Monday, December 14, 2015

Our Presidents and Their Prayers by Rand Paul and James Randall Robison

What is the single most important common thread that unites all American Presidents - such a small number of extraordinary people from different centuries, parties, backgrounds and experiences - as they shoulder the overwhelming responsibilities of the office of President of the United States? There is only one possible answer: their faith.

As a respected national leader and a man of deep faith himself, Senator Rand Paul has written OUR PRESIDENTS & THEIR PRAYERS in collaboration with James Randall Robison to remind us all that in a country founded by religious people, that abiding and rock-solid belief in God has been the key to each and every president's strength. 

Senator Paul's inspiring look into the heart-felt sentiments and personal prayers of leaders past and present becomes a powerful testament to our incredible accomplishments: winning the Revolution, writing the Constitution, and leading the world as the most exceptional and longest-lasting democracy in history.

It's nothing short of a miracle, then and now.

Every man who has answered the people's call to become President has looked for and found answers in his faith as he faced the nation's problems, and each president has frequently described his reliance on the Creator in his public speeches, official proclamations and private prayers.

Join Senator Paul in applauding the important role faith has played in our country through over 225 years of triumphs and struggles, justice and injustice, accomplishments and setbacks, war and peace.
In OUR PRESIDENTS & THEIR PRAYERS, Senator Paul stands up to the doubters in this most timely and important affirmation of how faith and prayer have always guided us, and why they must continue to do so as we face major decisions for the future of our country. 

My review:

   This book caught my eye as soon as I saw it in an email containing books I could review. Although I don't particularly like some of the men who have been presidents and am skeptical of  the faith of a few of them, it sounded like a book I would enjoy reading and reviewing; so I requested it.

  The authors did a great job of putting the book together. The book is an attractive hardcover with a dust jacket, and though books cannot be judged by their cover; the cover in this case is a just presentation of the contents.

  Every president is in the book from Washington to Barak Hussen Obama. Some of the presidents get more pages than others, but that is most likely because of how much is known about them and how popular they were/are. Each president has a bio, at least one picture, parts of their inaugural addresses, and quotes about God/religion/faith.

 I found the book interesting and informative, and learned a little more about several presidents and their faith and also other things about them I was not familiar with. Great book for a history lover.

About the authors:


U.S. Senator Rand Paul lives in Bowling Green, Kentucky with his wife and three children. He has been a practicing ophthalmologist for seventeen years. His run for the US Senate representing Kentucky was his first bid for political office. He is the son of Ron Paul, Texas congressman and 2008 Republican Presidential candidate.



JAMES RANDALL ROBISON (Randy) is a writer, video producer and host, and consultant. He lives in Fort Worth, TX with his wife and their four children.


Our Presidents and Their Prayers is available from Center Street Publishing, part of Hachette Book Group.

Thanks to Hachette for the review copy.

Worship Changes Everything by Darlene Zschech

An Invitation to Praise and Honor God in Every Area of Life

It can be easy to have a heart filled with worship on a Sunday morning as the church band is playing your favorite song. But then comes Monday morning's commute and Tuesday afternoon's pile of laundry. How do we maintain a heart of worship in the daily grind?

Darlene Zschech has spent her life thinking and teaching about worship. With wisdom and contagious joy, she shares her thoughts on what worship truly is and how it should invade every facet of our being. Everything we do can be an act of worship to the Lord, transforming our work, our friendships, our churches, our families. It's all about living in His presence--being aware of the Lord by our side and at work in our lives. 

Learn to live a life of worship. You will be amazed by the purpose and freedom it will bring.

My review:

  Who better to write a book about worship than a worship leader and songwriter? Praise and Worship music isn't my most listened to genre' of Christian music, but I am very familiar with Zschech and some of her songs. I was curious to what she might have to say, so I requested the book.

  The book is well written and is an interesting and easy read. It has two sections: The Heart of Worship, and The Hands of Worship. The subtitle of the book is "Experiencing God's Presence in Every Moment of Life", and she does a great job of showing how we can worship God in every day life; not just in church. The book also shows how everything; our actions, attitudes, and more; affect our worship.

 The author uses a lot of Scripture and personal stories to illustrate and support her points, and though this is not an exhaustive resource on worshiping God; there is a lot in here that is helpful and can help us worship God more in the way we should; if we take the contents of the book to heart.

About the author:

Australian Darlene Zschech is acclaimed all over the world as a singer, songwriter, worship leader and speaker, most notably for her involvement in the music from Hillsong Church, Sydney over many years. Although she has achieved numerous gold albums and her songs are sung in many nations of the world, her success simply stands as a testimony to her life’s passion to serve God and people with all her heart. Darlene, alongside her husband Mark, are Senior Pastors of Hope Unlimited Church on the Central Coast of New South Wales, Australia.

As a songwriter, Darlene is perhaps most famous for the chorus “Shout to the Lord,” a song that is sung by millions of churchgoers every week and has been covered by many other artists. “Shout to the Lord” was nominated as Album of the Year for the 1997 Dove Awards and was nominated as Song of the Year for the 1998 Dove Awards. In 2000 Darlene received a Dove Award nomination for Songwriter of the Year and received the International Award for influence in praise and worship.

In addition to “Shout to the Lord,” Darlene has written many songs that have been published worldwide, which apart from Hillsong Music worship projects also include solo projects : “Kiss of Heaven”, “Extravagant Worship”, “Change Your World”, “Simply Darlene”, “You Are Love” and “Revealing Jesus” a live worship album recorded with Grammy award winning Israel Houghton. Through the Compassionart project 2008, Darlene was honoured to be allowed the privilege of writing with some of the most generous-hearted worship writers and leaders of our day, with the goal to write an album where all the monies raised went to others in less fortunate circumstances. Darlene is also passionate about raising and training other worship pastor, leaders, teams and writers and has written four books – “Extravagant Worship”, “The Kiss of Heaven”, “The Art of Mentoring” and the new “Revealing Jesus” devotional. These titles combined have been translated into over 20 different languages.

Many years ago Mark and Darlene made a life commitment to do whatever they could to bring answer and relief to human suffering, and one of their great joys in life is to work with Compassion International, serving the world’s poorest of the poor children.

It was during a Compassion trip to Central Africa in 2004 that Mark and Darlene were prompted to initiate Hope: Rwanda, a global endeavour designed to bring hope to a nation seemingly forgotten since the horrific genocide of 1994. The 100 Days of Hope (April 6 – July 15, 2006) project was strategically coordinated to cover the same 100 days that saw approximately 1 million people viciously slaughtered. Now HOPE: Global continues to bring hope and healing to Rwanda, and a new ‘HOPE’ has spread into Cambodia, Vanuatu, and India. The HOPE team are excited about all the future endeavours that continue to gather great momentum.

Darlene and Mark live in the beautiful Central Coast of New South Wales with their three daughters, Chloe and Zoe, Amy and son-in-law Andrew and beautiful grand-daughter Ava Pearl, grandson Roman Emmanuel Mark and brand new grand-daughter Ruthie Feather. While they travel extensively and have the honour of working and ministering alongside amazing friends around the globe, family remains Darlene’s supreme delight. As she says, “First and foremost I am a woman who simply and wholeheartedly loves Christ, and serves Him through loving my family, serving the church, and speaking up for those who cannot speak for themselves.”

The First Hostage by Joel Rosenberg

“The president of the United States . . . is missing.”

