Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Gifts from Heaven: True Stories of Miraculous Answers to Prayer by James Stuart Bell

Book description: 

Remarkable True Stories of Miraculous Answers to Prayer

Many people pray, but some don't really believe that God is listening. Answers to prayer can be so small and ordinary that they go unnoticed. But every so often we are powerfully reminded that God does indeed hear and answer prayer. What begins with simple faith and a basic prayer from an average Christian ends with an astounding gift from our loving heavenly Father. 
In this new collection, ordinary people recount miraculous answers to prayer--things that could only happen with God's supernatural intervention, such as unexplainable healings and amazing protection in life-threating situations. This book will inspire you to believe that God can answer even your most seemingly impossible prayers, fulfilling your deepest needs and biggest dreams.

My review:

  I have always enjoyed books that had multiple short stories in. They make for great reading when you are reading in small spurts. And when it is a book like this full of true miraculous stories, that makes it all the better.

  Sometimes it seems none of our prayers are getting answered, and it is easy to overlook the ones that are getting answered. It is good to hear of or read about answers to prayer other people have had as it can be encouraging to oneself.

 This book has a lot of answers to prayer in it. There are around forty stories of answers to prayer in this book. They are by both men and women from all walks of life. Some are big answers to prayer, and others may seem small, but they are all true and miraculous.

 James Stuart Bell did a great job of compiling these stories and telling them in his own words. They are interesting, encouraging, and easy to read. I was encouraged and convicted as I read these stories and realized how easy I give up on praying for some things. Sure, God may not answer in the way I want Him to, but I give up too easily.

 I would recommend this book to anyone, but especially to those who feel like their prayers are not getting answered. This may be the boost of encouragement those people need.

I was given a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

About the author:


James Stuart Bell is the owner of Whitestone Communications, a literary development agency. He consults with numerous publishers, represents various authors, and provides writing and editing services. He has previously served as executive editor at Moody Press, director of religious publishing at Doubleday, and publisher at Bridge Publishing. He also has more than one hundred books with cover credit. He coauthored the best-selling Complete Idiot's Guide to the Bible (more than 300,000 sold) and numerous other Christian guides in that series for the Penguin Group. He has also contributed numerous Christian volumes to the best-selling Cup of Comfort series by Adams Media.


Gifts from Heaven: True Stories of Miraculous Answers to Prayer is available from Bethany House Publishers.

Thanks to Bethany House for the review copy.




   


Pursued, Nikki Boyd Files #3 by Lisa Harris

Book description:

Nikki Boyd's flight into Nashville was routine--up until the crash landing at the airport. When the dust settles, Nikki discovers that the woman who had been seated next to her on the plane is missing--and no one will admit she was ever there. Erika Hamilton had been flying to Nashville with an air marshal as a key witness in an upcoming grand jury trial. When she flees from the crash, is she running from trouble or straight into it? Before Nikki can even see her family, she and her team are pulled into a missing persons case where the motives are as unclear as the suspects.


My review:

   I have really enjoyed this series, and am hoping there is at least one more. It was not obvious by the way the book ended if the series is over or not.

  This book had far more mystery, suspense, and action than the previous two books. I actually feared the book was going to be slow and boring, and how wrong I was. It took a while for the action and suspense to start, but the book really took off when it did start. I found myself reading as fast as I could to see what would happen next. Bodies were piling up, and I was wondering if anyone was going to be left alive by the end of the book, but there were some.

 The romantic parts of a book like this aren't always of interest to me, it depends on how the author approaches it. I found myself hoping the one in this series would work out, and it came to a satisfying end.

 This book does tend to be more violent than the others, but I still enjoyed it a lot. I made the mistake of starting it on my work lunch break, and had to wait til I got home to finish it. And finish it I did. The author outdid herself on this one, and if this is the end of the series, it is a great one.

 I was given a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

About the author:


Lisa Harris is a bestselling author, a Christy Award winner, and the winner of the Best Inspirational Suspense Novel for 2011 from Romantic Times. She has sold over thirty novels and novella collections. Along with her husband, she and her three children have spent over ten years living as missionaries in Africa where she homeschools, leads a women's group, and runs a nonprofit organization that works alongside their church-planting ministry. The ECHO Project works in southern Africa promoting Education, Compassion, Health, and Opportunity and is a way for her to "speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves . . . the poor and helpless, and see that they get justice" (Proverbs 31:8).

