Tuesday, December 24, 2013

My top 20 books of 2013

For the last few years, I have compiled a list of the best books I read for that year. The first year, I tried for the top 10, and think it was 15 by the time I weeded out the best ones. The next two years, it was twenty, so that is the new number I aim for. I had a list of 29 books this year that I got down to 20.

 It wasn't easy, and more than one thing determined what books I picked. I read more non-fiction books this year, and found some of them immensely helpful, but they weren't necessarily a page turner like a suspense novel by a favorite author. Then some of the fiction books were so interesting and some also were helpful - its amazing how God can use Christian fiction.

I read 170 books this year, so to narrow it down to my top 20 was difficult, but here are the 20 I would say are the best ones I read this year, in no particular order:

Best books of 2013

1) Tenth Plague by Adam Blumer
2) Shattered by Dani Pettrey

3) Stress Test by Richard Mabry

4) Darkness Before the Dawn by Ace Collins

5) The Dance by Dan Walsh & Gary Smalley

6) When a Secret Kills by Lynette Eason

7) He Loves Me by Wayne Jacobson

8) Not By Sight by Kathy Herman

9) Trinity by Ronie Kendig

10) Dead Lawyers Tell No Tales by Randy Singer

 
11) Talon by Ronie Kendig

12) Not a Fan by Kyle Idleman

13) Radical by David Platt

14) The Promise by Dan Walsh and Gary Smalley

15) Stranded by Dani Pettrey

16) Denali Dreams by Ronie Kendig and Kimberly Woodhouse
 
17) Heart Failure by Richard Mabry

18) Gods At War by Kyle Idleman

19) The Prodigal, a Ragamuffin Story by Brennan Manning and Greg Garrett

20) The Ragamuffin Gospel by Brennan Manning

And a list of all of the books I read this year:


January

1)The New Recruit by Jill Williamson

2) Chokepoint: Mini Mission 1.5 by Jill Williamson

3) Vanished by Irene Hannon

4) The Reason by William Sirls

5) Gone to Ground by Brandilyn Collins

6) The Way of Grace by Cathy Bryant

7) The Tenth Plague by Adam Blumer

8) The Delusion by Laura Gallier

9) The Tainted Coin by Mel Starr

10) A Dangerous Stage by Camy Tang

11) Two Crosses by Elizabeth Musser

12) The Next Target by Nikki Arana

13) Redeeming Grace by Ward Tanneberg


February

14) Unbreakable by Nancy Mehl

15) Angelguard by Ian Acheson

16) Flora’s Wish by Kathleen Y’Baro

17) Shattered by Dani Pettrey

18) The Return of Cassandra Todd by Darrell Nelson


March

19) The Grace Painter by Mark Romang

20) The Survivor by DiAnn Mills

21) So Shines the Night by Tracey Higley

22) Unholy Hunger by Heather James

23) Love In a Broken Vessel by Mesu Andrews

24) For the Love of Eli by Lorree Lough

25) Justified Means by Chautona Havig

26) Mismatched by Chautona Havig

27) A Matter of Trust by Lis Whiel and April Henry

28) Frozen Footprints by Therese Heckenkamp

29) Scorned Justice by Margaret Daley

30) Damascas Countdown by Joel Rosenberg

31) Stress Test by Richard Mabry

32) Darkness Before the Dawn by Ace Collins

33) Domination by Jon S Lewis

34) The Dance by Dan Walsh & Gary Smalley


April

35) Jesus Wept by Brock & Bodie Thoene

36) When a Secret Kills by Lynette Eason

37) Tales of the Defended Ones by Beth Guckenberger

38) The Gate by Dann Stouten

39) Cast of Stones by Patrick Carr

40) Denali Dreams by Ronie Kendig and Kimberly Woodhouse

41) The Singing God by Sam Storms

42) Firsthand by Ryan & Josh Shook

43) He Loves Me by Wayne Jacobson

44) Not By Sight by Kathy Herman

45) Poison by Jordyn Redwood

46) One Chance by Daniel Patterson

47) The Bond by William Donovan

48) Angel Falls by Connie Mann


May

49) Fearless by Mike Dellosso

50) Homeland Insecurity by Richard & Evangeline Abanes

51) Nowhere to Run by Amy Wallace

52) Wounds by Alton Gansky

53) Last Chance for Justice by Kathy Macias

54) Trinity by Ronie Kendig

55) A Plain Death by Amanda Flower

56) Placebo by Steven James

57) Biking Across America by Paul Stutzman

58) Dead Lawyers Tell No Tales by Randy Singer

59) Jennifer by Dee Henderson

60) No Way Out by Susan Sleeman

61) The Judgment Stone by Robert Liparulo

62) Talon by Ronie Kendig

63) Perilous Cove by Rich Bullock

64) Gone to Ground by Brandilyn Collins

65) Truth Stained Lies by Terri Blackstock

66) Try Dying by James Scott Bell

67) Try Darkness by James Scott Bell

68) Tempted, Tested, True by Arnie Cole and Michael Ross

69) Avenged by Janice Cantore

70) Afloat by Erin Healy


June

71) Try Fear by James Scott Bell

72) Deadly Devotion by Sandra Orchard

73) Fear Has a Name by Creston Mapes

74) An Open Heart by Harry Kraus

75) The Sacred Cipher by Terry Brennan

76) The Maze by Jason Brannon

77) Faith, Hope, Love by Kimberly Rae Jordan

78) The Runaway Pastor’s Wife by Diane Moody

79) The Stupid Crooks Book by Leland Gregory

80) Pieces of the Heart by Bonnie Calhoun

81) The Inner Society by Melinda Louise Bahanon


July

82) Crimes and Misdummeanors by Butler, Ray, and Rose

83) The King by Steven James

84) Grounded by Dave & Neta Jackson

85) The Brotherhood Conspiracy by Terry Brennan

86) Wanted Dumb or Alive by Daniel Butler & Alan Ray

87) Gods At War by Kyle Idleman

88) Misery Loves Company by Rene Gutteridge

89) Rosemary Cottage by Colleen Coble

90) Restoreth My Soul by Debbie Viguie

91) Superior Justice by Tom Hilpert

92) Superior Storm by Tom Hilpert

93) America’s Dumbest Criminals by Butler, Ray, and Gregory

94) Terminus by Joshua Graham

95) Not a Fan by Kyle Idleman


August

96) Follow Me by David Platt

97) Blood and Bone by Don Hoesel

98) Rules of Murder by Julia Deering

99) The World’s Dumbest Criminals by Daniel Butler and Alan Ray

100) Radical by David Platt

101) In the Paths of Righteousness by Debbie Viguie’