With these words, New York Times journalist J. B. Collins, reporting from the scene of a devastating attack by ISIS terrorists in Amman, Jordan, puts the entire world on high alert. The leaders of Israel and Palestine are critically injured, Jordan’s king is fighting for his life, and the U.S. president is missing and presumed captured.

As the U.S. government faces a constitutional crisis and Jordan battles for its very existence, Collins must do his best to keep the world informed while working to convince the FBI that his stories are not responsible for the terror attack on the Jordanian capital. And ISIS still has chemical weapons . . .

Struggling to clear his name, Collins and the Secret Service try frantically to locate and rescue the leader of the free world before ISIS’s threats become a catastrophic reality.

My review:

   This has been a book I have been looking forward to reading ever since I finished the book that preceded it, The Third Target; which ended on quite the cliffhanger.

  I have often wished that sequels did what TV shows often do when continuing events from an episode that aired a while before, and do a "last time on....."; only for books...... and they actually did that in this book. There is a six-page preface that gives events from The Third Target, which I found helpful and awesome.

  After the preface, the book immediately takes up where the last book left off. A massive airstrike and attack has been launched in the Middle East and the president of the Unites States is missing. At the center of it all is the main character from the first book, J.B. Collins; a news reporter for the New York times.

  Awesome is a word that gets overused, but it is a worthy description of this book. It is obvious that Rosenberg knows his stuff: politics in the US and Middle East, ISIS, Muslims in general, relations between different countries, and military and political actions that would most likely take place and under what circumstances. He takes all of that and spins a fascinating tale that kept me on the edge of my seat. With ISIS growing in power, the events of the book do not seem all that unbelievable and could almost be taken from the news headlines of today.

  Having a news reporter telling events in the first person adds an even more interesting dynamic to the story, and especially such a likable character.

 I had to put the book down a few times, but it is one that I could have read through in one sitting had I had the time. This book is suspenseful, full of drama, action, military fighting, and everything else that Rosenberg is known for. It is possibly the best book I have read this year, and I highly recommend it..... but it should be read after The Third Target.

About the author:


Joel C. Rosenberg is the founder of The Joshua Fund and the New York Times best-selling author of THE LAST JIHAD (2002), THE LAST DAYS (2003), THE EZEKIEL OPTION (2005), THE COPPER SCROLL (2006), EPICENTER (2006) and DEAD HEAT (2008) with more than 1.5 million copies in print. THE EZEKIEL OPTION was named by the ECPA as the Gold Medallion winner of the "Best Novel of 2006." Joel, an evangelical Christian whose mother is Gentile and whose father is from an Orthodox Jewish background, previously worked with several U.S. and Israeli leaders, including Steve Forbes, former Israeli Deputy Prime Minister Natan Sharansky, and  Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. He has been interviewed on hundreds of radio and TV shows.

He and his wife have four sons and live near Washington, DC.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Like Father Like Son by Pete Alwinson

Call it machismo, masculinity, or manliness---it can never anchor a man's life, shape his identity, or repair what is broken in his relationship with his earthly father. Key Life men's ministry expert Pete Alwinson shows convincingly how a growing relationship with our heavenly Father gives a man real purpose as a son, father, brother, or friend.

If you don't know what it means to be a "real man," there are approximately 2,341 books that will tell you how. But Like Father, Like Son is a refreshing message of grace amongst the voices encouraging men to "just do it" or pull themselves up by their bootstraps. By focusing men on their biblical, core identity---being sons of the Father by grace---Like Father, Like Son channels the thirst for adventure and freedom into a radical exploration of grace. Filled with stories collected from the author's forty years of men's ministry, Like Father, Like Son is sure to connect with and encourage men where they really live.


My review:
   As someone who used to struggle a lot to believe God loved me, and still have a little difficulty with viewing God as my father; I was looking forward to reading this book. The author did a great job on writing a book about God being a father to we men.

 The chapters cover the character traits of God as a father. Traits such as God as the welcoming father, the identity-building father, the guiding father, and several others. This is the author's first book, and is is definitely one worth reading on this topic. I not only found it interesting and easy to read, but I also was helped and encouraged by it to view God more as a loving father instead of a demanding tyrant as I used to. He uses examples through the book to make some of his points that make the book even more interesting,

 Each chapter ends with a "take it to heart" section that has six questions for further thought and introspection.

  This book is definitely written for men, and I highly recommend it to any guy whether or not he has trouble viewing God as a Father.

About the author:


Pete Alwinson is Vice President of Leadership and Men for Key Life Network and has pastored in a variety of settings for 30 years. He has also served as an adjunct professor at Reformed Theological Seminary, Orlando, teaching communication and theology of ministry, and has written and spoken nationally for Man in the Mirror and Key Life. He has been married to Caron for 36 years and has two married sons and one college-aged daughter.


Thanks to Litfuse for the review copy.

 
 

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Guest post: Pieces on Earth by Cathy Bryant

  Christian fiction author Cathy Bryant has done a guest blog post for me about peace and her new Christmas book, Pieces on Earth. I have read three of her books and she is a great author. Check her out if you haven't already.


Peace

 Peace. By reading today's headlines, peace seems in short supply, doesn't it? Although it might not be evident, peace is actually available to all. Let me explain.

Peace Defined

The world's definition of peace is absence of war or conflict. I'm not referring to that kind of peace. In fact, I don't believe that kind of peace truly exists worldwide. The kind of peace I'm talking about comes from the Hebrew word shalom, which means wholeness and complete well-being. It's the kind of peace that only God can offer.

The Opposite of Peace

Anxiety. Now there's a word that's not in short supply. Did you know that anxiety is actually a recognized medical condition and is characterized by a fracturing or splintering of our thoughts and minds? We all suffer the ill effects of anxiety from time to time, usually when an unexpected storm blows through. I don't know about you, but I find it highly interesting that God's complete peace is the exact opposite of the broken pieces of anxiety.

How to Experience Peace

When life hands us troubling circumstances, we have two choices. We can either be anxious or at peace. In my humble opinion, that's a no-brainer decision. But how do we acquire this peace?
  • ACCEPT. "Peace I leave with you; My peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid." ~John 14:27
  • FOLLOW: "Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful." ~Colossians 3:15
  • PRAY. "Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." ~Philippians 4:6-7
  • TRUST. "You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast, because they trust in You." ~Isaiah 26:3
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PIECES ON EARTH

Pieces On Earth by Cathy BryantMy latest book, PIECES ON EARTH (Christian fiction Christmas novella, rated at 4.9 stars with 35 reviews), explores in story form this vivid contrast between peace and pieces. Here's the book description:
As a young mother and wife of a naval aviator in sunny Pensacola, Florida, Liv Tulley eagerly anticipates the first Christmas in several years with her husband, daughter, and extended family. Then her husband is unexpectedly deployed for an undetermined amount of time, smashing her white Christmas dreams to bits. She also shoulders a secret as anxious thoughts for her husband's safety bring on a life storm she's not prepared to handle.
Can she find God's peace in the midst of life's pieces?