When she's not working, she loves hanging out with her family, cooking different ethnic dishes, photography, and heading into the African bush on safari. For more information about her books and life in Africa, visit her website at www.lisaharriswrites.com or her blog at http://myblogintheheartofafrica.blogspot.com. For more information about The ECHO Project, please visit www.theECHOproject.org.



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

Thanks to Revell for the review copy.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

The 12 Week Journal for Men's Prayer and Devotional Bible Study, by Shalana Frisby with a giveaway

Book description:

Whether you have studied the Bible in-depth before or are new to exploring God's word, the process of learning about the Bible can seem challenging. This simple 12 week journal is a self-guided DIY study to help men dive into the Bible daily. You choose topics that interest you or use it as a note-taking companion to another Bible study. 

This journal includes pages for: 
-Noting your scripture reading log of dates, chapters, and verses  
-Planning Bible study goals for each week 
-Recording what you are thankful for each week 
-Reflecting how your weekly Bible study applies to your life 
-Writing your favorite scriptures and weekly Bible memory verse 
-Brainstorming how to share God's word with others in your life 
-Taking many personal notes about your weekly Bible study topics 

Note: This study journal is not specific to any Bible version and designed to use your preference of Bibles and resources in a self-guided approach. It works well for personal use, church, Sunday school or Bible classes, homeschool, and more.

What you'll need to accompany this self-guided DIY study journal for the most benefit:  a Bible of your choice and some quiet time each day.

My review:

  As the title would suggest, this journal is split up into twelve weeks. It starts out with an introduction, than starts week one. Each week starts out with a place to put the study goals for the week, followed by a reading log. There are places to write prayers and praise, and to draw if one wishes. There are a couple of pages to write thanks, favorite verses and keywords, and a lot more.

 I thought these journals sounded like a neat idea. and I found that to be the case. They are well put together with a lot of room for pretty much anything one wants to write about their Bible reading and prayer throughout the week. This review is for the men's journal, and there are all kinds of neat drawings and illustrations that are geared for men throughout the journal.

 Each week has twelve pages, so there is no lack of space to write and draw. Granted, most men may not be into the drawing part, but it would do us guys good to do the journaling part.

 There are four different journals in this series: this one for men, one for women, one that is geared for book by book study, and one geared for memorizing Bible verses. Each has an attractive cover, and is geared to help study the Bible.





I was given a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.



About the author: 



Shalana Frisby was raised in a southern Missouri county where cows usually outnumbered people. After earning a fine art degree in college, she moved off to the big city and began her career as a graphic designer. Since then she’s been blessed to wear many hats in life working as the craft editor for a major publishing company, instructing college design courses, owning her own business, and creating all sorts of digital and print projects, but her greatest achievement is using her talents to spread the Gospel.

Shalana's professional journey gave her the opportunity to live several places across the United States from Little Rock to Kansas City to Milwaukee. Now, once again, she's living in rural southern Missouri having happily found her way back to friends, family, and roots - oh, and all the cows too of course! These days Shalana is foremost a mommy, wife, and lastly listed, but certainly not least in life, a follower of Jesus. This inspires and requires her to learn more about God’s holy word, the Bible. She hopes you find her journals and other books help you on your own quest to do the same.

Find info about my journals at www.123JournalIt.com
Find my felt crafts and books at www.TheFunkyFelter.com
Find many of my craft projects and free printables at www.IndoorOutdoorSpace.com
Find more about my writing and designing career at www.ShalanaFrisby.com


Giveaway:

 Courtesy of the author, I have a copy of The 12 Week Journal for Book-by-Book Bible Study to give away.

 Using Random.org, I will pick a winner 10 days from now on April 18.

To enter, comment with one of your favorite Bible verses.




   

Jesus Among Secular Gods by Ravi Zacharias and Vince Vitale

Book description:

Ravi Zacharias and Vince Vitale defend the absolute claims of Christ against modern belief in the "secular gods" of atheism, scientism, relativism, and more. 

The rise of these secular gods presents the most serious challenge to the absolute claims of Christ since the founding of Christianity itself. The Christian worldview has not only been devalued and dismissed by modern culture, but its believers are openly ridiculed as irrelevant. In JESUS AMONG SECULAR GODS, Ravi Zacharias and Vince Vitale challenge the popular "isms" of the day, skillfully pointing out the fallacies in their claims and presenting compelling evidence for revealed absolute truth as found in Jesus. This book is fresh, insightful, and important, and faces head on today's most urgent challenges to Christian faith. It will help seekers to explore the claims of Christ and will provide Christians with the knowledge to articulate why they believe that Jesus stands tall above all other gods. 

