

Some of his featured songs include "The Cross," "Greater Is He," "Please Forgive Me," "Through the Fire," "The Lamb, the Lion, and the King," "I Sure Miss You," "That’s No Mountain," "Please Come Down To Me," "I'd Rather Have Jesus," and many others.

Jason and his wife, Shellye, have two daughters, Ashleigh Taylor and Emmaleigh Love. The Crabb Family retired the group in 2007 to go their separate ways. Jason has worked extensively with the famed Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir as a soloist.

Jason is now a solo artist, signed to Spring Hill Music Group. His self-titled debut solo album was released on June 30, 2009. It reached #62 on the Billboard 200, #2 on the Billboard Christian albums chart, and #1 on on Nielsen SoundScan’s Southern Gospel albums chart. The album won a 2010 Grammy award for "Best Southern/Country/Bluegrass Gospel Album". On September 28, 2010, Spring Hill Music Group released Jason's second solo project, a Christmas album titled Because It's Christmas. (Wikipedia)

Trusting God to Get You Through is available from Strang Publishing.
Thanks to Strang for the review copy.

Through The Fire

So many times I've questioned certain circumstances
Of things I could not understand
Many times in trials, weakness blurs my vision
And my frustration gets so out of hand
Its then I am reminded I've never been forsaken
I've never had to stand the test alone
As I look at all the victories
The spirit rises up in me
And its through the fire my weakness is made strong

Chorus:
He never promised that the cross would not get heavy
And the hill would not be hard to climb
He never offered our victories without fighting
But He said help would always come in time
Just remember when your standing in the valley of decision
And the adversary says give in
Just hold on, our Lord will show up
And He will take you through the fire again

Bridge:
I know within myself that I would surely perish
But if I trust the hand of God, He'll shield the flames again, again

Song:


About the book:

Monday, January 17, 2011

Someone To Blame by C.S. Lakin




This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
Someone To Blame
Zondervan (September 21, 2010)
by
C. S. Lakin




ABOUT THE AUTHOR:



C. S. Lakin is a novelist and professional copyeditor and writing coach. She is currently working on her eleventh novel, a contemporary family saga drawn from the biblical story of Jacob. Someone to Blame(Zondervan), an intense relational drama and winner of the 2009 First Novel contest, released in October 2010, and she is also the author of the allegorical adult fantasy series The Gates of Heaven, featuring The Wolf of Tebron and the upcoming release The Map Across Time (March 2011). She is currently completing her tenth novel and developing a dog memoir of epic proportion.





ABOUT THE BOOK



In the wake of heartrending family tragedies, Matt and Irene Moore move with their fourteen-year-old daughter, Casey, to a small town. Their goal is to get far away from the daily reminders that leave each of them raw and guilt-ridden. Their hope is to find redemption, repair, and renewal. Instead, the threads that hold them together unravel even more.



Breakers, a small community perched on the rocky coast of the Pacific Northwest, is draped with cold isolation that seems to mirror the hearts. As they settle into their new life, old grief settles with them. Matt is always on edge and easily angered, Irene is sad and pensive, and Casey is confused and defiant. They've once more set the stage for calamity. Into this mix comes Billy Thurber, a young drifter with his own conflicts, whose life unexpectedly entangles with the Moores'.



His arrival in Breakers parallels a rash of hateful and senseless crimes, and soon the whole town -- eager for someone to blame -- goes after Thurber with murderous intent. Out of this dangerous chaos, however, the Moores find unexpected grace and healing in a most unlikely way.



If you would like to read the first chapter of Someone To Blame, go HERE.

My review:
This is a sad book for the most part. It has the remnants of a family touched by the tragedy of losing 2 boys, at separate times. The author does a good job of showing how a tragedy can tear a family apart instead of bringing them together.

I thought the book had a slow start, but then it picked up and held my interest.

I was a bit disappointed in a couple of things. I felt God could have been included more in the healing process - just seemed like He was an afterthought, the way I read it. And also, I would have liked to have seen the issues of the young drifter resolved more. All in all, I did enjoy the book.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Serendipty by Cathy Marie Hake


This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
Serendipity
Bethany House (August 1, 2010)
by
Cathy Marie Hake




ABOUT THE AUTHOR:





Known for surfing across the kitchen on a dropped dill pickle slice, waterskiing on sea anemone spit, and using Right Guard® as hair spray; she considers herself living proof that God does, indeed, possess a healthy sense of humor.