102) The Promise by Dan Walsh and Gary Smalley

103) Finding God In The Bible by Darren Wilson

104) The Lost Medallion by Bill Muir and Alex Kendrick


105) Memory’s Door by Jim Rubart

106) Stranded by Dani Pettrey

107) Battle Scream by Mark Romang

108) Carolina Reckoning by Lisa Carter

109) Home Run by Travis Thrasher


September

110) Unlimited by Davis Bunn

111) Trapped by Irene Hanon

112) Critical Pursuit by Janice Cantore

113) The Devil’s Game by Daniel Patterson

114) Back Before Dark by Tim Shoemaker

115) The Machine by Bill Myers

116) Dangerous Passage by Lisa Harris

117) Deadline by Randy Alcorn

118) Fatal Tide by Lis Wiehl and Pete Nelson

119) Dark Justice by Brandilyn Collins

120) A Plain Scandal by Amanda Flower

121) A Plain Disappearance by Amanda Flower


October

122) I, Saul by Jerry Jenkins

123) Heart of the Country by Rene Gutteridge and John Ward

124) Torn Blood by David Bain

125) Dangerous by Caleb Bislow

126) Return to Me by Lynn Austin

127) Pearls Freaks Out by Stephan Pastis

128) The Prehistory of the Far Side by Gary Larson

129) Heart Failure by Richard Mabry

130) Renegade by Mel Odom

131) Fifteen Minutes by Karen Kingsbury

132) Gunpowder Tea by Margaret Brownley

133) Strait of Hormuz by Davis Bunn

134) Singularity by Steven James

135) Peril by Jordyn Redwood


November

136) Critical Reaction by Todd Smith

137) The Overton Window by Glen Beck

138) Derailed by Dave & Neta Jackson

139) Amazing Love by K. Dawn Byrd

140) Traces of Mercy by Michael Landon, Jr and Cindy Kelley

141) Four Blood Moons by John Hagee

142) Unforeseeable by Nancy Mehl

143) The Prodigal, a Ragamuffin Story by Brennan Manning and Greg Garrett

144) Gates of Zion by Bodie Thoene

145) Severed Trust by Margaret Daley

146) To Know You by Shannon Ethridge and Kathryn Mackel

147) The Christmas Wish by Melody Carlson

148) Christmas At Harmony Hill by Ann Gabhart

149) Real by Jamie Snyder

150) The Breed by James Owens

151) The Ragamuffin Gospel by Brennan Manning

152) Nightmare City by Andrew Klavan

153) The Paperbag Christmas by Kevin Alan Milne


December

154) Merry Humbug Christmas by Sandra Bricker

155) Pure Eyes by Craig Goss and Steven Luff

156) The Christmas Cross by Max Lucado

157) The Christmas Candle by Max Lucado

158) A Walk One Winter Evening by Al Andrews

159) Cosmic Christmas by Max Lucado

160) The Shoe Box by Francine Rivers

161) If You’re Missing Baby Jesus by Jean Gietzen

162) Christmas By the Hearth by Various authors

163) The Spirit of Christmas by Cecil Murphy and Marley Gibson

164) The Church Builder by A.L. Shields

165) Lost December by Richard Paul Evans

166) Jesus Loves You This I Know by Craig Goss and Jason Harper

167) The Purpose of Christmas by Rick Warren

168) All Things Hidden by Kimberly Woodhouse and Tracie Peterson

169) The Wonder of Christmas by Derrick Johnson

170) Crazy Love by Francis Chan

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 
 

 

 

 

 

Saturday, December 21, 2013

All Things Hidden by Kimberly Woodhouse and Tracie Peterson

Tracie Peterson and Kimberley Woodhouse Team Up to Deliver a Stunning Depression-Era Drama
Gwyn Hillerman loves being a nurse at her father's clinic on the beautiful Alaskan frontier. But family life has been rough ever since her mother left them, disdaining the uncivilized country and taking Gwyn's younger sister with her.

In Chicago, Dr. Jeremiah Vaughan finds his life suddenly turned upside down when his medical license is stripped away after an affluent patient dies. In a snowball effect, his fiance breaks their engagement. In an attempt to bury the past, Jeremiah accepts Dr. Hillerman's invitation to join his growing practice in the isolated Alaska Territory.

Gwyn and Jeremiah soon recognize a growing attraction to each other. But when rumors of Jeremiah's past begin to surface, they'll need more than love to face the threat of an uncertain future.


My review:
   I usually steer clear of books that are romance, but I love Kim's books, and read some of Tracie's books years ago, so I braved it and requested it to review. I didn't figure I would be disappointed, and I wasn't.

 This book is actually more historical fiction with a romantic plot, and even some suspense thrown in to make readers like me like it even more. It is set in 1935 in Alaska. The book starts with the decision by Franklin D Roosevelt to send several families to Alaska to start a settlement in the Mat-Su Valley. The book is filled with not just fictional characters, but actual nonfictional people who were there.

  I really liked the plot. To be honest, I sometimes have trouble reading historical fiction, but I started the book at work (I am allowed to read where I worked today) and finished it when I got home. I loved it. The romance was well done and wasn't gushy sickening sweet nor unrealistic. The historical part was very interesting, and not something I had read about before. The hero and heroine were both very likeable and realistic people. I identified a lot with Jeremiah, the main male figure, with his issues with God, and even hiding things from people.

  I like it when authors aren't afraid to put God and Christian issues in a book, and this one falls into that category. The issue of worry and trusting God was discussed a lot, along with the already mentioned issues Jeremiah had with God, and blaming Him for the bad in his life, something I have done.

  This book has it all: an interesting historical story, romance, suspense with a bad guy, and a great message of how we need to trust God in everything. That it can be a good thing to not have control, if God has control.

  This is the first collaboration between these two authors, and it is a great one. I highly recommend it. If you like romance, you'll enjoy it. If you like suspense, there is enough in it that you'll like it. If you like historical fiction, it is right up your alley. Great job, ladies.

About the authors:

Kimberley Woodhouse is a multipublished author of fiction and nonfiction. A popular speaker/teacher, she's shared her theme of
 Joy Through Trials with over 150,000 people at more than a thousand venues across the country. She lives, writes, and homeschools with her husband of twenty-plus years and their two awesome teens in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Connect with Kim at www.kimberleywoodhouse.com



Tracie Peterson is the award-winning author of over ninety novels, both historical and contemporary. Her avid research resonates in her stories, as seen in her bestselling Heirs of Montana and Alaskan Quest series. Tracie and her family make their home in Montana. Visit Tracie's Web site at www.traciepeterson.com and her blog at www.writespassage.blogspot.com.

More Info

 Facebook
http://www.facebook.com/#!/TraciePetersonAuthor
Website
http://www.traciepeterson.com

All Things Hidden will be available January 7 from Bethany House Publishers, part of Baker Book House

Thanks to Kimberly Woodhouse for the review copy, who gave me a copy in spite of my teasing about not liking romance books.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

The Church Builder by A.L. Shields

A. L. Shields is the pseudonym for #1 New York Times best-selling author Stephen L. Carter, writing his first novel in the sweet spot for Christian readers: fast-paced, identifiable faith message, and strong characterizations. Author’s first novel, The Emperor of Ocean Park, was the Today Show’s first book club pick in 2002.

The Church Builder is the first book in a series of thrillers written by A. L. Shields, the pseudonym of New York Times best-selling author of The Emperor of Ocean Park, Stephen L. Carter.