My review:

  I don't think I have ever read a book by Ravi Zacharias, but I have read articles by him and have long been impressed with him. When I saw I could review this book that he co-wrote, I decided it was time to read one of his books.

 There are eight chapters in this book, and instead of the two authors writing together, they alternated writing chapters. They each wrote four of the chapters. Their writing style is very similar, so the reader probably wouldn't know which was which if it was not indicated.

 The gods addressed in this book are: atheism, scientism, pluralism, humanism, relativism, and hedonism. The first chapter is an intro chapter titled "Altars Against God", and the final chapter winds everything up in a chapter titled "Love the Truth.".

 No book like this could cover six different isms completely, but the authors do a great job of hitting the highlights, why they are wrong, and how they differ from Jesus and the Bible. The book is an interesting and informative read, and I found myself learning more about even the ones I was familiar with.

 This book is an excellent resource for new Christians, or even non-Christians confused about what is true and untrue. It is also a great book for the more mature Christian to read to help better understand these religions and philosophies so we are better equipped when we run across them.

 There are other wrong religions and philosophies today, but the authors hit the big ones in this book, and did a great job of covering them.

 I was given a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

About the authors:


For over thirty-five years Ravi Zacharias has spoken all over the world in great halls and universities, notably Harvard, Princeton, and Oxford. He is listed as a distinguished lecturer with the Staley Foundation and has appeared on CNN and other international broadcasts. The author of several books for adults and children, he powerfully mixes biblical teaching and Christian apologetics. His most recent works include Walking from East to West, a memoir, The Grand Weaver, an exploration of God’s intention and pattern in both the ordinary and the startling elements of life, and The End of Reason, a rebuttal of the claims of the so-called New Atheists. His weekly radio program, Let My People Think, is broadcast over 1,500 stations worldwide, and his weekday program, Just Thinking, is on almost 400. He is founder and chairman of the board of Ravi Zacharias International Ministries, headquartered in Atlanta, Georgia, with additional offices in Canada, India, Singapore, the United Kingdom, and the United Arab Emirates. Dr. Zacharias and his wife, Margie, have three grown children and reside in Atlanta.


DR. VINCE VITALE is Director of the Zacharias Institute. He was educated at Princeton University and the University of Oxford, and later taught philosophy of religion as a faculty member at both universities. During his undergraduate studies at Princeton, Dr. Vitale took an unexpected journey that led him to God. Later, while at Oxford, he developed a new response the problem of evil. This response--termed the Non-Identity Defense--is discussed in his and Ravi Zacharias's previous book, Why Suffering? He is married to Jo, who also works for RZIM.


  Jesus Among Secular Gods is available from Faith Words Publishing, part of the Hachette Book Group.

Thanks to Hachette for the review copy.

Getting Jesus Wrong: Giving Up Spiritual Vitamins and Checklist Christianity by Matt Johnson

Book description:

Jesus is not a life coach, a movement leader, a cultural visionary, or a blessing dispenser but you might not know that by listening to many Christians talk about their faith. Feel-good slogans promote a caricatured Jesus made in our own image who cannot save us and leave us feeling guilty for not saving ourselves. Following the wrong Jesus disappoints us and produces anxiety, pride, and despair.

The first half of Getting Jesus Wrong recounts pastor and author Matt Johnson s personal encounters with a string of false saviors false saviors that many, especially young adults, will recognize. Johnson s humor and transparency in recounting his own painful experiences will appeal to those who have tried a brand of Christianity and found it lacking.

The truth is, we all want something from Jesus. Some are just hoping for a little help to get through life a new direction, a purpose that will get us up in the morning, an exercise plan, a way to get organized. But that approach to Jesus doesn t result in real faith or love.

Whether we ve followed a false Jesus or attempted to coopt the real Jesus, Getting Jesus Wrong ultimately offers us hope because it helps us see Jesus as he is. Getting Jesus Wrong shows that the message of the Bible is about Jesus coming to us as we are which is good news for exhausted and disillusioned disciples. It shows us that getting Jesus right means a whole new way of thinking (the way up is down) and a whole new way of life (daily dependence on the one who knows the beginning from the end). Getting Jesus right gives us more than spiritual vitamins or a blueprint for living; it gives us a full, rich life spent exploring the depths of gospel love together.