PURCHASE: | Print | Kindle |
"I highly recommend this story to one and all. Would be a great one to share the gospel with anyone who is searching for the truth." -Amazon Reviewer


Book Tour POE
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About Cathy

Christian author Cathy BryantAmazon best-selling author Cathy Bryant loves writing heart-stirring stories of God's life-changing grace. Her first novel, Texas Roads, is an Amazon best-seller and 2009 American Christian Fiction Writers' Genesis finalist. Since then, she's added five more titles to the beloved Miller's Creek novels (Christian romance and romantic suspense) and is currently at work on the seventh book. In addition to her novels, she's written a Christmas novella, two Bible studies, and co-authored devotional books in collaboration with other Christian authors. She's also written devotionals for The Upper Room magazine. When she's not writing, you might find her rummaging through thrift stores or up to her elbows in yet another home improvement project in the mountain cabin she shares with her minister hubby of over thirty years. She especially enjoys spending time with the world's greatest grand-kids! You can find out more about Cathy and her books at her website--www.CatBryant.com--or in the following online places:


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PIECES ON EARTH eBook Giveaway

Cathy is offering one of you an eBook of PIECES ON EARTH. Drawing is open internationally and concludes on December 21, 2015. The winner will be contacted via email. Enter via the Rafflecopter below. a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, November 30, 2015

The Sparkle Box by Jill Hardie, Illustrated by Christine Kornacki

A Gift with the Power to Change Christmas

The moving story of an uncommon gift and how giving to others shows a little boy the true meaning of Christmas. Sam is so excited about Christmas! He’s thinking about his Christmas list, anticipating holiday parties, and puzzling over one very mysterious gift—a sparkly box sitting on the mantel above the fireplace. In the midst of the festivities, Sam and his family participate in various acts of kindness to others. On Christmas morning, when Sam finally opens the Sparkle Box, he finds only slips of paper that record the family’s good deeds. Sam’s parents explain that the things that they’ve been doing for others are, in fact, a gift for Jesus—for Jesus said that whatever we do for the least of these, we do for Him. This heartfelt story will inspire readers to adopt this faith-centered tradition in their own homes, using the included Sparkle Box.

My review:

   This is a different kind of Christmas book, as it encourages participation and comes with a box to use. The box is to write down things to give Jesus for His birthday by giving to those in need. i.e kids could put in a slip of paper saying "buy gloves for homeless people", etc.

   The book is done in story form, and is done very well with great illustrations. Through the fictional Sam, kids can learn the true meaning of Christmas, which is giving to Jesus. The story is interesting, has a great lesson and moral, and accompanied by the included box is a great way to help kids get their focus off of getting and onto giving during the Christmas season.

 The box is square, measuring 4 inches on each side. It does not have a removable lid or openings, and must be opened each time something is put inside, which may make the box not last as long as if it had a lid that came off completely or a slit to put papers in. It is still a very neat idea and is a book I would recommend to all parents who want to get their kids engaged in the giving side of Christmas.

About the author:

Author Jill Hardie, her husband, and their two children began the tradition of placing a Sparkle Box for Jesus under their Christmas tree approximately seven years ago. The first time they opened His gift, the commercialism of the season melted away and they experienced profound peace and happiness. It's Jill's hope that The Sparkle Box book will ignite a new Christmas tradition that helps center Christmas in the true joy of the season.
"There are many traditions that help us remember the remarkable and beautiful story of the birth of Jesus. My hope is that The Sparkle Box will help us remember Jesus as he is today – in the present. It encourages us to ask the question, 'What gift can we give Jesus on His birthday that will bring Him joy?'
Jesus taught us that whenever we do something for someone in need, we do it for Him. I think loving and caring for each other in His name is the greatest gift we could give to honor Jesus on His birthday."
– Jill Hardie
You can contact Jill Hardie at info@thesparklebox.com.
- See more at: http://www.thesparklebox.com/author.aspx#sthash.7rMDY7kK.dpuf


About the illustrator:


At a very early age, Christine Kornacki developed a love for painting and bringing stories to life. After receiving a BFA in illustration from the University of Hartford, her dreams of illustrating children's books began to take shape. She spends her days painting in her studio, which adjoins a charming café in New Haven, Connecticut.



The Sparkle Box is available from Worthy Publishing.

Thanks to Worthy for the review copy.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

The Word Of Promise New Testament (Audiobook)

Hear the Bible Come Alive in Dramatic Audio Theater™!

This multi-voiced, scripted dramatization of the New King James Version (NKJV) features a star-studded cast of actors, an original music score, and incredible feature film quality sound effects. This world-class production creates a dramatic audio theater experience that makes you feel like you’re really there with Jesus and His disciples. Listen in your car, on your MP3 player, or with your family or small group to gain a new perspective of the Bible.

The Word of Promise® New Testament Audio Bible is a 20-CD set and includes a bonus “Behind-the-Scenes” DVD.

Cast Includes:

Jim Caviezel (The Passion of The Christ, Déjà vu) - Jesus
Academy Award winner Richard Dreyfuss (Mr. Holland's Opus, The Goodbye Girl) - Quotes from Moses
Academy Award winner Marisa Tomei (My Cousin Vinny, What Women Want) - Mary Magdalene
Golden Globe winner Stacy Keach (Prison Break, Hemingway) - Paul
Academy Award and Golden Globe winner Louis Gossett, Jr. (An Officer and a Gentleman, Roots) - John
Kimberly Williams-Paisley (According to Jim, Father of the Bride) - Mary, Mother of Jesus
And many others

My review:

  I have never been a fan of listening to someone read a book on an audio recording, and not even when it is the Bible. This, however; is no ordinary audio Bible. It has different people doing the different voices of people in the Bible along with music and sound effects. There is no monotonous droning of one voice, and when there is one voice for any length of time; they make it sound more dramatic and interesting.

  Listening to this Bible on CD has been a very enjoyable experience to me. It is easy to pay attention and not tune it out, and it has opened the New Testament up to me in a whole new way. To hear the sound of the whip as Jesus is whipped in the Gospels, to hear the pounding of the nails and the groaning as the crucifixion scene is described puts a whole new meaning to the words from the Bible.

  This review is for the New Testament part of the Word of Promise Bible, and it (and the Old Testament) are read in the New King James Version of the Bible. I highly recommend it, especially for people who find it hard to listen to one person reading the Bible.


The Word of Promise New Testament is available from Thomas Nelson Publishing.

Thanks to Thomas Nelson and BookLook Bloggers for the review copy.

Called to Pray by Linda Evans Shepherd

When you feel a nudge to pray, what will you do?

Most of us have felt it at one time or another: that unexplained prompting in our hearts to stop and pray for a friend, a loved one, or even a stranger. Sometimes we are even awakened from a deep sleep with an even deeper need to go to God in prayer. Where do those urges come from? Are they truly from God? Or are they merely stray thoughts? And if we respond in prayer, are others' lives affected at all?

In Called to Pray, Linda Evans Shepherd shares dozens of inspiring true stories of people who have heeded God's call to pray and the astonishing results of those impromptu prayers. Through accounts of people being protected from harm and rescued from danger, of needs being met and hearts being encouraged, you'll see that God is involved in an active and dynamic relationship with us--and that we can be part of his plan to bless others.

If you have ever wondered if prayer has any real effect or doubted that God communicates with us personally, this heart-stirring book will amaze, inspire, and equip you to respond to those holy promptings.

My review:
  I have always been a fan of books that had several stories in so that you could read one or two every once in a while and go back to it without having to remember what had happened as in a continuous story. And when the stories are true, as they are in this book; that makes it all the more interesting.

  This book is set up into ten different kinds of prayer that people have been called to. Some have been for certain situations, for certain people, or even for oneself. Each story is followed by a short prayer that has something to do with the theme of the story.