Cathy loves classical music, romantic getaways with her husband, and Diet Pepsi Free®. "I need chocolate to survive, love my friends, and enjoy a deep personal relationship with the Lord. Although an extrovert, I'm very conservative on a personal level."



In her writing, Cathy attempts to capture a unique glimpse of life and how a man and woman can overcome obstacles when motivated by love. In her inspirational pieces she enjoys the freedom of showing how Christ can enrich a loving couple's relationship.



Cathy Marie Hake is a registered nurse who worked for many years in an oncology unit before shifting her focus to perinatal care. The author of over twenty novels, she lives with her husband and two children in Anaheim, California.





ABOUT THE BOOK

Todd Valmer should have known better. A farmer who's been through several disasters, he travels to Virginia to fetch his widowed mother to cook and help him around his Texas farm...or that was the plan until she keels over on the train and they get kicked off.



Maggie Rose barters for a living and also makes soaps, lotions, and perfumes with a special rose recipe passed down from mother to daughter for generations. She hasn't wanted to marry...until that handsome Texan shows up.



Her heart skips a beat, and when he proposes, a hasty marriage follows. What ensues, however, is a clash of culture and a battle of wills--and it's clear they both mistook instant attraction and infatuation for love. As their marriage loses its sparkle and fills with disillusionment, Todd and Maggie must determine what is worth fighting for. He dreams of a farm. Maggie wants to fulfill the family tradition with her rose perfumes.



Todd's mother, however, has entirely different plans for her son that do not include Maggie. In light of their hasty marriage and mistaken dreams, is there any hope of recapturing their love and building a future together?



If you would like to read the first chapter of Serendipity, go HERE.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Free speech....... or something that needs to be stopped?

I was surprised recently to find out that not everyone is familiar with the Westboro Baptist Church. They shouldn't even be called a church. They are mostly all family, related to the pastor, Fred Phelps. They love to go around spreading hate, picketing at the funerals of soldiers with signs saying things like "thank God for dead soldiers", "God hates fags", "God hates America", and other similar signs.





This same group of hateful individuals are planning on picketing at the funerals of the Arizona shooting victims... including the 9-year-old girl. A law was just passed to ban picketing within 1000 feet of a funeral. Many applaud this decision, while others worry about our free speech... and with good reason.

Should they be allowed to picket at funerals? It is sick, wrong, makes Christians look bad...... but if we stop that, what is the next step? The liberals make no secret of the fact that they want to limit free speech - which amounts to shutting conservatives up. They don't care about hateful speech from the left.

Anyone should recoil at the idea of people holding hateful signs at any funeral, much less those of a soldier or a 9-year-old girl. Imagine coming out of the funeral home and/or burial site to see signs rejoicing at your son or daughter's death. No wonder the father of a fallen soldier is trying to sue the church for doing so at his son's funeral.

But what about free speech? Outside of threatening a president - especially the socialist idiot we have right now - it seems we have free rein to say anything - though any anti-gay or anti-Muslim speech is trying to be curbed - but should any of it be curbed? Should we be allowed to say whatever we want to say? Picket at funerals?

Are there alternatives to banning picketing at funerals? There have been some. The last couple of times that this group of people have tried picketing, counter protestors have shown up ion droves to block their view and the view of the bereaved from seeing them. At one, a group of motorcyclists showed up and revved their engines to drown the hateful people out. The tires of the hatemongers were flattened and no on in the town would help them get fixed.

Most of us would change our minds about things we believe if we were in certain situations. Not for the death penalty? If your child was abducted, raped, and killed... you would be. And there are other scenarios. Come out of a funeral where your loved one was buried and see signs rejoicing over the fact - you'd be all for bannning picketing at funerals.

I see it from both sides. The dangers of limiting free speech, and the desire to see these people pushed back as far as possible from these actions. Yet, I am all for allowing protestors at baby killing factories (aka abortion clinics) - and there is no comparison between the two, but there are those who want that stopped - and that is limiting free speech.

I guess what it boils down to, is perspective. If it is something we agree with - protesting at baby killing factories -  we want our free speech rights. If we disagree - these idiots who protest at funerals - we want free speech curbed in that situation. But we can't have it both ways.

So I remain on the fence. On one hand, I want these hateful people blocked from their horrible actions, but on the other.... I worry about limiting free speech. Yes, even of these horrible people. If we start there, we have no way of knowing where it will stop.