My review:

   Occasionally I run across a book that sounds like it was written for me, and this is one such book. I tend to do the "check-list" Christianity thing, and the author does a great job of tackling that, among other things.

 This is an easy book to read. Johnson isn't shallow in his writing, but he also does not use deep theological words and thoughts that you have to wade through. He gets his points across in a clear and concise way that is easy to understand.

 The first part of the book deals with false saviors, in a often amusing way. He has serious moments too that are rather convicting, especially the chapter on pride and despair.

 I found the book encouraging, convicting, and helpful. It is so easy to get wrong ideas of Jesus, even for we who grew up in the church. I know I needed to read this book. I am sure Johnson didn't cover the issues as extensively as they could have been, but he did a great job of addressing it in the short 160 pages that comprise this book. I highly recommend it.

 I was given a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.


About the author:


Matt Johnson is a husband, father to two little girls, and is an armchair student of theology living in Seattle. He is also a freelance writer and editor. Until recently, Matt spent 7 years as an associate volunteer pastor in counseling and recovery ministry.
Find out more about Matt at https://www.therealmattjohnson.com.



  Getting Jesus wrong is available from New Growth Press.

Thanks to Litfuse Publicity for the review copy.


  Johnson pin1 Johnson pin 2

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Newton & Polly: A Novel of Amazing Grace by Jody Hedlund

Book description: 

Amazing grace! How sweet the sound 
that saved a wretch like me. 
I once was lost, but now am found 

Now remembered as the author of the world s most famous hymn, in the mid-eighteenth century as England and France stand on the brink of war, John Newton is a young sailor wandering aimlessly through life. His only duty is to report to his ship and avoid disgracing his father until the night he hears Polly Catlett s enchanting voice, caroling. He s immediately smitten and determined to win her affection. 

An intense connection quickly forms between the two, but John s reckless spirit and disregard for the Christian life are concerns for the responsible, devout Polly. When an ill-fated stop at a tavern leaves John imprisoned and bound, Polly must choose to either stand by his side or walk out of his life forever. Will she forfeit her future for the man she loves? 

Step back through the pages of history, to uncover the true love story behind a song that continues to stir the hearts and ignite the faith of millions around the globe."

My review:

 I've never read anything by this author before, but I thought this sounded like it would be a great read. I love the song Amazing Grace, and John Newton's story has always intrigued me.

 As with any historical novel, there is fact and fiction. The author made a very helpful list of what was fact and fiction at the end of the book. I have heard and read some of Newton's story before, and felt she did a great job of weaving the fictional parts with those that are not fictional. I saw Newton in ways I had not before, and struggled between liking and not liking him.

 The romantic aspect was new to me, at least that I can remember of.

 As I said, I have never read anything by Hedlund, but I enjoyed her writing style.

  I did enjoy the book a lot, and came away with a new appreciation for this great hymn that is still so popular today. Great job, Jody on portraying the story of John Newton and Amazing Grace so well.

I was given a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

About the author:


Winner of the 2016 Christian Book Award for fiction and Christy Award for historical romance, best-selling author Jody Hedlund writes inspirational historical romances for both youth and adults.

Jody lives in central Michigan with her husband, five busy children, and five spoiled cats. Although Jody prefers to experience daring and dangerous adventures through her characters rather than in real life, she’s learned that a calm existence is simply not meant to be (at least in this phase of her life!).

When she’s not penning another of her page-turning stories, she loves to spend her time reading, especially when it also involves consuming coffee and chocolate.


Newton & Polly is available from Waterbook/Multnomah Pubishing

Thanks to Waterbook/Multnomah for the review copy.


Without Warning, A J.B. Collins Novel, #3 by Joel Rosenberg

Book description:


From the back cover:

What if ISIS pulls off the unthinkable and unleashes catastrophic terror attacks inside the erican homeland?
The State of the Union address is minutes away. The president of the United States is set to tell a joint session of Congress and the American people that the U.S. is finally winning the war against the Islamic State. But after tracking ISIS from Istanbul to Baghdad to Amman, New York Times national security correspondent J. B. Collins fears the worst is yet to come. ISIS jihadists have infiltrated the U.S. They are planning to launch catastrophic attacks inside American cities that could make the horrors of 9/11 pale by comparison. But Collins has uncovered only part of the story. The full truth may be worse than the American people’s darkest fears. And the consequences may be harder than Collins is prepared to imagine.