Bethany Barclay is running for her life. She’s a struggling attorney who’s been framed for the murder of a client. To clear her name, she must follow the trail left by her friend Annabelle to find out who killed her and why. Meanwhile, members of a centuries-old secret society known simply as The Garden track Bethany’s every move, aiding her when they can. Because The Garden knows that Bethany has been targeted by the ruthless Wilderness Society . . . and to advance their agenda in a centuries-old battle they’ll find out what she knows and then kill her too.

Each of the novels in this series revolves around the struggle between The Garden and The Wilderness. Working insidiously over the centuries, The Wilderness orchestrates “snakebites”—tiny scandals that cumulatively will bring an end to belief.

My review:
   I love to try out new authors, especially if the book is suspense. I had been looking at this book for quite a while, wanting to buy it, but not wanting to fork out the $26.99 for it. The one reason I don't like hardcover books - the price. I was still debating buying it when I discovered it on the list of books for review from Thomas Nelson/Zondervan, so I snagged it.

  This is an awesome book. It had a complicated plot, but not so complicated that its hard to keep up with or understand. The idea of two secret groups, one good, and one bad, trying to accomplish their goals was intriguing and added a lot to the plot. I liked the main character, and though the book is fictional, found the police and FBI actions and investigating believable and realistic.

  This is the first book in a series, and the only thing I didn't like about it, is it didn't really end. I was never much for continued stories, so I am already looking forward to the next book so I can find out what happens.

  If this book is any indication, the author isn't afraid to make his books Christian. Its not a "preachy" novel, but it is clearly Christian, and no bad language at all. Its a long book, coming in at 432 pages, but I did find it so hard to put down that I read it in one sitting, other than a few interruptions. I really enjoyed the book, and can't wait to read more from this author. His forage into Christian fiction is looking very promising.

About the author:


A. L. Shields is a pseudonym for Stephen L. Carter, William Nelson Cromwell Professor of Law at Yale, where he has taught for thirty years. He is also the author of seven acclaimed works of nonfiction and five bestselling novels. His first novel, The Emperor of Ocean Park (2002), spent eleven weeks on the New York Times best-seller list. His most recent novel, The Impeachment of Abraham Lincoln, was published in July of 2012.
 
 
The Church Builder is available from Zondervan Publishing.
 
Thanks to Booksneeze for the review copy.

NIV Ragamuffin Bible

Many come to God feeling like ragamuffins – unworthy and unlovable. Zondervan’s new NIV Ragamuffin Bible: Meditations for the Bedraggled, Beat-Up and Brokenhearted (November 2013) is a reminder to the ragamuffin in everyone that they are still God’s beloved, no matter what they’ve done. Everyone needs grace, for ourselves and even the person who sits next to us at work, at church or on the bus. Excerpts from the life’s work of the late Brennan Manning, who passed away in April 2013, are the heart and soul of the Ragamuffin Bible. Zondervan’s immediate plans include partnering with ministry organizations and marketplace leaders in key cities to get samples of the Bible (the books of Psalms and Matthew available for free download on www.ragamuffinbible.com ) into the hands of the undervalued and the overlooked in homeless shelters, halfway houses and health clinics, etc. The e-version of the full bible is available for only $4.99 during December.
 
“Manning has inspired artists, poets, musicians and the ragamuffin body of Christ for decades. We are thrilled to share his wisdom and influence on the pages of this new devotional Bible,” says Chip Brown, Senior VP of Zondervan. “On the subject of grace, Manning has no equal. His words can be unsettling at times, but they are always penetrating and deserve to be quoted again and again. That’s exactly what the Ragamuffin Bible does.”
 
Perhaps no one welcomes the message of grace more than the marginalized of society. Yet we each desperately need it. Many accept the gift of God’s unconditional love and grace, in theory, but can’t seem to apply it in their daily lives. They beat themselves up over their own failures and pull away from God because they subconsciously believe he tallies their defects and hangs his head in disappointment. Pairing the text of the most popular English Bible translation in the world with the writings of one of the most respected authors and scholars of the last century, theNIV Ragamuffin Bible offers a collection of Manning’s raw, painfully honest, yet grace-filled devotions, meditations, and reflections of his journey limping back – like the prodigal son – to his overjoyed father.
 
A recovering alcoholic and former Franciscan priest, Manning’s spiritual journey took him down a variety of paths, all of them leading to the profound reality of God's irresistible grace. “My deepest awareness of myself is that I am deeply loved by Jesus Christ, and I have done nothing to earn it or deserve it,” Manning writes. He spent the last forty years of his life helping others to find their own identity in the tenderness of Jesus Christ.
 
The Ragamuffin Bible is intended for anyone who is not living in the fullness of God’s amazing grace, including Christians whose growth has been stunted by a toxic diet of grace mixed with law. The Bible features:
  • an introduction by Brennan Manning, the “original ragamuffin”
  • the complete text of the Holy Bible, New International Version
  • 104 devotions that guide the reader into a deeper connection to God and His word
  • 250 reflections that help the reader understand what it means to be a child of God
  • quotes that offer the reader thoughtful insights into God’s kingdom
  • note pages at the end of each book in the Bible
As a writer, Brennan Manning is best known as the author of the contemporary classic, The Ragamuffin Gospel. He wrote many other influential and popular books, including Abba's Child, Ruthless Trust, The Importance of Being Foolish, Patched Together, The Furious Longing of God, The Parable of Willie Juan and his final book, All Is Grace: A Ragamuffin Memoir.
 
“The NIV Ragamuffin Bible is good news for every ragamuffin – the one who sleeps on the park bench or the one who sleeps in the church pew. Both have a spot in the Kingdom of God,” says Brown.


My review:
  I recently read Manning's Ragamuffin Gospel and cannot say enough good about the book. I was excited when I saw this Bible was coming out and was eager to see what it would be like.

 The Bible has several devotions which take up over half the page, and have a suggested Scripture passage to read along with it, and the devotional is inserted near the suggested reading. There are also a lot of reflections, which are shorter and also have a suggested passage of Scripture. Lastly, there are quotes that appear randomly throughout.

 I wouldn't call this a study Bible, but more of a devotional Bible. Its not everything I expected, as I expected study notes on verses of the Bible, but its still a neat Bible to have, as it has a lot of Manning's comments and works spread throughout the Bible, and it does have some of his thoughts on specific passages of Scripture.

 Would I buy the Bible, now having had it and used it for a few weeks? Maybe. If I got a really good deal on it. If you're a big fan of Manning's books, its something you will appreciate. If I was giving it stars, I'd give it 4 out of 5. Its good, but could be better, could have more.

About the author:


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

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


The NIV Ragamuffin Bible is available from Zondervan Pubishers.
Thanks to B&B Media for the review copy.