Meanwhile, cheers to anyone dedicated to show up and block these people. Keep up the good work, and go ahead and flatten their tires.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Getting along

I found out something recently that bothers me. There is a church near me filled with people who split off from my church and other similar churches to make this one. Someone who attends there made the statement that in their Bible studies, they mostly discuss why they aren't of a certain denomination anymore. When I heard that, I said two things. First off - "Bitter much?" Second: "too bad they don't discuss why they aren't sinners anymore - would be more profitable." But really - how profitable is it to keep rehashing why they don't like my church/denomination. One of them had - and as far as I know, still has, a website where he spews vitrol, lies, and hateful comments about my denomination and its leaders. Really? Is that Christian?

I have gone through two church splits in my life. The first was when I was a teenager. I remember feeling hurt and confused. People I thought highly of just up and left because they couldn't get along with the pastor. All these years later, I still don't get it. The issue seemed so small and dumb.

Fast forward to a few years ago, my current church. I was living in Indiana, but it still affected me. The people involved sent vicious emails out trying to tear good men down. They sent them to try to recruit people to their cause. Even though I was 400 miles away, I was fair game. They ended up leaving the church and taking several people with them. They were suing my denomination over the sale of a church they didn't even attend. Their membership was going to be pulled - made sense to me, they were suing us! - so they left, and took as many people with them as possible.

It happens all of the time, all across the world, across denominations. People splitting off from others. Well, I have some thoughts that I said all of that to get to, so here goes.

Ever notice when something like that happens, the unhappy party takes several people with them? Why is that? Because they belly ache, talk, complain, etc to anyone who lends a sympathetic ear. That is wrong. If they are going to leave, they need to go quietly without trying to drag others with them. I am not naive enough to believe that everyone who is a Christian is going to get along 100% with everyone - but isn't that what God wants?

And if we are committed to God, committed to loving everyone as He asks us to, then why don't we quietly leave, instead of stirring up as much trouble as we can, and pulling as many people with us when we go? And after we do leave, why can't we shut our mouths and quit putting down the church or denomaination we left?!

Unfortunately in the day we live in, people who claim to be Christians have some issues. Selfishness, pride, the desire to have our own way. We aren't interested in just going to church to worship. We want to be seen and heard. We want power. We want our own way.

I could be wrong on this, but I don't think I am - if a church was filled with true Christians who wanted to please God more than anything else, who loved their brothers and sisters in the church as God commands us to - I don't believe there would be church splits. Sure, there would still be people changing churches - personalities come into it, and churches are all different. What you like in a church might be the opposite of what I like in a church - though I am not sure what that is anymore.

So are the splinters wrong, un-Christian? I think most of the time they are. It depends on the attitude of the heart, their actions, and how they leave. We left a church once. The church my parents grew up in. The church I grew up in. The pastor is a hypocritical jerk. We tried to resolve it, but when the preacher is mad at you and preaching directly at you from the pulpit, and any effort to talk to him is met by a cold rebuff - it is time to leave, so leave we did - and quietly. All these years later, I view him with disgust, but not bitterness. I don't talk about him - well, guess I am here a bit - but what is the sense in that? Let it go.

I am not the sharpest tool in the shed, nor am I any John Wesley. I don't set myself up as a paragon of virtue. If you read this and start thinking that I think I am Mr Perect - how wrong you are. But.... I am disillusioned with the church and Christians in general. The day may come where I don't go to church at all. Bad idea? Maybe - but who says you can't home church. Yeah, yeah - I know - "forsake not the assembling, etc, etc." But people say that is because we need to be around other Christians for encouragement, etc. Well guess what - that ain't happening - I'd get as much encouragement at home, but I digress....

Back to my point: I think we get too caught up in what we want out of church, instead of focusing on what God wants. You want a less conservative church? What if He doesn't. You want a stricter church? What if He wants you where you are. You want a bigger church? A more lively church? You want offices, to be seen up front, and the list goes on. If we were honest, how many of us really seek God's will and spend thought on what God wants for us at church? Oh, we may claim to, and pull our self righteous robes around us - but do we really? Do we go to church to worship God, or are we going for other reasons?

I have been pretty outspoken about my unhappiness with my church. Oh, nothing to cause a split over - though if I left, it would be alone. No trying to drag people with me..... I have had people urge me to look elsewhere - and I may some day, but to be honest - I think I expect too much out of church and God's people. Maybe we all do. Thing is, I'm not sure at this point in my life that there is a church I'd be truly happy in. I have too much going on inside right now for one thing, and for another.... as bad as this sounds, I am not sure there is a church I'd agree with 100%. I don't agree with mine 100%, but I agree with enough to stay.