From the flap:

“Last night, enemies of the United States unleashed a cruel and cowardly attack. . . .”
After ISIS terrorists attack the U.S. Capitol building during the president’s State of the Union address, the entire world waits to see how the most powerful nation on earth will respond. But the Taylor administration is more committed to political correctness than to justice, and it falls to other nations to lead the way in hunting down Abu Khalif, the criminal and religious mastermind who heads the Islamic State.

When New York Times journalist J. B. Collins, reeling from a tragedy closer to home, suddenly finds himself in possession of vital information that could help in the search, he is once again thrust into the crosshairs of global politics. But this time it’s personal.

As he joins the hunt for the world’s most wanted and dangerous man, his quest takes him from Bar Harbor, Maine, to Tel Aviv to Cairo to Istanbul and beyond. Through it all, he has one goal: find Abu Khalif and hold him accountable for his terrible actions. But the clock is ticking, and more attacks are coming. Will Collins locate the ISIS emir before it’s too late? He will stop at nothing to do so. But at what cost?

My review:

   Joel Rosenberg has become a favorite author of mine. His books are not for the faint of heart, and are always relative to current events. He doesn't pull any punches in regards to radical Islam and the dangers our country faces.

  This has been my favorite series Rosenberg has written, and this final book in the J.B. Collins Series is more intense and gripping than the previous two, and that is saying a lot. Without Warning picks up a few months after The First Hostage ended. The attacks on our country are fictional, but it is a very scary look at what could happen here if ISIS and other radical Isalmic groups continue to go undefeated and unchecked.

 In this novel, the elusive terrorist mastermind Abu Khalif gets personal, and  there was things happening that I didn't see coming.

 As with the other books, the action and dram goes on all over the world as Collins goes from the USA to Israel, Jordan, and other places in the Middle East.

 Without Warning is 453 pages. I started reading it the other day with no intention of reading much of it. However, the book is so gripping and difficult to put it down, I read the entire book in one evening. I did read a little past my bedtime, but it was worth it. This book is that good.

 The book/series didn't end as I wished it had. I'll try not to give any spoilers away, but it had an awesome, yet sad ending. I wish Rosenberg could have found a different way to end the book, but it was an amazing ending to this awesome series.

 In addition to the drama, action , and suspense; Collins' spiritual journey takes center stage, and he goes a long way in his relationship with his brother.

 This was truly a fantastic series, and I was sad to see it end.

I was given a copy of this book by Tyndale Publishing in exchange for my honest review.

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 former 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.


Without Warning is available from Tyndale Publishing.

Thanks to Tyndale for the review copy.

If I'm Found, If I Run #2 by Terri Blackstock

Book description

Casey Cox is still on the run, fleeing prosecution for a murder she didn’t commit. Dylan Roberts–her most relentless pursuer–is still on her trail, but his secret emails insist that he knows the truth and wants to help her. He’s let her escape before when he had her in his grasp, but trust doesn’t come easily.

As Casey works to collect evidence about the real murderers, she stumbles on another unbearable injustice: an abused child and a suicidal man who’s also been falsely accused. Casey risks her own safety to right this wrong and protect the little girl from her tormentors. But doing so is risky and just may result in her capture–and if she’s captured, she has no doubt she’ll be murdered before she ever steps foot in a jail.

In this riveting sequel to the USA Today bestseller If I Run, evil lurks, drawing Casey out of the shadows … but there is light shining in the darkness. Is Dylan a provision from the God who loves her, or another heartache yet to happen?

My review:

   The idea of a trilogy where the main character is on the run from the cops seems far fetched, but Terri Blackstock has pulled it off through two books quite well. I was a bit frustrated at the ending of the first book, or how it didn't actually end. However, I was expecting that in this book.

  If I'm Found takes up right where If I Run left off, and it has as much non-stop action and drama as the first book did. There is more evidence of crooked cops, and the hunt for Casey gets more intense. Through the other main character, Dylan, there is also a focus on PTSD and how people deal with that.

  The book also gives a unique look at what it might be like to be falsely accused of a crime, and to go on the run for fear of your life.