 The book is interesting and very encouraging. It is very encouraging to read so many stories from one book of answered prayers and also of how God moved people to pray for needs, sometimes that they knew nothing of. Although this isn't a devotional, it could be used as one since they all have a Scripture verse and prayer with each story. I highly recommend it.

About the author:


Linda Evans Shepherd is the author of over thirty books including When You Don't Know What to Pray: How to Talk to God about Anything and When You Can't Find God: How to Ignite the Power of His Presence, and the co-author of the popular series the Potluck Club and the Potluck Catering Club. Linda is an international speaker and media personality and is the creator of RightToTheHeart.tv and appears as a frequent host of Daystar's Denver Celebration.

She's the leader of the Advanced Writers and Speakers Association and president of the nonprofit ministry Right to the Heart, which has seen over 500,000 people come to faith. She's married and has two children. For more, visit www.sheppro.com.


  Called to Pray is available from Revell Publishing, part of the Baker Publishing Group.

Thanks to Revell for the review copy.

 

 

Proverbs Prayers by John Mason

Experience the wisdom of God in your life as never before

The book of Proverbs is a wellspring of wisdom, offering practical guidance for life and the tools to make good choices, withstand pressure, prioritize relationships, and avoid unnecessary trouble. 

Now bestselling author John Mason helps you make that wisdom a part of your inner life. For thirty-one days, he takes you through each chapter of Proverbs, unpacking the wisdom within and providing a heartfelt prayer based on the insights from that chapter. As you read and pray, you'll discover the principles found in this wisdom-packed book coming alive in your life in ways you may never have imagined.

My review:

  I thought this book sounded interesting when I saw it up for review, and I found it to be so. The whole book of Proverbs is in here, mostly in the New American Standard Bible with some verses coming from the King James. Each chapter is followed by a prayer that is based on the chapter that preceded it. I found the prayers to be well written and well thought out and very relevant to any Christian. They also help bring out the ideas and truths in the book of Proverbs in a refreshing new way.

  At the end of the book is a list of Proverbs on several different topics that are arranged in alphabetical order.

 The book would best be used as a 31-day devotional. It is a new and interesting way to read through the book of Proverbs and get some great application for your life.

About the author:


John Mason is a bestselling author, minister, and speaker. He is the founder and president of Insight International and Insight Publishing Group, organizations dedicated to helping people reach their God-given dreams. He lives in Oklahoma.


Proverbs Prayers is available from Revell Publishing, part of the Baker Publishing Group.

Thanks to Revell for the review copy.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

The Christmas Story In 40 Days by Chris Loehmer Kincaid with a giveaway

Do you know the story of the first Christmas, the entire story, not just what you have seen on Christmas specials or heard in Christmas hymns? Take a few minutes each day for the next 40 days to read about the events leading up to this the holiest of nights. Meet the people who were there, Elizabeth, Zachariah, the Angel Gabriel, Mary and Joseph. Travel across the Judean countryside to Nazareth and on to Bethlehem. Witness the birth of Jesus as you never have before. Spend 40 days strengthening your faith. Spend 40 days drawing closer to God. Spend 40 days getting to know your Savior Jesus Christ. 

My review:
  I have accumulated a lot of Christmas books over the years, but none have been anything like this one. Each day starts out with a portion of Scripture from the Message Bible, followed by a reading about someone or something in the Christmas story. That is followed by a section to write notes or thoughts in.

  The book is split up into 40 days, hence the name; and is a great way to cover the whole Christmas story and help focus the mind on the true meaning of Christmas as the season approaches. The readings are well done, interesting, and informative, and covers more details and facts than are normally caught in reading the Christmas story in Matthew and Luke. It is a very well put together book, and is a great tool for this time of year.

About the author (in her words):



 Ever since I was in the third grade, I have been reading and writing anything and everything, from poetry to short stories to inspirational true stories to novels. My dream was always to be a writer, and I thought that would be enough. But in recent years I have come to realize that a much earlier goal – to change the world – can be combined naturally with my writing.

My first book, “A Time for Every Purpose Under Heaven – One Woman’s Trip to Africa: My Story”, was published by Life Sentence Publishing in December 2012. This memoir tells the story of my mission trip to Kenya in 2006 and how it changed how I look at life and how I look at the God I love and serve. After the book was published, I was drawn to return to Kenya, where my daughter had already decided to start a nonprofit organization to help the people we had met there. We may not be able to change the entire world, but we can improve the world for many people.

The Christmas Story in 40 Days is available from Aneko Publishing.

Thanks to Aneko for the review and giveaway copies.

Giveaway:
  Courtesy of Aneko Publishing, I have one copy of The Christmas Story in 40 Days to give away.

To enter, comment with your favorite thing about Christmas, or favorite tradition.

One week from today, December 2; I will pick a winner using Random.org.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Without Proof by Janet Sketchley

"Asking questions could cost your life."

Two years after the plane crash that killed her fiancé, Amy Silver has fallen for his best friend, artist Michael Stratton. When a local reporter claims the small aircraft may have been sabotaged, it reopens Amy's grief.

Anonymous warnings and threats are Amy's only proof that the tragedy was deliberate, and she has nowhere to turn. The authorities don't believe her, God is not an option, and Michael's protection is starting to feel like a cage.

How will Amy find the truth?

Michael's feisty great-aunt and the dead man's university-student sister are the other key players in this Christian romantic suspense set in Nova Scotia, Canada.


My review:
  I was happy to have this author offer me a review copy of her newest book, as I had enjoyed reading and reviewing her other two novels in the Redemption's Edge series.

   This novel is romantic suspense and the main character is related to the ones in the first two books. Janet has again come up with some great characters and an even better plot than the first two books. Authors often tend to get better with each novel that write, and  Janet proves this true in this third novel she has written.

  The suspense aspect is done very well. I wasn't sure for a lot of the book if the threatening texts Amy was getting was from friend or foe, nor could I figure out who the bad guys were. There were a couple of surprises, and especially one big one that I didn't see coming - that would be too big of a spoiler to give away, so that isn't happening.

  I appreciate Christian authors who aren't afraid to put Christian content in their books, and this one had a lot. The issue was dealt with of God loving us even if we have done something bad, or we perceive we have done something bad because of our birth and upbringing. The message came through loud and clear that God loves all of us, and He doesn't view us as damaged good or beyond redemption no matter what we or our parents done. Often, a message like that can be gotten across better through a story, so kudos to the author for addressing such an important issue that is a problem for so many people.

  And I even enjoyed the romantic aspect of the book. As a confirmed bachelor, I don't enjoy romance books; but I can handle it in a story where it isn't the main part of the story. I thought that part was also well done and was silently urging the male hero of the story to get a move on.

  Janet can be proud of this third novel she has penned. It is a suspenseful story that also offers hope to those who struggle to believe God loves them. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and am glad I had the chance to read and review it.

About the author: (from her website) 



I’m a Canadian author who loves stories with strong characters, adventure and hope. My novels, Heaven’s Prey, Secrets and Lies, and Without Proof (coming Nov/15) are stories of suspense and redemption.

Fiction’s my passion, but my story in  the award-winning anthology A Second Cup of Hot Apple Cider really happened.

Random facts: My super-power is untangling yarn and Slinkies™; there are over 50 varieties of tea in my house; I’m Canadian but I worked at the busiest McDonalds in London, England; I’ve taken basic fencing lessons; and I once rode an elephant.