We tend to box God in. We think this demomination or that one has it totally wrong, and the people there couldn't possibly be true Christians, but God can meet people anywhere, and He can make people happy anywhere - if we let Him.

I think so many church problems - and even marriage problems - would dissolve if people sought God and His will above all else, and laid aside their selfish desires and wishes. Yeah, maybe even me. And yes, people would still change churches and denominations - we are human after all, but if the selfishness was gone, the desire to have our own way, I think there would be a lot less of that, and I truly believe there wouldn't be church splits. But what do I know. I am not the sharpest tool in the shed......

And I know I have been rough on church splitters and splinters, but I do believe there wouldn't be so many people leave with the perpetrators if there was no gossip and taking sides going on. And when they leave, they should keep their mouth shut, and quit being so angry and bitter.

And I am sure I offended people in the church that I used as an example, but hey, your actions led to my blog post, so get over it.

And yes, there have been people I have confidence in who have left in church splits...and I still have confidence in some of them, but have to wonder if it was God's will.
The perfect church does not exist, nor the perfect denomination, but if we seek God with all our heart, seek His will above all else, and love our Christian brothers and sisters..... it might be as close to perfect as a church could be in this sinful world.

Tandem by Tracey Bateman

Six months ago, brutal murders shook the small Ozark town—murders that stopped after a house fire reportedly claimed the killer’s life. Lauryn McBride's family auction house has taken responsibility for the estate sale of one of the victims—the enigmatic Markus Chisom. Submerging herself in Chisom’s beautiful but strange world, Lauryn welcomes the reprieve from watching Alzheimer’s steal her father from her, piece by piece. She soon realizes that centuries-old secrets tie Abbey Hills to the Chisom estate and a mysterious evil will do anything to make sure those secrets stay hidden. Even the man who grew up loving her may not be able to protect Lauryn from the danger.

When Amede Dastillon receives an unexpected package from Abbey Hills, she hopes it might be the key in tracking down her beloved sister, long estranged from her family. Visiting Abbey Hills seems the logical next step in her search, but Amede is unusually affected by the town, and when mutilated carcasses begin turning up again in the small community, the local law enforcement isn’t sure if they are confronting a familiar evil or a new terror.

Two women brought together by questions that seem to have no answers. Can they overcome the loss and darkness threatening to devour them—or will their own demons condemn them to an emotional wasteland?

My review:A Christian book about vampires? Seems like a weird idea, but it works. I read the book that precedes this, Thirsty, several months back and found it an intriguing. This is not a review for that book, but vampires coupled with alcoholism made for a very interesting read.

This book, Tandem, picks up where Thirsty left off. The mysterious killings of animals had stopped, but now they have picked up again. Some reviewers have stated they didn't like this one as well. I disagree. I liked it as well. There was a lot of suspense in it, twists and turns, and romance. And like Thirsty, it raises an interesting question - is anyone beyond redemption? Sure, vampires are not for real, but there is a lot of evil in our world, and evil people. A novel like this shows that even the worst are not beyond redemption.

I did have a little bit of a hard time knowing who the book was talking about a few times throughout the book. It was written in the first person, going into the third occasionally, and in my opinion, it would have flowed better and been easier to keep up with the who if it had been written completely in the third person. Regardless of that, I really enjoyed this book, and yes... Christian vampire books might seem out of the realm of normal reading, but it was worth my while. I recommend it and Thirsty for those who like to read something not so normal occasionally.

About the author:

TRACEY BATEMAN is an award-winning author of more than thirty books including Thirsty. Tracey has been a member of American Christian Fiction Writers since it began and served as its president for nearly two years. She lives in Missouri with her husband and four children.


Tandem is available from Waterbrook/Multnomah Publishers.

Thanks to Waterbrook/Multnomah for the review copy.

Flight Plan by Lee Burns and Braxton Brady

In today’s culture, teenage boys are faced with navigating the turbulent journey to manhood, often without an inkling of what that really means or any direction of how to get there. What does it mean to be a man? Flight Plan: Your Mission to Become a Man offers a vision of godly manhood and a complete and honest guide into the adventures ahead.