Monday, December 9, 2013

Guest book review

Carole Jarvis at The Power of Words blog, asked me to do a review of a favorite Christmas book. The post is here: http://booksmusicandlife.blogspot.com/2013/12/bloggers-christmas-favorites-1.html

Saturday, December 7, 2013

A Walk One Winter Night by Al Andrews

A WALK ONE WINTER NIGHT INSPIRES DOVE-AWARD
WINNING ARTIST’S NEW CHRISTMAS SONG Two Christian music veterans unite to bring audiences a “real Christmas story”
NASHVILLE, Tenn., July 23rd, 2013—Prominent counselor to many artists and acclaimed inspirational speaker Al Andrews recently signed on with The Worthy Publishing Group to publish his latest title, A Walk One Winter Night: A Christmas Story (Freeman Smith, September 2013) based on a poignant holiday experience. Burnt out on the hustle, bustle, and expectations the holidays can bring, Andrews took a late night stroll and wound up rediscovering his real passion and the true meaning behind the Christmas season. This simple message has spoken to the heart of audiences, and will help readers rediscover the joy of wonder and what is real in the season.
Al sent his initial draft to a few trusted friends in the music business in order to get early feedback. As the written word so often does, the book struck a major chord with Dove-award winning recording artist and GMA female vocalist of the year, Nichole Nordeman. "Every once in awhile you come across a story that helps you tell your own,” said Nordeman,“From the very first page of A Walk One Winter Night, I recognized that the characters around the manger had become distant and no longer dear. Icons, not the fragile and weary souls they were. In this beautiful story, I saw them differently, maybe for the first time ever. And they jumped off the page and right into the music of my heart. ‘Real’ is a song that's deeply personal for me. I hope it captures the same wonder of the beautiful book that inspired it."
Nordeman will be performing “Real” throughout the fall tour of The Story, alongside artists Casting Crowns, Steven Curtis Chapman, Natalie Grant, Matthew West, Selah, and Rawsrvnt. Tour dates and ticket information can be found at www.thestorycd.com/tour/. “Real” will also be featured on Capitol Christian Music Group’s album WOW Christmas, available nationwide in October.
My review:
   This isn't a long book, and is more of a gift book with a lot of pictures, and some pages having just a sentence or two, but its a great book to read at this time of the year.
  The book came about as a result of the author taking a walk one winter evening. He stopped at an outdoor nativity scene and as he gazed on the scene, realized how unlike the real nativity characters are modern imitations are. He proceeds to give a better idea how different they are by way of imaginary conversations with the nativity figures.
  Its a neat book, and has a great message. We tend to lose the idea and focus of what the first Christmas was really like, and it was far from what our nativity sets we put up each year, not that I am criticizing that..... mine is my favorite Christmas decoration.
  This book won't take anyone long to read and is a great reminder as we enter the Christmas season, of what its all really about.
 
About the author:

Al Andrews is a counselor, author, and speaker. He is the director of Porter’s Call, a non-profit offering counsel, support, and encouragement to recording artists and their families. He is founder of Improbable Philanthropy, a charity that aids children in crisis through the sale of his children’s book, The Boy, the Kite, and the Wind. To learn more about Al Andrew’s visit http://www.itsalandrews.com; follow his daily journey on Twitter @itsalandrews.
 
A Walk One Winter Night is available from Worthy Publishing.
Thanks to Worthy for the review copy.
Worthy Publishing Group (www.worthypublishing.com) is a privately held, independent voice in Christian and inspirational publishing, based in Nashville, Tennessee, comprised of three divisions. Worthy Books publishes a boutique list of trade titles across a broad spectrum of genres, including current events, biography, fiction, devotionals, spiritual and personal growth, and specialized Bibles. Ellie Claire is a line of gift and paper expressions, and Freeman-Smith is a value-priced, impulse book imprint.

Book trailer:
 

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

The God Puzzle by Valerie Ackermann

The God Puzzle is a colorful, easy to use tool to help you communicate to your child the rich truths about God, His ways, His will and His love. The God Puzzle will help you address doctrinal themes of the Christian faith in a kid friendly way, present Bible lessons in an interactive way that will hold the child's attention and deliver quality teaching with no preparation needed. 75% of children leave the church when they leave home. Something isn't working. Sunday School isn't doing it all. Kids need answers, good ones. And they need them from you, the parent. This book enables you to give them simple, clear answers.

What makes The God Puzzle unique?

      - ready made discussion questions for parent to ask their child in each lesson


       - can be done at any pace that works with your 
family . . . every night, once a week, 10 minutes here, 30 minutes there . . . it fits into realistic family life
 
- puts the pieces together for a child to understand God, the Bible, and the Christian faith
- in each lesson the responds to the truth so they understand their relationship to God is personal and life transforming
- any parent, whether they know nothing, or a lot about God can start teaching their child today with no prep
- deep theology put into language a child can understand
- deeply Biblical, each lesson points to Christ
- put in an order that starts with creation, and teaches the Bible as one story that all points to Christ
- child stays engaged by filling in blanks, crosswords, drawing, matching and using their Bibles as they learn
 
My review:
   This is a really neat book, and thought it is much below my age level, it looks like a fun way to learn about God and the Bible.
 
  The book is a fairly large book, coming in at 217 pages. It is loaded with information, word searches, questions, crosswords, and other learning tools. The idea of the book is to pull all the Bible together so kids can better understand it, through their own life experiences,  and the author does a great job of it.
 
  It seems geared for individual study, but I would think it could be used in children's church and Sunday School also. It is for ages 7-12, but after reviewing it, I feel it may be better for 7-10, but that is just my personal opinion.
 
  It is a great tool to help kids learn, and I'd highly recommend it.
 
About the author:

 
Valerie Ackermann has a BA in Theology and has been a full time Children's Ministry Director at Parkwood Community Church in California for over 10 years. She is also a weekly Sunday school teacher, wife, and busy mom of two boys ages 9 and 11. She has hands-on experience as a children's ministry professional, teaching and leading children of all ages. Growing up in a Christian family in the small town of Saskatchewan Canada, she has wonderful memories of knowing God from an early age. She has a passion for kids to know the deep truths of God.

Find out more at LeadMeToGod.com.
 
 
Thanks to Lifuse for the review copy.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Merry Humbug Christmas by Sandra D Bricker

This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
Merry Humbug Christmas
B&H Books (October 15, 2013)
by
Sandra D. Bricker


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

For more than a decade, Sandra D. Bricker lived in Los Angeles. While honing her chosen craft of screenwriting in every spare moment, she worked as a personal assistant and publicist to some of daytime television's hottest stars. When her mother became ill in Florida, she walked away from that segment of her life and moved across the country to take on a new role: Caregiver.

The author says that it was her 8th novel that opened the door to finding her way as a writer. "I'm a Christian woman, first and foremost," she says. "So it was a bit of a dream-come-true when Summerside Press chose me as one of two authors to launch the Love Finds You line."

Sandie's real-life role as cancer survivor has parlayed into her steadfast commitment to raising awareness and funds for ovarian cancer research. Spearheading a series of devotionals for Summerside Press (such as the popular His Grace is Sufficient...Decaf is Not), the author has stipulated that a portion of each contributor's proceeds will go to the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund.


"Being allowed to combine my faith and my humor with raising funds for my pet projects ... and still pursue my writing dream," says Bricker, "well, that's the best of all worlds, as far as I'm concerned!"