I’m also a wife, mom, daughter, friend, neighbour… a Christian growing in faith, trying to balance relationships and responsibilities. Can you relate?

If you like Christian suspense, sign up for my newsletter. Every month I’ll send you an email with news and fiction tidbits.

Because of Jesus,

Janet

Find more about Janet and her books on her website.


Thanks to Janet for the review copy of Without Proof.

The Aleppo Code by Terry Brennan

Will the code reveal history’s most powerful weapon for destruction—or humanity’s only hope?

The living members of Tom Bohannon’s band of adventurers gather again in Jerusalem—physically battered, emotionally exhausted, spiritually challenged, and in various stages of shock—to examine a copy of the tenth-century Aleppo Code, the oldest complete text of Jewish scripture. What the clues inside reveal could lead to the reuniting of the Ark of the Covenant with its true source of power, a weapon that could lead to victory for this ragged bunch trying to save the world.

Hunted by the relentless assassins of the Prophet’s Guard and caught in the web of an international conspiracy plotting the conquest of Europe, Bohannon’s team searches the ruins of Ancient Babylon. Their search lands them amid the chaos that engulfs western Iraq, but they must press on to accomplish one of the most pivotal pieces of end-times prophecy. This intrepid group will uncover secrets that require them to risk everything for their faith, their country, and the peace of all mankind. 

Unfolding against the backdrop of an Israeli/U.S. strike against Iran and the planned economic overthrow of the European Union by the sinister, secret head of the international Muslim Brotherhood, The Aleppo Code is a heart-pounding race. Brennan takes an epic story on a grand scale and tells it primarily through the eyes of one man who is desperately trying to save the world as he follows God’s purpose for his life.

My review:
  This whole series is exciting and worth reading, but they seemed to get better and more exciting the further I read in the trilogy.

  The Aleppo Code brings back most of the same characters from the other two books and picks up right where the second book ended. The book has a very interesting plot with a race to find a Biblical artifact that leads for a search to find the Garden of Eden. There is all kinds of excitement, drama, and suspense in the novel, and it reminded me a lot of an Indiana Jones adventure, only from a Christian standpoint.

  This book definitely falls into the read-in-one-sitting category. It was one that I didn't want to put down until I finished it, and I did read it in one evening. The author had to have done a lot of research on history, geography, and on Jewish-Muslim relations to come up with a well done novel such as this that takes the reader all over the Middle East. The whole series is an exciting ride from the streets of New York City to the Middle East with all kinds of danger and suspense lurking on each page, and some very likable characters. I learned a lot while being entertained.  I enjoyed the whole series a lot and was sad to see that this is most likely the last book in the series, but it was a terrific conclusion to the series. It is definitely worth reading, but should be read in order.

About the author: 


A Pulitzer-Prize winning journalist and an award-winning author, Terry Brennan's career is marked with triumph in both the profit and non-profit business sectors and now again in his growing following as an author of fast-paced action-adventure novels that mix today's geo-political reality with fascinating twists of fiction.

Brennan's first two novels - The Sacred Cipher and its sequel, The Brotherhood Conspiracy - have received high praise from readers and reviewers alike, and will soon be followed by the third and final book in the series, The Aleppo Code. The Sacred Cipher is the Silver Award winner for Fiction in the ForeWord Reviews Book of the Year contest for 2009. In April, 2013 Publisher's Weekly called The Brotherhood Conspiracy "an international mystery thriller with a rapid-fire plot ... a feast for the senses ... intrigue that teeters on the edge of overdose."

Prior to launching his career as an author, Brennan's 22-year, award winning journalism career included:
* Seven years as a sportswriter and editor with The Philadelphia Bulletin, at the time the largest-circulation afternoon newspaper in the nation;
* Leading The Mercury of Pottstown (PA), as its editor, to a Pulitzer Prize in Editorial Writing;
* Serving as Executive Editor of a multi-national newspaper firm - Ingersoll Publications - with 400 newspapers in the USA, England and Ireland.

In 1996 Brennan transferred his successful management career to the non-profit sector and served for 12 years as Vice President of Operations for The Bowery Mission and three other ministries of the New York City-based parent organization, the Christian Herald Association, Inc.

Now Chief Administrative Officer for the non-profit agency Care for the Homeless in New York City, Brennan also won the Valley Forge Award for editorial writing from the Freedoms Foundation.

His two adult sons and their families live in Pennsylvania. Terry and his wife Andrea live in New York City area. Their daughter, son-in-law and granddaughter live in West Chester County and their son resides in Brooklyn. His first novel, The Sacred Cipher, was published by Kregel Publications and released in July of 2009. The sequel, The Brotherhood Conspiracy, was released in June, 2013.


The Aleppo Code and other books in the Jerusalem Prophecies Series is available from Kregel Publishing.

Thanks to Kregel for the review copy.



Friday, November 20, 2015

The Five Times I Met Myself by James Rubart

What if you met your twenty-three-year-old self in a dream? What would you say?

Brock Matthews' once promising life is unraveling. His coffee company. His marriage.

So when he discovers his vivid dreams---where he encounters his younger self---might let him change his past mistakes, he jumps at the chance. The results are astonishing, but also disturbing.

Because getting what Brock wants most in the world will force him to give up the one thing he doesn't know how to let go . . . and his greatest fear is that it's already too late.

My review:
  I have been a big fan of James Rubart's books ever since reading his first novel, Rooms. His books are always different, and offer a great read and make you think. I have never been disappointed, but I was dubious about this one. The cover isn't one that grabbed me, and the plot sounded a bit bizarre; but he is a favorite author of mine and I was going to read it for that reason if no other.

  I was pleasantly surprised. The plot was definitely different: a man meeting his younger self in his dreams and managing to change the past through these meetings. It made for a fascinating read that I didn't want to put down because I wanted to see what would happen next and how the book would end. It has a lot of twists and turns and you don't know what is going to happen next. There is a lot of bouncing back and forth between dreams and awake and from one timeline to another, but it is done in a way that is easy to keep up with.

  The book is an excellent read, but it also carries a great message. The theme I saw throughout the book was the theme of surrender to God. Complete and utter surrender. And it brought it out in a way I had never seen before. I have always gotten the idea of surrendering my life and future to God, but the book emphasizes the need to surrender our past, our regrets, and what we'd do differently if we could. Most of us probably don't realize how much we are held back by regrets and our past. There is more to be gained from the book, but I'll leave it at that so I don't give any spoilers away; but this is a book that can change your life if you let it.

  Christian fiction gets a bad wrap from some, and there is some that isn't worth reading and some that is just fluff, but this is a book that sets the standard high for Christian fiction. It is definitely worth reading.


About the author: 
James L. Rubart is a professional marketer and speaker. He is the author of the best-seller Rooms and award-winning Soul's Gate, the book that precedes Memory's Door in the Well Spring series. Rubart and his wife have two sons and live in the Pacific Northwest.


The Five Times I Met Myself is available from Thomas Nelson Publishing.

Thanks to Litfuse Publicity for the review copy.
  

Thursday, November 19, 2015

ESV Men's Devotional Bible with a giveaway

Our world presents daily distractions that can easily displace Christ as the center of a man’s heart and life. The goal of the ESV Men’s Devotional Bible is to strengthen and encourage men through the life-giving Word of God and sound devotional content aimed at nurturing godliness.