Flight Plan, written by Lee Burns and Braxton Brady, is a natural evolution of their original program, Building Boys, Making Men, a curriculum created by the authors for the 630 boys who attend Presbyterian Day School (PDS) in Memphis, Tennessee. Over the years, Burns and Brady, colleagues at PDS, have received numerous requests from youth leaders, pastors, parents, and teachers for access to the curriculum that was only available to the boys at PDS. Flight Plan is the answer to those many requests and the culmination of sixty years of research, mentoring, and ministry to more than 3,000 boys.

My review:
This book is for teenage boys, which I am way past being, but it looked like a good book to review, so here I am reviewing it. And it is a very neat book.

The title is Flight Plan, and the authors liken flying a plane to a teenage boy getting ready for life. Each chapter has something to do with flying, and then the authors take a topic and liken it to something to do with flying a plane. The chapter ends with several questions for thought.

Topics covered include dealing with family/parents, sex and the consequences of sex outside of marriage, friends, getting of course, and many more.

I haven't read many books like this geared for teenagers - at least not lately, but I am impressed with this one. They have a really interesting way of presenting their ideas, and coupled with talk of flying a plane, it is a great combination. This book would be great for individual reading for a teenage boy, or used as a group study for teenage boys. I highly recommend it. Easy reading style, interesting, and very important topics for teenage boys.

About the authors:
Braxton Brady was born and raised in Memphis, Tennessee. He graduated from Memphis University School and earned his undergraduate degree from the University of Memphis. He loves both the city of Memphis and the University of Memphis. Before coming to Presbyterian Day School (PDS) in 2004, he worked as Bible teacher, athletic director, and assistant principal at Central Day School in Collierville, Tennessee. Presently, Brady is chaplain of PDS, an independent school serving over 630 boys in grades PK-6 in Memphis.



Brady has served on the boards of various inner city ministries in Memphis. He is a graduate of the Emerging Leaders Program, a program that helps disciple and develop spiritual leaders in the city of Memphis, and founder of Strategic Dads, a ministry that seeks to provide fathers with practical ways to disciple their sons and lead their families.

Serving and living in the inner city of Memphis has given Brady a unique perspective on the challenges all young men face in their journeys to manhood, no matter their social or economic status. “I’ve learned that there is a void for young men that is not being taught,” says Brady. That void inspired him to develop Flight Plan with co-author and colleague Lee Burns. “I hope to help dads navigate their sons through middle school and high school on their way to adulthood.”

Brady enjoys spending time with his family, serving in the inner city, watching the Tigers football and basketball teams, and playing golf. He is currently completing his master’s degree in theological studies from Covenant Theological Seminary. Brady is married to Carrie, and they have three children. They are members of Fellowship Memphis Church.


Lee Burns is a native of Chattanooga, Tennessee. An avid tennis player, he won six championships as a junior player and was an All-American. Raised in a family of seven children, he learned early on the importance of personal growth and development. Burns discovered a passion for youth while working as a camp counsellor and decided to pursue a career in education. He received his undergraduate degree from Dartmouth College, graduating cum laude, and went on to receive a master’s degree in educational administration from Harvard University. Burns also studied at the London School of Economics.



Burns worked as a teacher, coach, and administrator at Christ School in North Carolina and then as the director of day student admission at the McCallie School in Chattanooga, Tennessee. In 2000, he was appointed to headmaster at Presbyterian Day School, an independent school serving over 630 boys in grades PK-6 in Memphis.

In addition, Burns is vice-president and on the executive committee of the Elementary School Headmasters Association (a group of approximately 200 headmasters around the country) and is a member of the Country Day School Headmasters Association and the Visionary Heads Group. He served as a task force member to help the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS) develop Principles of Good Practice for Middle School Educators. In addition, he has been a presenter at annual conferences of the National Association of Independent Schools, the International Boys’ School Coalition, and the Elementary School Headmasters Association.

Burns still plays tennis and enjoys squash and most any sport, as well as reading and writing. He co-authored the book on a boy’s journey to manhood, Flight Plan: Your Mission to Become a Man, with a vision to “mentor boys not just academically, but from a life perspective.” “It’s important to know the person God wants us to be,” Burns says. “I believe God calls us into authentic manhood as we pursue His purpose and passion for our lives.”


Lee is married to Sarah, and they have three children. They are members of Second Presbyterian Church, where he serves as a deacon.


Flight Plan is available from PDS Publishing.

Check out the website: http://www.theflightplanbook.com/

Read a sample here.