 I loved this book. Since the first ended with such a cliffhanger, I have been looking forward to reading this one, and I was not disappointed. In a series like this, the author has a lot more chances for character development that you don't have when the story actually ends. And again Terri Blackstock shows  that she can hold her own in the Christian suspense market.

I was given a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

About the author:


Terri Blackstock is a New York Times best-seller, with over six million copies sold worldwide. She is the winner of two Carol Awards, a Christian Retailers Choice Award, and a Romantic Times Book Reviews Career Achievement Award, among others. She has had over twenty-five years of success as a novelist.

Terri spent the first twelve years of her life traveling in a U.S. Air Force family. She lived in nine states and attended the first four years of school in The Netherlands. Because she was a perpetual “new kid,” her imagination became her closest friend. That, she believes, was the biggest factor in her becoming a novelist. She sold her first novel at the age of twenty-five, and has had a successful career ever since.

Recent books include Truth Stained Lies (Book 1 of her Moonlighters Series), and her acclaimed Intervention Series (Intervention, Vicious Cycle, and Downfall). Other recent favorites include Predator, Double Minds, the Restoration Series, the Newpointe 911 Series, the Cape Refuge Series, and the SunCoast Chronicles series.

In 1994 Terri was writing romance novels under two pseudonyms for publishers such as HarperCollins, Harlequin, Dell and Silhouette, when a spiritual awakening prompted her to switch gears. At the time, she was reading more suspense than romance, and felt drawn to write thrillers about ordinary people in grave danger. Her newly awakened faith wove its way into the tapestry of her suspense novels, offering hope instead of despair. Her goal is to entertain with page-turning plots, while challenging her readers to think and grow. She hopes to remind them that they’re valued by God and that their trials have a purpose.


If I'm Found is available from Zondervan Publishing.

Thanks to BookLook Bloggers for the review copy.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Claiming Noah by Amanda Ortlepp

Book description: 

This riveting debut novel of psychological suspense explores the dilemmas that arise when motherhood and science collide. 

Catriona Sinclair has always had a well-developed sense of independence--in fact the one sore point in her otherwise happy marriage is her husband James's desire to take care of her. As she's often tried to explain to him, she took care of herself before she met him, and did a good job of it. But James has been especially attentive lately as they struggle to have a baby. They succeed at last through in vitro fertilization, but unwilling to risk the heartbreak of another miscarriage, they decide to make their "spare" frozen embryo available to another family. 

Diana and Liam Simmons are desperate for a child. Unable to conceive, they are overjoyed to learn that as the closest genetic match to the Sinclairs they are the recipients of the embryo donation. Diana's only concern is her mother's disapproval of IVF, but any doubts raised are quickly eclipsed by Diana's joy of being pregnant. 

As Diana is finding delight in every aspect of motherhood, Catriona keeps waiting for the rush of adoration she knows she is supposed to feel, but instead slips into a deep depression. Just as Catriona begins to find her way back to normalcy, one of the babies is kidnapped. Suddenly, all of their lives begin to unravel and intertwine, and none of them will ever be the same.

My review:

  I will say up front that I assumed this was Christian fiction, as Center Street does do some Christian fiction. It is not Christian fiction, but I still enjoyed the book other than the curse words scattered throughout, one reason I read mostly Christian fiction. I WAS surprised they allowed a use of the "F-word" in the book, but it was only one use. I was also bothered by the favorable view of a gay relationship in the book.

  That aside, this was a great read. The author took a modern day issue that can be controversial, and spun a great dramatic tale around it. She did a great job of detailing the anguish of two couples trying to have a baby, with the one having no success at all... hence the embryo adoption. I got a glimpse of what that involves, and the decisions that need to be made.

 I liked most of the main characters. I thought the one guy was a jerk, and he did turn out to be exactly that. The muddy issue of what happens when the birth mother wants the baby that came from her embryo played center stage, and I found myself sympathizing with both mothers.

 The kidnapping wasn't a surprise, as it is referenced in the book description. The who and why of the kidnapping WAS a surprise and added a whole new angle to the story.

 This isn't what I would call a mystery/suspense novel, other than the kidnapping. However, it is a very gripping novel that I didn't want to put down. And though the book was not Christian, the theme of forgiveness was in the book.