With 365 theologically rich and gospel-centered devotions drawn directly from the Bible, this all-new resource was created under the editorial oversight of Dr. Sam Storms with contributions from over fifty Christian leaders. Introductions orient men to each book of the Bible, exploring its unique contribution to a man’s walk with God. Thoughtful and instructive articles address the importance of sound doctrine, life in the local church, leadership, the heart, calling, and a host of other relevant issues for today.

The Men’s Devotional Bible will strengthen men in their walk with Christ, helping them apply the gospel and the truth of God's Word in their homes, churches, and workplaces.

Features:

365 brand-new devotions
Brand-new book introductions
14 brand-new articles 
Dictionary of key terms
Ribbon marker

My review:
The version:   I have just recently become familiar with the ESV (English Standard Version), and I really like it. It is an easy to read translation that I feel is well translated. And from what I read, it often is close to the King James Version in wording without the words we don't use anymore.

The Devotional Bible:
The devotionals are spread all throughout the Bible, and the devotional is about whatever passage of Scripture it is found by. They are geared for men, though many of them are general enough to be for anyone. They are not numbered by day or date, and it has the page number of the next devotional on each one. Several different men wrote the entries for the devotionals, and they are well written and thought out. I didn't read all 365 of them, but I used the Bible for the last couple of weeks and found the entries that I read very helpful.

  I have one issue with the Bible: The Books of the Bible, titles of the devotional, authors, subject changes in the Scripture, and other things are in gold print. Maybe I am just getting old, but some of it is difficult to read and a different color would have been better for that.

  As a side note, I have been looking at this Bible and was very interested in it, so I was very happy to have the chance to review it. I was not disappointed. This is very well done and would make a great tool for any Christian man.


The ESV Men's Devotional Bible is available from Crossway Publishing.

Thanks to FlyBy Promotions for the review and giveaway copies.

Giveaway:
Courtesy of FlyBy Promotions, I have one hardcover copy of the  ESV Men's Devotional Bible to give away.

To enter, comment with who you would give the Bible to if you won it, including yourself if you are a guy.

On November 29, I will pick a winner using Random.org.

Please make sure there is way to contact you if you are the winner.


Messy Grace by Caleb Kaltenbach

Sometimes, grace gets messy.

Caleb Kaltenbach was raised by LGBT parents, marched in gay pride parades as a youngster, and experienced firsthand the hatred and bitterness of some Christians toward his family.

But then Caleb surprised everyone, including himself, by becoming a Christian…and a pastor.

Very few issues in Christianity are as divisive as the acceptance of the LGBT community in the church. As a pastor and as a person with beloved family members living a gay lifestyle, Caleb had to face this issue with courage and grace. 

Messy Grace shows us that Jesus’s command to “love your neighbor as yourself” doesn’t have an exception clause for a gay “neighbor”—or for that matter, any other “neighbor” we might find it hard to relate to. Jesus was able to love these people and yet still hold on to his beliefs. So can you. Even when it’s messy.

My review:
  I'll admit I wasn't sure what to expect when I started reading this book. With so many churches and Christians going with pro-gay theology, and the author being the son of two gay parents; I wondered if he might be of that persuasion.

  As I read the book, I was happy to see the author does not go with the pro-gay theology. He does a great job of balancing the truth with compassion. A lot of the book emphasizes the need for Christians to be more loving towards gay people, and accept them as people. Since he grew up around gay pride parades and other gay related things, he saw a lot of hate from Christians and knows from personal experience He then addresses the need to be honest and not compromise the truth of what the Bible says about homosexuality.

  There is something for everyone in this book. If you're a Christian afraid of gay people, if you're pro-gay theology, and if you are gay yourself. He covers what to say and what not to say if someone confides in you that you're gay, and has some very helpful things to say to those who are gay but want to be a Christian. And there is a lot in the book about how churches need to be more welcoming to people who are not like us and who don't have it all together.

 The book is a fast read and is an awesome testimony that God can reach anyone anywhere. I did feel the author was a bit too careful to condemn people living gay lifestyles and professing to be Christians, but overall this is an excellent book all Christians should read; whether or not you think you know any gay people.

About the author:

Caleb Kalenbach is the Lead Pastor at Discovery Church in Simi Valley, CA.Raised in the LGBT community, he was exposed to how some Christians treated the LGBT community, and grew to hate Christians. In high school, he joined a Bible study to disprove the Bible, but ended up following Jesus instead. Later, his parents followed Jesus too. This is the subject of his first book, "Messy Grace" --holding on to the truth of God's Word while being filled with grace.Caleb is a graduate of Ozark Christian College, Talbot School of Theology (Biola University), and is finishing his doctorate at Dallas Theological Seminary. He speaks widely on the subjects of reconciliation, faith, diversity, and grace/truth. Caleb and his wife, Amy, reside in Southern California with their two kids.


Messy Grace is available from Waterbrook/Multnomah Publishing.

Thanks to Waterbrook/Multnomah for the review copy.

Another Way Home by Deborah Raney

Sometimes God's ways are not at all what we expect . . . and exactly what we need.

Grant and Audrey are adding grandchildren to their family left and right, but middle daughter, Danae, and her husband, Dallas Brooks, have been trying for years with no baby in sight.

Though Danae is ready to consider adoption, Dallas will not even discuss it. Despairing of ever having a family of her own, Danae decides to pour her passion and energies into volunteer work with a newly opened women's shelter in town. Looking for a good cause to fill her lonely days, she never expects to give her heart to the hurting women she meets there. She's finally learning to live her life with gratitude, but then heart-wrenching events on Thanksgiving weekend threaten to pull the entire Whitman clan into turmoil---and leave them all forever changed.

My review:
  Maybe it is weird that I like this series since I am a guy, but I do. I have always enjoyed a series that focused on one family as this one does, and they aren't really what I'd call romance books though they do have romance in them.

  This is the third book in the Chicory Inn Series, and is the best so far in my opinion. Another Way Home deals with a couple wanting children and not being able to have any. Danae, the main character, doesn't just have to deal with wanting children and not being able to have any, but she also has to deal with her sisters having children about every year.

  The book was a great read with some unexpected twists and turns. Raney did a great job of portraying the anguish of a childless couple and of the friction that can go on between the couple as they try over and over again with no results.

  The reader also gets a glimpse into the world of women's shelters and what goes on as women hide out from abusive husbands and girlfriends.

  I typically read Christian suspense and can get so into those kind of books that I don't want to put it down, but that happened with this book. I got so caught up in the story that I kept reading until I got to the end. And though the book isn't suspense, there were some suspenseful moments in the book when you don't know what is going to happen. I found it a very emotional read, even though I am a single guy, and found my eyes "watering" a few times.

  I won't give any spoilers, but the author brought a great solution into the mix for the couple and the book ended on a great note. One thing I thought the author should have done, is brought Dallas' brother into the ending of the story. After talking to Dallas a lot about one solution to the childless problem, I thought it a bit odd that the brother wasn't around when they ended up doing exactly what the brother suggested. Maybe it was an accidental oversight. Regardless, this is a fantastic novel that I would recommend, though the first two books should be read first.

About the author:


  Deborah Raney's books have won numerous awards, including the RITA, National Readers Choice Award, HOLT Medallion, and the Carol Award, and have twice been Christy Award finalists. She and her husband, Ken, recently traded small-town life in Kansas---the setting of many of Deborah's novels---for life in the (relatively) big city of Wichita, where they enjoy gardening, antiquing, movies, and traveling to visit four children and a growing brood of grandchildren who all live much too far away.