Thanks to B&B Media for the review copy

How I do I love you? Let me count the ways......

How do I love you, sweet, sweet Summer? Let me count the ways........

  1. Cooler clothes
  2. beautiful blue skies
  3. never having to warm up the car, defrost the windows, or clean snow off of it
  4. sitting on the porch swing
  5. walks on the bike trail
  6. visiting the covered bridge
  7. beautiful green everywhere
  8. no need to worry about bad roads
  9. not having to wear jackets
  10. windows down in the car
  11. windows open in the house
  12. bare feet and sandals
  13. sunshine
  14. the beach
  15. cleaner car
  16. not as much use for windshield wiper fluid
  17. not wasting gas as my car warms up
  18. lunch in the park
  19. fresh veggies from the garden
  20. no sniffling and coughing, except one has a cold
  21. less depressed
  22. smell of fresh mowed grass
  23. warmth
  24. reading on the porch
  25. easier on the car
  26. flowers

Monday, January 10, 2011

City On Our Knees by TobyMac

Amazing, beautiful things happen when people have the courage to live, work, and pray in the spirit of unity and peace. Often, though, to make these amazing things happen, we have to step out of our comfort zone and into a world we find uncomfortable or intimidating. Sometimes that world is physical; other times it can be emotional, relational, or spiritual.



City on Our Knees shows this, encouraging you to take the first step. It offers stories of people who have stepped across lines. Lines of discrimination, persecution, doubt, prejudice, pride, bitterness, self-isolation, and despair. I pray and hope that you will be inspired to see how just one person, or one small group, can be a mechanism for change.


God can use us right here. Right now. All we need is faith that He has our best in mind. And believe me—He does.

My review:
Interesting book. This book could be used as a devotional. Each section begins with an entry from TobyMac's blog, and then has several chapters, each one telling the story of people who got out there and did something for God, stepping across lines that no one else would cross. Each section ends with a prayer.

I found the stories fascinating, and the author writes in an easy-to-read style. The book is also challenging. It is too easy to sit back and try to coast through life, but God wants more than that out of us, and this book tells stories of people who didn't sit back and do nothing. A very challenging and encouraging read.

About the author:
TobyMac is a Grammy Award—winning artist, producer, and song writer. First known as part of the popular group dc Talk throughout the 1990s, he launched a solo career in 2001 and has since won numerous awards, earned three certified gold albums, and had six No. 1 CHR singles. "City on Our Knees," the inspiration for this book, spent thirteen weeks as Billboard's No. 1 Christian song. TobyMac's previous books include Jesus Freaks (with dc Talk) and Under God (with Michael Tait and WallBuilders). TobyMac is married, with five children, and makes his home near Nashville, Tennessee.
 
City On Our Knees is availble from Bethany House Publishers.
 
Thanks to Bethany House for the review copy.

The Lucado Life Lessons Study Bible, NKJV

Discover the life-enriching biblical application you're searching for in The Lucado Life Lessons Study Bible. With more than 1,000 "Life Lessons" offering insights straight from Max, the message of God's Word will be more meaningful and impactful than ever. This beautifully designed Bible, available in hardcover and Leathersoft cover options, contains practical application drawn from Max Lucado's entire career—from his first book to his latest release, Outlive Your Life. For the first time, all the devotional material in this fully-revised edition of The Inspirational Study Bible is from Max Lucado and uses the popular and reliable New King James Version® (NKJV) translation! Features include:

•Two-color design throughout

•More than 1,000 insightful Life Lessons

•Christ Through the Bible sidebars

•Topical Index

•New King James Version text

My review:
I enjoy checking out new Bibles, seeing what kind of tools there are to help with the Bible reading/study experience, and this one caught my eye. Anything with Max Lucado's name attached piques my interest.

First off, the translation. I have two favorite Bible versions. One is the New Living, and the other is the New King James, which is the version used here. Easy to read, and without out the out of date words used in the King James.

This Bible is full of "Life Lessons". They are in the margins of the pages. Each one has a situation, observation, inpsiration, application, and ending with exploration - more verses about the topic.

Also scattered throughout are Christ Through The Bible "sidebars". Boxes with portions from Max's books having to do with the topic in the Scripture above, and also with Christ.

Obviously, I have not read this whole Bible or all of the notes, but what I have read, I have liked. I really like the Life Lessons and feel they can be helpful as a person reads through the Bible, though I would classify it as more of a Devotional Bible than a study Bible. And added to it is the great New King James version of the Bible. A great combination.