 If you enjoy secular fiction, you'll like this book. If you usually read Christian fiction but can handle some cursing and a book with a more secular book, you may also enjoy this book. I did.

 And if the issue of adopting embryos and artificial insemination interests you, this is a great way to get a look at the pros and cons.

I was given a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

About the author:



Amanda Ortlepp's debut novel, Claiming Noah, was published in Australia and New Zealand in 2015. Its ethical dilemmas and emotionally-charged themes struck a chord with mothers and book clubs in particular and it became a bestseller. Claiming Noah will be published in the US and Canada in July 2016. Amanda's second novel, Running Against the Tide, is set on the remote Eyre Peninsula in South Australia where her father grew up. It was published in Australia and New Zealand in 2016. Amanda lives in Sydney


Claiming Noah is available from Center Street Publishing, part of the Hachette Book Group.

Thanks to Center Street for the review copy.

Deep Extraction, an FBI Task Force Novel by DiAnn Mills

Book description:


A pacemaker should have saved oil and gas magnate Nathan Moore's life. Instead, it provided his killer with a seemingly perfect means of execution.A bombing at one of Nathan's oil rigs days earlier indicates his death could be part of a bigger conspiracy, a web Special Agent Tori Templeton must untangle. But her first order of business is separating the personal from the professional--the victim's wife, her best friend, is one of the FBI's prime suspects.Clearing Sally's name may be the biggest challenge of her career, but Tori finds an unexpected ally in the newest member of the task force, recently reinstated Deputy US Marshal Cole Jeffers. As Tori and Cole dig deeper into Nathan's personal and business affairs, they uncover more than they bargained for. And the closer they get to finding the real killer--and to each other--the more intent someone is on silencing them for good.

My review:

  Of all the suspense authors I read, DiAnn Mills is the one I have most likely read the least of. I guess I just discovered her later.

  This is the second book in the FBI Task Force Series, and the author pulled out all of the stops on this one. I like her writing style anyway, but she just seemed to outdo herself on this one. There was nothing to dislike on this one, and I didn't want to put it down. I started it on my lunch break at work, read some more on my second break, and finished the book when I got home.... and it is just 4 pages shy of 400 pages.

What I liked:

The plot. Some plots are so simple, you can see the guilty party and outcome a mile away. Others are so intricate you get lost. This one was intricate enough that I was kept guessing as to what was going to happen next, and who was guilty, yet not so complicated I got lost. It was never ending suspense and drama.

The characters: I liked the two main characters, and enjoyed the interaction between them. I also liked the family of the murdered man and was drawn into their tragedy as they mourned a man that wasn't who they thought he was.

The Christian content: I have read Christian books where the conversion of a main character seemed contrived and just done to wrap up the book. In this book, Tori struggles with faith in God because of losing her brother who was a Christian to cancer. I thought that sub-plot added a lot to the book, and was not resolved in a contrived or last minute thing.

The romance: I am not big on romance, but don't mind some in a book like this....and I actually enjoyed that part also.

What I didn't like: Well, nothing. This was truly an amazing, suspenseful read that can be held up as an example of what good Christian suspense should be. After I finished this book, I even ordered a book by this author I had not read.


I was given a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review,

About the author:



DiAnn Mills is a bestselling author who believes her readers should expect an adventure. She combines unforgettable characters with unpredictable plots to create action-packed, suspense-filled novels.

Her titles have appeared on the CBA and ECPA bestseller lists; won two Christy Awards; and been finalists for the RITA, Daphne Du Maurier, Inspirational Readers’ Choice, and Carol award contests. Library Journal presented her with a Best Books 2014: Genre Fiction award in the Christian Fiction category for Firewall.

DiAnn is a founding board member of the American Christian Fiction Writers; a member of Advanced Writers and Speakers Association; International Thriller Writers, and the Faith, Hope, and Love chapter of Romance Writers of America. She is co-director of The Author Roadmap with social media specialist Edie Melson where she continues her passion of helping other writers be successful. She speaks to various groups and teaches writing workshops around the country.

DiAnn has been termed a coffee snob and roasts her own coffee beans. She’s an avid reader, loves to cook, and believes her grandchildren are the smartest kids in the universe. She and her husband live in sunny Houston, Texas.

DiAnn is very active online and would love to connect with readers on any of the social media platforms listed at www.diannmills.com.


Deep Extraction is available from Tyndale House Publishing.