Thanks to Litfuse Publicity for the review copy

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Ishtar's Odyssey by Arnold Ytreeide

A new Advent family devotional from the author of Jotham's Journey! Fourth in a set of Advent adventure books for families, Ishtar's Odyssey follows the ten-year-old son of a Persian wise man as their caravan follows a star across the desert. Ishtar would just as soon stay in the comfort of the palace, but slowly he learns that there's much to see, do, and learn in this world that can't be experienced in school. He eventually meets Jotham, Bartholomew, and Tabitha as he follows his father and uncles in their search for a newborn king. 

Arnold Ytreeide's family advent devotionals have become a much-loved Christmas tradition, enjoyed by multiple generations. With over 100,000 in print they include Jotham's Journey, Bartholomew's Passage, and Tabitha's Travels. 


My review:
  This is the third book Arnold Ytreeide has written, but is the first one I have read and reviewed. Although the book is geared for kids, I enjoyed reading through the story and seeing the suggestions how to observe Advent while using the book.

 The book is set up with weekly readings, telling when to light the Advent candles. It starts out with a description of the Magi, Advent customs, and suggestion of foods to eat while going through the book.

  The story itself centers on Ishtar, son of one of the Maji. It starts with the discovery of a new star, and follows the journey of the Maji along with Ishtar from Persia to Bethlehem. The author takes some license with the story, adding to the little we know about the Maji and their journey to make an exciting and interesting read to celebrate Advent with. I highly recommend it.

About the author:



Arnold Ytreeide is a former youth pastor, police officer and television producer who now spends his days writing books and teaching film at a Christian university. He grew up in the Seattle area, and now resides near Boise, Idaho. He loves travel, scuba diving, filmmaking, and reading. Arnold is married to Elsie, and has two grown and married children and four granddaughters.

With a degree in theology and a lifetime of searching out the truths in God's Word, he wrote the story of Jotham's Journey for his own children when they were young.

When asked about his philosophy/theology of life, Arnold responded: "I believe absolutely in the self-giving love of a creator God as the foundation of the universe, and in the unselfish example of Jesus Christ His Son as the model and goal for our own lives. I believe we could enjoy the benefits of Heaven on earth today if only we could grasp the depth and sufficiency of God's love, and reflect this selfless love in our attitudes and actions towards others. I stand with Martin Luther's 'Justification by Faith,' and with John Wesley when he writes that Love is, '...the attribute that sheds an amiable glory on all (God's) other perfections.'"

Arnold takes this distinct and simple theology and transforms it into wonderfully readable and compelling stories. As with so many of his writings and productions, he talks plainly to every-day folk using the medium of story, and in so doing touches both our minds and our hearts.

Besides degrees in Criminal Justice and Theology, Arnold has an M.A. in Communication and a Ph.D. in Media Communication, as well as certificates in Film Producing and Film Directing.  His experience and education allow him to teach everything from law to screenwriting to cinematography and directing.

On his work and accomplishments Arnold writes, "I am a sinner, first and foremost, which makes God's grace and forgiveness the first and foremost accomplishment of my life, an accomplishment which I do not deserve, and has nothing to do with my own talent or skills.  In my life I have hurt many, the regret of which fuels my ever-growing desire to be more like Christ.  In my life I have received blessing upon blessing, and if any of that can be called an accomplishment, it is the accomplishment of God's spirit within me.  I am truly nothing, without Him."

Check out the author's website here.


Ishtar's Odyssey is available from Kregel Publishing.

Thanks to Kregel for the review copy.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

The Christmas Joy Ride by Melody Carlson

Miranda did not put adventure on her Christmas list, but thanks to her eighty-five-year-old neighbor Joy, that's exactly what she's getting this year. When Joy tells Miranda that she plans to drive an old RV decked out in Christmas decorations from their Chicago neighborhood to her new retirement digs in Phoenix--in the dead of winter, no less--the much younger Miranda insists that Joy cannot make such a trip by herself. Unemployed and facing foreclosure, Miranda feels she has nothing to lose by packing a bag and heading off with Joy toward Route 66. But Joy has a hidden agenda for their Christmas joyride--one that could derail the whole venture.

No one captures the heartwarming fun of the Christmas season quite like Melody Carlson. Fasten your seat belt, because it's going to be an exciting ride!

My review:
  Melody Carlson has been writing a Christmas novel every year for several years now, and has become synonymous for me with a good Christmas story. I believe this is her ninth Christmas story, and she has again managed to come up with a story that isn't at all like her others.

  They say you can't judge a book by its cover, but the cover of this one grabs you and makes you want to read it. The gaudily decorated RV on the cover promises an entertaining and amusing read, and Carlson definitely delivers. The idea of an eight-five year old woman driving an RV from Chicago to Phoenix is amusing in and of itself, but there are other things in the story just as entertaining and amusing.

  The book is a quick and easy read that is full of well written dialogue, great characters, the true meaning of Christmas, and even some romance. I found myself smiling a lot as I read the book and wishing I could give Christmas to some people like the duo in the book did.

 Christmas is all all about giving. God gave His Son, so we give to others at Christmas. This book emphasizes that we should do more than just give to family and friends and to people who are going to give back. The best giving is when we give to those who cannot give back, and that is the message of The Christmas Joy Ride. This is a great and fun read that I enjoyed every minute of, and Melody Carlson can chalk up another success in her new Christmas novel.

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.

The Christmas Joy Ride is available from Revell Publishing, part of the Baker Publishing Group.

Thanks to Revell for the review copy.

Keeping Christmas by Dan Walsh

Stan opened the ugly ornaments box and pulled out the top three ornaments, the ones wrapped in green paper, the kids' favorites, and set them on the coffee table. He picked up the first one, the biggest one--Anna's blue pine cone--and began to unwrap it. Without thinking, Judith walked up, stopped him, and gently took it out of his hand. She wrapped it back up, set it carefully in the box. Then picked up the other two ornaments, put them in the box, and closed the flaps.

"What's the matter?" Stan said. "Did I do something wrong?"

"I don't think I can do this."


Nothing is more beautiful than family

For the first time since their children were born, empty nesters Judith and Stan Winters spent Thanksgiving without the kids, and it's looking like Christmas will be the same. Judith can't bring herself to even start decorating for the holiday; her kids always hung the first ornaments on the tree, ornaments they had made each year since they were toddlers. Sure, the ornaments were strange-looking--some were downright ugly--but they were tradition.

With Judith refusing to decorate the bare spruce tree in their living room, Stan's only hope for saving the holiday is found in a box of handmade ornaments . . .

My review:
  Dan Walsh made his debut into Christian fiction with a Christmas novel, and I became an instant fan of his writing. I am always happy to be able to read and review one of his novels, so I didn't have to think twice about requesting this one.

  For Christians, Christmas is obviously all about Jesus birth and we try to focus on that during the busy season. It also is a time for family, which this novel brings out in a great way. The main characters are a couple dealing with their three adult children and families not coming home for Christmas. As is usually the case, the woman takes it harder than the guy. Walsh did a great job of creating some great characters for the book and an enjoyable and entertaining plot. His portrayal of a mother and grandmother dealing with the idea of Christmas without most of her family is spot on and brought up a lot of fond memories in my mind of our family Christmases down through the years.

  Although the book is fictional, there are some ideas given how to still have Christmas even if the whole family can't be there, though how those work will remain unsaid by me - you'll have to read the book.