The Lucado Life Lessons Study Bible, NKJV is available from Thomas Nelson Publishers.

Thanks to Thomas Nelson for the review copy.

Possession by Rene Gutteridge

In the aftermath of investigating the D.C. sniper case, police detective Vance Graegan is burned out on life and love. Hoping to save his marriage, he quits the force and moves his wife and son to the other side of the country. But when the movers decide to hold his belongings for ransom, Vance is determined to ensure that his family’s new beginning is not ruined. Soon, though, losing his possessions becomes the least of his problems as everything they are fighting for begins to unravel in the hands of Vance’s past. In an unforgettable climax, a little boy’s innocent faith brings a group of desperate people to their knees. What is at stake counts for everything, but nothing can prepare Vance for who is behind it.
My review:
I read a couple of Rene Gutteridge's books when she first came on the Christian fiction scene some years ago, and liked her books well enough, but hadn't read anything by her until I reviewed Listen by her last January. I was very impressed by that book, so I jumped at the chance to review her newest book, Possession.
 
Awesome book. Really. The book started out somewhat slowly with the main characters making a long distance move, and then it picks up speed and suspense. The plot was great - kept me guessing, and there were a couple of suprises throughout the book. I was hooked by the first few chapters.
 
In addition to a great suspenseful plot, the book also deals with betrayal, the danger of keeping secrets, and the faith of a young boy. I hadn't been in the mood to read lately, but I devoured this book, and yes - it gets my read-in-one-sitting status. This author has definitely found her footing in the Christian suspense market. I highly recommend this stand alone novel, and look forward to reading more from this author in the future.
 
About the author:
Rene Gutteridge is the author of seventeen novels, including Listen, the Storm series (Tyndale House Publishers) and Never the Bride, the Boo series, and the Occupational Hazards series from WaterBrook Press. She also released My Life as a Doormat and The Ultimate Gift: The Novelization with Thomas Nelson. Rene is also known for her Christian comedy sketches. She studied screenwriting while earning a mass communications degree, graduating magna cum laude from Oklahoma City University and earning the Excellence in Mass Communication Award. She served as the full-time director of drama for First United Methodist Church for five years before leaving to stay home and write. She enjoys instructing at writers conferences and in college classrooms. She lives with her husband, Sean, a musician, and their children in Oklahoma City. Visit her Web site at http://www.renegutteridge.com/.
 
Possession is available from Tyndale Publishers
 
Thanks to Tyndale for the review copy.
 

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Paradise Valley by Dale Cramer




This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
Paradise Valley
Bethany House (January 1, 2011)
by
Dale Cramer






ABOUT THE AUTHOR:



Dale Cramer was the second of four children born to a runaway Amishman turned soldier and a south Georgia sharecropper's daughter. His formative years were divided between far-flung military bases, but he inherited his mother's sense of place—



He took on small construction projects at night to help make ends meet— "and to preserve the remainder of my sanity," he says. While building an office in the basement of a communications consultant, a debate over labor/management relations turned into an article on mutualism which found its way into an international business magazine. It was Dale's first published article, and he liked the feel of it. He bought books, studied technique, and began participating in an online writers' forum, writing during the boys' naps and after they went to bed at night. Before long he was publishing short stories in literary magazines and thinking about writing a book.



Three storylines vied for Dale's attention when he finally decided to write a novel. His first two choices were commercially viable secular stories, and a distant third appeared to be some kind of Christian saga about a broken-down biker. The process of determining which novel to write was settled by a remarkable encounter with his youngest son, a lost set of keys, and God. His sense of direction was suddenly clarified. In 1997, Dale began work on Sutter's Cross, which was eventually published in 2003.



His second novel, Bad Ground (July 2004), while it is not autobiographical, contains a great deal of material drawn from his own experience as a construction electrician.



He and his wife and two sons make their home in northern Georgia.





ABOUT THE BOOK



An Amish settlement in Ohio has run afoul of a law requiring their children to attend public school. Caleb Bender and his neighbors are arrested for neglect, with the state ordering the children be placed in an institution. Among them are Caleb's teenage daughter, Rachel, and the boy she has her eye on, Jake Weaver. Romance blooms between the two when Rachel helps Jake escape the childrens home.