And one of the author's pet projects is animal rescue, evidenced by the special bond she has created with one particular formerly-abandoned puppy -- a red-haired collie with "killer brown eyes and the heart of the class clown."

ABOUT THE BOOK

A Merry Humbug Christmas features two holiday romance novellas from hilarious and heartwarming author Sandra D. Bricker. -- the perfect gift to yourself or someone else at this most wonderfully stressful time of year.

In "Once Upon a Jingle Bell," A Bah! Humbug cruise to the Mexican Riviera is Joss Snow’s answer to this year’s quest to avoid the holidays completely; at least until she’s rebooked on a different kind of cruise altogether. Candy canes, holly wreaths, reindeer and ornaments seem to be stalking her on the 12 Days of Christmas holiday cruise extravaganza. An escape back to land is her only goal . . . until she meets a kindred spirit in rugged Irishman Patrick Brenneman, and then the game is on! Avoid Christmas festivities at all costs . . . except maybe for that one stop under the mistletoe.

In "It Came Upon a Midnight Deer," Reese’s guilt over abandoning best friend Joss on their holiday tradition of avoiding all things Christmas is trumped by the joy of her recent engagement. Meeting Damian’s family for the first time on idyllic Sugarloaf Mountain is about as far from that Bah! Humbug cruise as she can get, and Reese can hardly wait to get there. But from the moment they hit that deer in the road just two miles from the cabin, everything seems to go wrong. There are no drummers drumming or pipers piping this particular year! And once she sets her future in-laws’ family cabin ablaze, she’s pretty sure there won’t be even ONE golden ring in her future.

If you would like to read the first chapter of Merry Humbug Christmas, go HERE.

My review:
  This a really fun read, and a hilarious book. I don't typically read romance novels, but I do enjoy Christmas books, so I requested this one and am glad I did. It was just what the doctor ordered.

 I've never read any of Sandra's books, but I loved her writing style on these two stories. She is very descriptive, and in a very funny way. I was literally laughing out loud as I was reading. I thought the first story was funny, and then started the second one, which I found even more funny.

 There's not a lot of deep Christian content in the book, and I was a bit bothered in the first story that the main character didn't seem to be a Christian and felt uncomfortable when the guy she was becoming romantically involved with prayed in a church....... but if you're looking to be entertained while reading a Christmas book, you'll enjoy this one. I can't remember when I read a funnier book. I highly recommend it.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Nightmare City by Andrew Klavan

Tom Harding only wants the truth. But the truth is becoming more dangerous with every passing minute.

As a reporter for his high school newspaper, Tom Harding was tracking the best story of his life—when, suddenly, his life turned very, very weird. He woke up one morning to find his house empty . . . his street empty . . . his whole town empty . . . empty except for an eerie, creeping fog—and whatever creatures were slowly moving toward him through the fog.

Now Tom’s once-ordinary world has become something out of a horror movie. How did it happen? Is it real? Is he dreaming? Has there been a zombie apocalypse? Has he died and gone to hell?

Tom is a good reporter—he knows how to look for answers—but no one has ever covered a story like this before. With the fog closing in and the hungry creatures of the fog surrounding him, he has only a few hours to find out how he lost the world he knew. In this bizarre universe nothing is what it seems and everything—including Tom’s life—hangs in the balance.

My review:
   This book, along with all of the others Andrew Klavan has written for Thomas Nelson, is written for a teen audience. I wish books like his had been around when I was a teenager, but that doesn't stop me from reading them now. The reading level he writes at is one most adults can enjoy also.

  This book is totally different from his others. It is just as suspenseful, and maybe even more. The main character, Tom is dealing with all kinds of creepy events and creatures, and the reader figures something is going on, and that this isn't some bizarre fantasy book..... and as I figured, not all is as it seems. I did figure out what was going on before the author made it obvious, but I won't give that spoiler out.

  In addition to its great entertainment value, the book teaches a great lesson anyone should be able to catch: We should always tell the truth, even when its not popular and can make people angry. Its never OK to cover up wrong.

  This may be Klavan's best book for teens so far. Even though I caught on eventually as to what was going, the way he started the book and spun  the story was a masterpiece of writing. There is a lot of descriptive writing, and he easily pulled me into the story and kept me in it until I read it to the finish.

  Most of Klavan's books don't have much or any Christian content, but are totally clean and have what is called a Christian worldview. This book actually has more Christian content than most, along with the message of doing the right thing.

  I'm an adult and loved the book, but I also have the rave reviews of three teenage girls who read it and loved it. So there you have it. It is definitely worth reading.

About the author:


Andrew Klavan has been nominated for the Mystery Writer of America's Edgar award five times and won twice. He is the author of several bestselling novels, including Don't Say A Word, filmed starring Michael Douglas, True Crime, filmed by Clint Eastwood, and Empire of Lies. He is currently writing a series of thrillers for young adults called The Homelanders. The first two novels in the series are The Last Thing I Remember and The Long Way Home. Klavan is a contributing editor to City Journal and his essays have appeared in the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times, among other places. His satiric video commentaries can be seen on PJTV.com.


Nightmare City is available from Thomas Nelson Publishing.

Thanks to Thomas Nelson for the review copy.

Monday, November 25, 2013

That Was the Best Christmas! by A.R. Cecil

These heartwarming stories set during the holidays in the years between 1906 and today will rekindle the reader's own memories, giving perspective to the present and hope for the future. Each short story is set amidst historic events when people came together and found opportunities to exchange the true gifts of Christmas: kindness, encouragement, forgiveness, peace, hope, belonging, and more. The main character of each story is a boy or girl, man or woman whose heart opens to give or receive love, bringing personal transformation and causing them to always look back and say, "That was the best Christmas!" Each story is penned by A.R. Cecil with a gentle twinkle in her eye, giving the reader delightful twists of plot and humor and revealing Mrs. Cecil's warm understanding of human relationships - with each other and with the Creator who sent his Son that first Christmas Day.25 very short stories are just right to read one a day during the Advent Season!


My review:
   I have always enjoyed Christmas stories, and am partial to books that have several stories in, so this book was right up my alley. Most of the stories are around five pages in length, which makes it a great book to read when you only have time to read a few pages.

  The stories are set in the years between 1906 and today, and each one is subtitled with "a gift of.....", i.e.: Trust, Answered Prayer, a Savior, etc.

  I enjoyed reading the book, and found the stories interesting and the kind that help remind one of the real meaning of Christmas. Great book.

About the author:


A.R. (Alice) Cecil writes from her heart and experience as a mother, grandmother, teacher, and follower of Christ.

She earned a MSFA (Master of Science in Fine Art) from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. A former third-grade teacher, she has been writing for many years. Her published works include Journeys to Mother Love: Nine Women Tell their Stories of Forgiveness and Healing (contributing author) and In that Place Called Day: Poems and Reflections that Witness God's Love (a collection of poetry). Another book, If the Fish Could Talk, is forthcoming in 2014. Alice and her physician husband reside in Louisville, Kentucky. They enjoy traveling to visit their four children and four grandchildren where they live in various parts of the world.
  

That Was the Best Christmas! is available from Cladach Publishing.

Thanks to Cladach for the review copy.
 