  I enjoyed the humorous descriptions of the ugly ornaments in the story, and though I figured out how the book was going to go; I still enjoyed the ending and message of the book. A definite recommended read by this great author.

About the author:

Dan Walsh is the bestselling author of several books, including The Dance and The Promise with Gary Smalley, as well as The Unfinished Gift, The Discovery, and The Reunion. He has won three Carol Awards, and two of his novels were finalists for RT Book Reviews Inspirational Book of the Year for 2011 and 2012. A member of American Christian Fiction Writers, Dan served as a pastor for twenty-five years. He lives with his wife in the Daytona Beach area, where he's busy researching and writing his next novel. Visit www.danwalshbooks.com for more.


Keeping Christmas is available from Revell Publishing, part of the Baker Publishing Group.

Thanks to Revell for the review copy.

Friday, November 13, 2015

The God You Thought You Knew by Alex McFarland

Maybe We've Been Wrong About God All This Time

We call this the information age, but it's also the age of misinformation--especially when it comes to God and Christianity. Many of us believe the Christian God is far away and unapproachable, that we have to be good to be accepted by him, and that the Bible is just an antiquated list of do's and don'ts. But maybe none of that is true. Maybe we've gotten it wrong.

Instead of proofs for God's existence, what we really need are compelling reasons to want to know him, and those reasons are more personal than we sometimes think. Through sharing his own story, author and speaker Alex McFarland shows how the God you thought you knew actually cares about you--about the rejection and loneliness you feel. It's time to replace the half-truths and lies we believe about ourselves with his overwhelming love and forgiveness.

We all want acceptance and purpose. Let this book teach you how to be anchored in the security that comes through knowing God for who he really is.

My review:
   
The author starts this book out by telling a little about how he was raised, and how that affected his views of God. To have been raised and treated the way he was by his father and still end up serving God is amazing. The book covers some of the things he had to deal with and come to believe.

Each chapter starts out with a myth about Christianity and God, followed by the truth that contradicts the myth. McFarland then writes the chapter to combat the myth and show the truth. The book is an easy read, yet has a lot of deep truths in it. I personally haven't struggled with most of the myths in the book, but have had my questions and doubts about a few things which he addressed in the book. He does a great job of addressing the issue and putting it out there in plain and simple terms why the myth is wrong and what the truth is.

 This book would be great for a new Christian or a more mature Christian who may have some questions about the things the book deals with. It is an interesting and helpful book.

About the author:


Alex McFarland is a speaker, writer, and apologist. He has preached in over 1,500 different churches throughout North America and internationally, and has been featured at conferences such as the Billy Graham School of Evangelism, Focus on the Family's Big Dig, Josh McDowell's True Foundations events, and many more. In 2011, Alex became cohost of Explore the Word, which is heard weekdays in the nearly 200 markets served by the American Family Radio Network. Alex and his wife, Angie, live in Greensboro, North Carolina. Learn more at www.alexmcfarland.com.


The God You Thought You Knew is available from Bethany House Publishing, part of the Baker Publishing Group.

Thanks to Bethany House for the review copy.
  

Batheshba: Reluctant Beauty by Angela Hunt

One of Ancient Israel's Most Famous Women--
As You've Never Looked at Her Before

One of the Bible's most misunderstood and misjudged women, Bathsheba comes to life in this new biblical reimagining from Angela Hunt. Combining historical facts with detailed fiction, this is an eye-opening portrait that will have you reconsidering everything you thought you knew about her.

After receiving God's promise of a lifelong reign and an eternal dynasty, King David forces himself on Bathsheba, a loyal soldier's wife. When her resulting pregnancy forces the king to murder her husband and add her to his harem, Bathsheba struggles to protect her son while dealing with the effects of a dark prophecy and deadly curse on the king's household.

My review:
   This is the second book in the Dangerous Beauty series by Angela Hunt. The first book was about Esther, and gave some interesting insight through that story. I so enjoyed it that I wanted to review this one.

  I can't remember ever reading a novel about Bathsheba. I have read the story in the Bible countless times and have even studied it in Sunday School and heard sermons about the story, but this is the first novel I have read that recounts the story through Biblical fiction. In the Bible story, we don't get Bathsheba's side. It is pretty much centered on David. Hunt has given us a glimpse into what it might have been like for Bathsheba by telling the story from her viewpoint. The book is written from the first person point of view, with the "I" in the story being Bathsheba. As always with Biblical fiction, the author took a lot of license and imagination to come up with the story, yet it doesn't go opposite to or contradict the Biblical narrative in any way.

  I found the book an interesting and fascinating read. To see, even through the lens of Biblical fiction what the whole ordeal may have been like for Bathsheba gave the story new light and meaning. Hunt did a great job of bring the tale to the medium of Christian fiction and did the story a lot of justice. I found the book hard to put down, and came away with new appreciation for the story.

About the author:


The author of more than 100 published books and with nearly 5 million copies of her books sold worldwide, Angela Hunt is the New York Times bestselling author of The Note, The Nativity Story, and Esther: Royal Beauty. Romantic Times Book Club presented Angela with a Lifetime Achievement Award in 2006. In 2008, Angela completed her PhD in Biblical Studies in Theology. She and her husband live in Florida with their mastiffs. She can be found online at www.angelahuntbooks.com.


Bathsheba is available from Bethany House Publishers, part of the Baker Publishing Group.

Thanks to Bethany House for the review copy.

Christmas Time, It's All About Jesus

Since Christmas is such a captivating time of year, it's the perfect setting for telling children about the miracle of the Lord Jesus Christ's birth. Using selected passages from the first chapters of the gospels of Matthew and Luke, Christmas Time - It's All About Jesus tells the story of Jesus' birth in a delightfully poetic and child-like way. The sensational illustrations create an unforgettable image, so a child can always remember the true meaning of Christmas. As an added bonus, Pastor Russ and Sue have developed devotionals to be used by families to enrich their Christmas celebrations. These are complete with attributes and names of Jesus, questions for discussion, and activities to do as a family to share Christ with those around them. Coupled together, this story and devotionals will enhance your celebration of Christmas during the season and all year long!

My review:
   This is a delightful book to help explain the real meaning of Christmas to young children. The author tells the Christmas story from the Bible accompanied by some great illustrations, all on a level that little children can understand. The last few pages of the book contain six Christmas devotions for children, and the book ends with an invitation to accept Jesus as their Savior. The story itself is told in rhyme, making it even easier for kids to understand and remember.

  There are a lot of Christmas books on the market for children, and many tell the true meaning of Christmas, but not many do it with the simplicity and plainness of this book. The author and illustrator have come up with a great book that kids should enjoy for years to come. It is  quick and easy read, and the devotionals are also very well written.

About the author:

Sue Murray Barksdale has been a pastor's wife, mom, and educator for over 30 years. She and her husband Russ live in Arlington, Texas, where Russ pastors the multi-site The Church on Rush Creek, a multi-site church. Sue has a BS in Elementary Education from The University of Houston and enjoys teaching at a public charter school in their neighborhood. Russ and Sue consider their relationship with their grown children and spouses and their six beautiful grandchildren as one of the greatest blessings in life! Their desire to leave a legacy of Christ-centered lives motivated them to write this book for their own family and all the children in their sphere of influence. This is Sue's second book, her first being G.I.F.T.S.: A Prayer Book for Kids and Those Who Love Them.