Searching for a place to relocate his family where no such laws apply, Caleb learns there's inexpensive land for sale in Mexico, a place called Paradise Valley. Despite rumors of instability in the wake of the Mexican revolution, the Amish community decides this is their answer. And since it was Caleb's idea, he and his family will be the pioneers. They will send for the others once he's established a foothold and assessed the situation.



Caleb's daughters are thrown into turmoil. Rachel doesn't want to leave Jake. Her sister, Emma, who has been courting Levi Mullet, fears her dreams of marriage will be dashed. Miriam has never had a beau and is acutely aware there will be no prospects in Mexico.



Once there, they meet Domingo, a young man and guide who takes a liking to Miriam, something her father would never approve. While Paradise Valley is everything they'd hoped it would be, it isn't long before the bandits start giving them trouble, threatening to upset the fledgling Amish settlement, even putting their lives in danger. Thankfully no one has been harmed so far, anyway.



If you would like to read the first chapter of Paradise Valley, go HERE.

I didn't have time to read this book yet, but it looks really good, and I am intrigued by an Amish book written by a man, so it is a must read for me

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Blogging in 2011... I don't understand the fascination...

I was going to blog on January 1 to start 2011 out, but never got around to it, so here we are two days into the New Year, so I decided to blog about something I don't understand. Well, the possibilties there are endless :-) - but this is about America's fascination with sports. I really don't understand it. Not even a little bit.

I will admit I am strongly biased against sports. I was picked on a lot in school and bullied mostly because I was so bad at sports. I am still affected by that to this day.  And since I went to a small Christian school, I was forced to play whatever sport was the craze of the season. Looking back, that seems so wrong and unfair. But that is beside the point.

I like soccer. It is the only sport I excelled at, and the only one where the other kids wanted me on their team. Unfortunately, it wasn't popular in school.

Softball was ok after I got out of school and got ok at it. Until that fateful day fourteen years ago that led to my selling my ball glove and vowing I would never play again - and I haven't.

Football.... I never liked it. I think a lot of the problem was I had no clue how to play it - seemed like a stupid game (still does!) - I was forced to play it for gym class, and by the time I half understood the game, I already had a deep-seated hatred of the game.

I get why people like to play sports - even though the very word conjures up bad memories for me - especially football - but what I don't get, not even 1%, is the fascination with professional sports. People will stand in line in all kinds of weather to get tickets, will act like total idiots rooting for their team, and act like it is the end of the world if they lose.

Why? They don't personally know any of the players, and if they passed Brett Favre, Michael Jordan, Tom Brady on the street, th guys wouldn't give them the time of day. These guys get played obscene amounts of money for playing a game - because people will play to see them chase a ball around a field. And why? Why does a bunch of guys you don't know chasing a ball make a difference in your life? It sure doesn't make a difference in mine - other than the fact that I root for the opposite team because I get so tired of hearing about it. Bad of me, but oh well. :-)

Sports has been called the god of America, and whoever said that could be correct. There is nothing wrong in playing sports, but there is in the addiction people have with it and the professional teams. There is also something wrong with it in that all too often men and boys are judged by their performance in how manly or masculine they are, and how popular they are.

As I said, I am biased, but if you look down on someone - or worse, bully them, because they aren't good at or like sports - then that is a sad commentary on you and your life.

Everyone has their interests - mine are reading and music. Every year, some of the music groups I listen to are up for awards - favorite song, favorite group, etc. I usually read the results somewhere on line after the fact, but I don't lose any sleep over it, and I don't even get that excited about it. Even when my favorite group gets most of the awards. Good for them, but I'm not going to throw a party over it. :-)

Sports lovers may hate me for this, but hey if you're a Christian you gotta love me and forgive me - but if the Christians who are so into sports put half of that energy and interest into God's work, only God knows what could be accomplished.

I'm not married and have no kids - and never will, but if I did, they would be allowed to play sports - even the cursed football, but I would curb the professional sports interest. Most of the men are immoral guys who no one should want their kids looking at as a role model. They alll too often desecrate the Sabbath by playing on Sunday,  drink, smoke, live immorally, and it seems a lot of them do drugs - yet even Christians follow them like a little puppy dog - and what for?

In the end, this is a free country - and I am thankful for that. So sports lovers are free to post on facebook about their favorite team winning or losing, and doing all the other things they like to do - but people like me also have the right to dislike sports and also make that known. So I have. :-)

Now I have to run. There is a quilting bee on TV I have to watch. I really get into how they stitch those things together, and my favorite group of quilters is up next!