Sunday, November 24, 2013

The Ragamuffin Gospel by Brennan Manning

A Furious Love Is Hot on Your Trail! Many believers feel stunted in their Christian growth. We beat ourselves up over our failures and, in the process, pull away from God because we subconsciously believe He tallies our defects and hangs His head in disappointment. In this newly repackaged edition—now with full appendix, study questions, and the author’s own epilogue, “Ragamuffin Ten Years Later,” Brennan Manning reminds us that nothing could be further from the truth. The Father beckons us to Himself with a “furious love” that burns brightly and constantly. Only when we truly embrace God’s grace can we bask in the joy of a gospel that enfolds the most needy of His flock—the “ragamuffins.”

Are you bedraggled, beat-up, burnt-out?

Most of us believe in God’s grace—in theory. But somehow we can’t seem to apply it in our daily lives. We continue to see Him as a small-minded bookkeeper, tallying our failures and successes on a score sheet.

Yet God gives us His grace, willingly, no matter what we’ve done. We come to Him as ragamuffins—dirty, bedraggled, and beat-up. And when we sit at His feet, He smiles upon us, the chosen objects of His “furious love.”

Brennan Manning’s now-classic meditation on grace and what it takes to access it—simple honesty—has changed thousands of lives. Now with a Ragamuffin’s thirty-day spiritual journey guide, it will change yours, too.

Includes a 30-Day Spiritual Journey Guide!


My review:
   I can't believe this book has been around since 1990, and I just got around to reading it. Its something I needed to read for a long time, but maybe the time was right for it to do the most good now.

  If you're like me, and have always struggled to fully believe God loves you, if you have had trouble truly grasping the idea of grace, and that it is for you.... you need to read this book. There were so many "wow" moments for me in this book. Manning really opens up the reality of God's love and does a great job of shooting down the doubts we can have about it.

  I do wish I had read this book earlier in my life, before my doubts had become so grounded, but it has given me new hope and a fresh look at God's love and grace like I have never experienced.

  A verse Manning came back to a few times, was Luke 15:20, in the story of the prodigal son: So he returned home to his father. And while he was still a long way off, his father saw him coming. Filled with love and compassion, he ran to his son, embraced him, and kissed him." He made the point that before the son had even asked forgiveness, before he even had the chance to say anything, the father had run to him, embraced him, and welcomed him home..... that put a whole new light on that story, and how eager God is to welcome us back. I can't say enough good about this book. There may be a few things I wouldn't agree with 100%, but this is one of those books that can be life-changing, and has far more that I agree with, than not.

About the author:


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

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


The Ragamuffin Gospel is available from Waterbrook/Multnomah Publishing.

I received an e-book of the book for review, but bought a paperback copy of my own.
  

Friday, November 22, 2013

Critical Reaction by Todd Johnson

This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
Critical Reaction
Bethany House Publishers (November 19, 2013)
by
Todd M. Johnson


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Todd M. Johnson has practiced as an attorney for over 30 years, specializing as a trial lawyer. Todd's career experience blends with his passion for writing in his novels published through Bethany House.

A graduate of Princeton University and the University of Minnesota Law School, he also taught for two years as an adjunct professor of International Law, and served as a US diplomat in Hong Kong.

The Deposit Slip, Mr. Johnson's first novel, debuted in 2012. Todd's second novel, Critical Reaction, will be released in November 2013.

Todd lives outside Minneapolis, Minnesota, with his wife Cathy and children Ian and Libby.

ABOUT THE BOOK

After decades of turning out plutonium for the arms race, the Hanford Nuclear Facility has long been shuttered, though its deadly legacy cannot be fully contained. The men who guard the facility from sabotage or monitor its buildings for radiation leaks are told the risks are under control. They believe it, until the worst happens: a thunderous explosion in the dead of night.

Two workers, lifer Poppy Martin and new hire Kieran Mullaney, believe themselves lucky to survive the blast. But as the debris is cleared, they discover their safety is not assured. Dead ends and closed doors halt their efforts to discover what really happened--and what radiation may have poisoned them. When stalling and threats force them into the hands of experienced trial lawyer Ryan Hart, they learn that theirs is no ordinary lawsuit. There is something still hidden in the desert of eastern Washington, and someone is willing to go to extreme lengths to make sure it never sees the light of day.

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

My review:
  I enjoy legal thrillers, but there aren't many authors writing them on the Christian market, so its nice to see a new Christian legal thriller author come along.

  I read Johnson's first book, The Deposit Slip, and was impressed, so when this one came along, I snagged one for review, and in my opinion, he has gotten better with his second novel. This one was based on an actual court case he worked on as a lawyer, so not all of the story is fictional.

  The book did have a great plot, characters, and setting. It is one of those books that once I started it, I didn't want to put it down. One problem I have had with some legal thrillers I have read, is some of the court and legal stuff can get a bit laborious, but Johnson did a great job of keeping it interesting and in terms people that aren't legal experts could understand.

  Speaking of the author, I participated in a chat on Facebook with him and several other readers, and he seems like a very nice down to earth guy who wants to write books that stay true to his faith.

  I thoroughly enjoyed the book, and though I found the ending to be a bit abrupt and thought a few more pages and details would have tied the book up better, it is a great book that I'd recommend to suspense and legal thriller readers.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

A Simple Christmas Wish by Melody Carlson, with a book giveaway

One girl in need of a home. One woman in search of a home for her heart. One Christmas where it all seems possible.It felt strange to be out here in the middle of the night, still wearing the Amish dress--a dress that had belonged to Miri. Rachel's footsteps crunched in the snow, and halfway between the barn and the house, she paused to look up at the night sky, wondering if more snow was in store, but all she saw was velvety black and stars. Millions of twinkling stars. She had never seen stars like that before, so bright and so close, almost as if she could touch them with her hand.


Rachel Milligan never imagined that she and her seven-year-old niece would spend the week before Christmas on a quaint Amish farm in Ohio. But with so many unexpected occurrences of late, perhaps she shouldn't have been surprised.

With her young niece Holly in tow, Rachel anxiously makes her way from Chicago to Ohio's Amish country. As love begins to blossom, family secrets emerge, and old wounds are healed, Rachel realizes that she will do whatever it takes to ensure that Holly has the loving family she needs.

Join bestselling author Melody Carlson on an emotional journey into the heart of what family truly means at Christmastime.

My review:
   Melody Carlson has been putting out a Christmas novel every year for several years in a row, and they are always a fun and interesting read, and totally different from the previous ones. When I see her name attached to a Christmas book being offered for review, I don't even read the description of the book, I just reply that I want to review it...... and I am never disappointed.

  This book has a sad beginning, but not so much that it casts a pall over the rest of the book. It quickly goes into the dilemma of Holly, the little girl at the center of the story.

  I'm not a big fan of Amish books, and there are Amish people in this story, but not like in most of the stories where Amish girl meets Amish guy and they get married and live happily ever after. The Amish in this book cause some problems for the little girl in the story who because of a surprise in  her parents' will, may not get to spend her life with the aunt that she wishes to.

  The story is well written, the Amish people presented in a believable way, and though the ending isn't a complete surprise, it is a great ending and the book would make a great addition to your Christmas reading.

About the author:


Melody Carlson is the award-winning author of over two hundred books with sales of more than five million. She is the author of several Christmas books from Revell, including the bestselling The Christmas Bus, The Christmas Dog, and Christmas at Harrington's, which is being considered for a TV movie. She is also the author of many teen books, including Just Another Girl, Anything but Normal, Double Take, the Life at Kingston High series, and the Diary of a Teenage Girl series. She is the winner of a Romantic Times Career Achievement Award in the inspirational market for her many books, including the Diary of a Teenage Girl series and Finding Alice. Melody and her husband live in Oregon.

For more information about Melody visit her website at www.melodycarlson.com.

A Simple Christmas Wish is available from Revell, a division of Baker Book Publishing.

Thanks to Revell for the review copy.

Giveaway:
  Thanks to the author and her husband, I am giving away a copy of A Simple Christmas Wish. There is one required entry, and one extra entry:

  To enter, comment and tell if you have read any of Melody's books, and if so, name at least one.

  If you haven't read any of her books, go to her website and check out her books, and comment with what book interests you the most.

Extra entry: (make a second comment saying you did this, or if you already have)
Do one of the following:
"Like Melody's Facebook page.
Subscribe to Melody's newsletter.
Become a fan on Goodreads.

I will draw a winner on December 1 using Random.org

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Christmas At Harmony Hill, and a book giveaway

She stared up at the Shaker buildings. They took in those in need. That was why she was riding into their village. But she couldn't stay here. Not forever. They divided families. She'd heard her grandmother speak harshly of the way Shakers didn't believe in marriage and had special houses where children were kept from their parents.

Heather put a hand over the swell of her baby inside her. Surely they wouldn't take a newborn from his mother's bosom. Heather's mother couldn't have imagined that happening or she'd have never told her to come . . .
A stirring story of healing, hope, and home at Christmas
It is 1864 and the nation is torn apart by civil war when Heather Worth discovers she is with child. With her husband at the front and nowhere else to turn, she seeks refuge in the Shaker village of Harmony Hill. Amid the tumult of the times, Heather yearns for the peace she sees in this strange community. But can this longing really be fulfilled amid these people with their peculiar beliefs about family?

As Christmas approaches, the joy of new life and the love that is born of forgiveness may hold the answer.

Join bestselling author Ann H. Gabhart for a peek into the world of the Shakers--and the world of the human heart.


My review:
   I've never read any books by Ann Gabhart as her books are more for women, but I never pass up a Christmas novel, so now I can say that I have read one of her books.

  This book is set during the Civil War and is set among the Shakers. I hardly knew anything about the Shakers before reading the book, and I learned quite a bit about them while reading this story. Needless to say, I don't think I could ever be one. :-)

  I like the author's writing style. I do read a lot of books, and when I am reading a new author I take note of things like writing style, and she has a great easy to read style that is also interesting. Even with the Shaker beliefs, she didn't just rattle it off, but through the characters, she gave a great glimpse into their beliefs that wasn't at all laborious or boring.

  Outside of modern times, the Civil War is my favorite setting for a book. The book doesn't just revolve around the Shakers, but also around the war, and its affect on people. I was again reminded of how it was a war that had family members fighting each other, even brother against brother.

  The couple in the story is already married, so there isn't a lot of romance, but it is a story of hope and forgiveness, themes that we all need at this time of year, and a reminder that its what Christmas is all about.

   I thoroughly enjoyed Christmas At Harmony Hill, and once I started reading it, I read it until I finished it. It is a great read, and definitely worth reading. And if you're a woman and haven't read Ann's other books, it may help you find a new author to read.

About the author:


Ann H. Gabhart is the bestselling author of Angel Sister, Small Town Girl, and Words Spoken True, as well as several Shaker novels--The Outsider, The Believer, The Seeker, The Blessed, and The Gifted--and The Heart of Hollyhill series. She lives with her husband a mile from where she was born in rural Kentucky. Learn more at www.annhgabhart.com.


Christmas At Harmony Hill is available from Revell, a division of Baker Book Publishing.

Thanks to Revell for the review copy.

Giveaway:
Ann has graciously agreed to give away a copy of her book, Christmas At Harmony Hill.
The giveaway will run for 10 days, and I will pick a winner using Random.org on November 29.
US and Canada only.

To enter:
Go to Ann's website, and do one of the following:
Check out her other books and comment with what one you'd like to read
"Like" her Facebook page. Comment saying you did.
Sign up here for her newsletter, comment saying you did.
Become a fan on Goodreads. Comment saying you did.
Follow Ann on Twitter, and comment that you did.

If you already do any of these, you can still comment.
Get an extra entry by doing two of the suggested entry methods. Make two comments.

Real by Jamie Snyder

"Would people know I'm a Christian if they didn't see me at church?"
This gut-check question was just what Jamie Snyder needed. Like many of us, he sensed his faith had become mechanical rather than meaningful, scheduled rather than passionate. Emboldened, Snyder set out to recapture the sold-out lifestyle of early followers of Jesus.

Here he shares how to live the life Jesus desires of us, a life defined by

Unbridled generosity
Daring courage
Rebellious joy
Risky faith
Relentless hope
Scandalous grace
Mad love

Be challenged. Be encouraged. Be a 24/7 follower of Jesus.


My review:
   There have been a few non-fiction books that I have read this year that have really impressed me, and this one falls into that category. It isn't a long book, coming in at only 173 pages, but it is packed full of great writing.

  The author goes with the premise that too many Christians are not just putting on their Sunday best in clothes on Sunday, but their Sunday best everything, and we need to live the same all week as we do on Sunday.

  To be honest, the book is rather convicting, and will cause most readers to mentally flinch, but its a great book that needs to be taken to heart and should cause the readers to examine their own lives and put more effort into being real.

  One of the most challenging chapters in the book was on carrying our cross. Jamie describes what the cross meant back in Jesus' day, and what it truly means to carry one's cross nowadays, and I am afraid too many of us really aren't getting it.

  This book has discussion questions and a prayer at the end of each chapter, and though it can be read alone, it would make a great book for a study group.

  This does rank among the best and most challenging books I have read this year, and I'd highly recommend it.

About the author:

Jamie Snyder writes and preaches to thousands of people every week as pastor of Lakeside Christian
Church. He previously served at the country's fifth largest church, Southeast Christian Church, where Kyle Idleman pastors. Jamie and his wife, Alex, and their two young sons live in Lakeside Park, Kentucky. Learn more at www.lakeside.org.


Real is available from Bethany House Publishers.

Thanks to Bethany House for the review copy.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

To Know You by Shannon Ethridge and Kathryn Mackel with a giveaway

Julia Whittaker's rocky past yielded two daughters, both given up for adoption as infants. Now she must find them to try to save her son.

Julia and Matt Whittaker's son has beaten the odds for thirteen years only to have the odds---and his liver---crash precipitously. The only hope for his survival is a "living liver" transplant, but the transplant list is long and Dillon's time is short. His two older half-sisters, born eighteen months apart to two different fathers, offer his only hope for survival.

But can Julia ask a young woman---someone she surrendered to strangers long ago and has never spoken with---to make such a sacrifice to save a brother she's never known? Can she muster the courage to journey back into a shame-filled season of her life, face her choices and their consequences, and find any hope of healing?

And what if she discovers in her own daughters' lives that a history of foolish choices threatens to repeat itself? Julia knows she's probably embarking on a fool's errand---searching for the daughters she abandoned only now that she needs something from them. But love compels Julia to take this journey. Can grace and forgiveness compel her daughters to join her?

In To Know You, Shannon Ethridge and Kathryn Mackel explore how the past creates the present . . . and how even the most shattered lives can be redeemed.
Book review:
    I am a big fan and advocate of Christian fiction, and am convinced that God can use some of it just as much as a non-fiction book. This is one such book. Admittedly, it is written more for women, but it has some great relationship advice that men could use also.
 
  The book is as good as it sounds. The plot is more intricate and complicated than I expected, but not so much that it wasn't easy to follow. Yes, the book is an enjoyable and entertaining read, but it delves into relationships and the results of choices, results that can affect a lot of people. Through some great fictional characters, the authors show the dangers of living loose sexual lives, but also shows how God will forgive any sin and bring good out of bad.
 
  The book goes back and forth between the past and present quite a bit, but with the authors' writing style, it is done smoothly and I was never at a loss to understand what was going on. I had to read the book in one day, as I messed up and didn't realize until today that  I needed to post the review today.... I thought it was a few days away. Fortunately, the book is such an enjoyable read that I couldn't put it down and easily finished it in one afternoon.
 
  This is a great book to read for leisure, but I'd also recommend it to anyone who may be having relationship issues. There are a lot of good insights in this novel.
 
About the authors:
 
Shannon Ethridge is a best-selling author, speaker, and certified life coach with a master's degree in counseling/human relations from Liberty University. She has spoken to college students and adults since 1989 and is the author of 21 books, including the million-copy best-selling Every Woman's Battle series. She is a frequent guest on TV and radio programs and mentors aspiring writers and speakers through her BLAST Program (Building Leaders, Authors, Speakers & Teachers.)

Learn more about Shannon: http://www.shannonethridge.com
 
Kathryn Mackel is a best-selling author and acclaimed screenwriter for Disney and Fox. She was on the screenwriting team for Left Behind: The Movie, and Frank Peretti's Hangman's Curse. She is the acclaimed author of "The Surrogate", "The Departed", and "The Hidden" and resides in Boston, Massachusetts, with her husband.
Learn more about Kathryn: http://www.kathrynmackel.com
 
To Know You is available from Thomas Nelson Publishing
 
Thanks to Litfuse for the review copy.
 
Shannon Ethridge is celebrating the release of  To Know You (co-written by Kathryn Mackel), by giving away a $100 gift certificate to Lisa Leonard Designs and a personal coaching session, as well as throwing a Facebook Author Chat Party!

toknowyou-rafflecopter

One winner will receive:
Enter today by clicking one of the icons below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on November 19th. Winner will be announced at the "To Know You" Facebook Author Chat Party on the 19th. Connect with Shannon and friends for an encouraging evening of fun chat, book club discussion, giveaways, and a chance to win a PERSONAL COACHING SESSION WITH SHANNON!

So grab your copy of To Know You and join Shannon on the evening of November 19th for a chance to connect and make some new friends. (If you haven't read the book, don't let that stop you from coming!)
Don't miss a moment of the fun; RSVP today by clicking JOIN at the event page. Spread the word — tell your friends about the giveaway and party via FACEBOOK or TWITTER or Pinterest and increase your chances of winning. Hope to see you on 11/19!

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

A Man of Honor by Lorree Lough

On a steamy spring morning, Dusty Parker part-time pastor, part-time search-and-rescue team member, and full-time administrator of a school for troubled boys joins the search for a missing teenage girl. He partners with volunteer and inner-city school teacher Grace Sinclair, and what they find bonds them in ways neither could have expected. As they begin to build their lives together, a visitor from the past causes Dusty and Grace to further open their hearts and home. But a threat is looming on their seemingly perfect lives and in one terrifying night, everything changes.

My review:
   I don't read many romance novels, but the author is a really nice lady and a great author. Plus, she sent me a copy of the book just for posting a recipe. :-)

  The book isn't really a romance, though there is a lot of romance in it. This series was written to honor First Responders, so there is a lot in the book besides romance.

 I really enjoyed the book. Loree created several great characters, and especially the main character, Dusty, and a terrific plot. There is a lot more to the book than a couple meeting and falling in love. Dusty fosters eleven boys that no one else wanted, and there is even a little bit of suspense as a gang leader causes them trouble trying to get  the boys to add to his gang. I know the book is fictional, but it really struck me how we all need to do more to help others. Yes, it would disrupt your life to foster and try to help kids that had no one and some of who had been in trouble, but we all need to do more than we do. Reading the book made me want to go out and find a bunch of kids to help, which isn't really possible right now, but its great when a fiction book and move you like that and make you want to do something good.

   I won't give any spoilers, but the book doesn't tie up everything in a nice little bow, and I actually didn't like the ending. I sent the author a message that said "Arrrrrgh! How could you....." But it was still worth reading, and I enjoyed all but the ending. :-)  I even read the book in one day, which is what I do when a book is really good. This is a great series, and its nice to see an author undertake a series with the intention of honoring the people who are out there day after day, often risking their lives to save the lives of people they don't know.


About the author:

Yes, it’s true: Once upon a time, best selling author Loree Lough (literally) sang for her supper, performing before packed audiences throughout the Midwest. Now and then, she blows the dust from her 6-string to croon a tune or two for her grandkids, but mostly, she just writes. Over the years, her stories have earned hundreds of industry and "Readers' Choice" awards and 4- and 5-star reviews.
 
Loree has more than 4,000,000 (yes, that’s FOUR MILLION) copies of her books in circulation, and in March of 2014, she’ll have 100 books (fiction and non-fiction for kids and adults; four novels optioned for movies; more releases slated for release between now and 2016), 68 short stories, 2,500+ articles in print, and over 30,000 letters from fans (carton of books to be delivered to Melissa P. in Halifax, Nova Scotia for writing the 30,000th letter)!
 
Loree loves sharing learned-the-hard-way lessons about the craft and the industry, and her comedic approach makes her a favorite (and frequent) guest of writers' organizations, book clubs, private and government institutions, college and high school writing programs both here and abroad.
 
A writer who believes in "giving back," Loree dedicates a portion of her income to Soldiers' Angels, Special Operations Warrior Foundation, and other worthwhile organizations (click the "Giving Back" tab to see a full list).
 
She splits her time between a tiny home in the Baltimore suburbs and an even tinier cabin in the Allegheny Mountains, and shares both with her real-life hero Larry, who rarely complains, even when she adds yet another item to her vast collection of "wolf stuff."


Thanks to Loree for the book, which was not given to me to review, but I posted one anyway. :-)