Thanks to Tyndale for the review copy.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Home At Last by Deborah Raney, with a giveaway

Book description:

Why did their differences matter so much?

Link Whitman has settled into the role of bachelor without ever intending to. Now he's stuck in a dead-end job and, as the next Whitman wedding fast approaches, he is the last one standing. The pressure from his sisters' efforts to play matchmaker is getting hard to bear as Link pulls extra shifts at work, and helps his parents at the Chicory Inn.

All her life, Shayla Michaels has felt as if she straddled two worlds. Her mother's white family labeled her African American father with names Shayla didn't repeat in polite---well, in any company. Her father's family disapproved as well, though they eventually embraced Shayla as their own. After the death of her mother, and her brother Jerry's incarceration, life has left Shayla's father bitter, her niece, Portia, an orphan, and Shayla responsible for them all. She knows God loves them all, but why couldn't people accept each other for what was on the inside? For their hearts?

Everything changes one icy morning when a child runs into the street and Link nearly hits her with his pickup. Soon he is falling in love with the little girl's aunt, Shayla, the beautiful woman who runs Coffee's On, the bakery in Langhorne. Can Shayla and Link overcome society's view of their differences and find true love? Is there hope of changing the sometimes---ugly world around them into something better for them all?

My review:

  This is a difficult book review for me to write. I am not a big romance reader, but I have thoroughly enjoyed this series. I loved the characters, the interaction between family members, and everything about the books. When this one came up for review, I didn't even read the blurb..... I just requested it.

 Anything can get you labeled a racist today. Just not voting for a black president because you don't like his policies gets you labeled a racist. So to say I am not a fan of interracial relationships will definitely get me labeled by that some..... as if we do not have the freedom to feel that way. Anyway, once I found out what the book was about, I kept an open mind and read it. And I didn't care for it. Maybe it is partly because I am a single guy who will never marry, but I kept thinking Link was nuts for still pursuing a relationship with Shayla with all of the roadblocks and how her dad hated white people. (Yeah, I know it is fiction).

  I know there is still racism, but I also know there are a lot of false accusations of racism and some people see it everywhere. It felt to me like the author was pushing the idea that we must all accept interracial marriages, all the while showing what a bad idea it can be. I honestly didn't care for the book, and was sad to see a great series end on this note. I do feel the subject could have been handled better, but the book was a turn off for me. It didn't help that the author referenced the Michael Brown and Trayvon Martin cases..... I am not sure if she agrees with the liberals on that, as she didn't say, but it bothered me that she used them as examples. I guess the whole book came across as an agenda to me.

I was given a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

About the author:


Deborah Raney's novels have won numerous awards including the RITA, National Readers' Choice Award, HOLT Medallion, the Carol Award, and have three times been Christy Award finalists. She and her husband, Ken Raney have traded small-town life in Kansas-the setting of many of Deb's novels-for life in the city of Wichita.

Find out more about Deborah at http://deborahraney.com.


Home At Last, and the rest of the Chicory Inn Series is available from Abington Press.

Thanks to Litfuse Publicity for the review copy.




Raney1 Raney2





Conclude Deborah Raney's Chicory Inn novels with the final book, Home at Last, a story of acceptance, trying to overcome differences, and love. Everything changes for bachelor Link Whitman one icy morning when a child runs into the street and he nearly hits her with his pickup-and then the girl's aunt Shayla enters Link's life. Can Shayla and Link overcome society's view of their differences and find true love? Is there hope of changing the sometimes-ugly world around them into something better for them all?

Join Deborah on Thursday, March 23, for a live author chat party in her Facebook group with fun prizes to be won! Click the graphic below for more details and to RSVP. Hope to see you there-bring a friend or two who loves to read!

Unchained by Noel Jesse Heikkinen

Book description: 

Most Christians can rattle off a laundry list  of reasons that Jesus came, lived a sinless life,  died, and rose again. Eternal life and forgiveness of sins sit right at the top of the list  in most people’s minds, as do love and reconciliation, but one reason is often conspicuously missing: freedom.

Apostle Paul reminds us in Galatians 5:1, “For freedom Christ has set us free.” Jesus did something that made us free, and the reason he made us free was so that we would actually be free.

If this is true, why don’t we talk about it more in our churches? Why isn’t freedom the center point of our evangelism or even more controversially, our discipleship? Our culture LOVES to talk about freedom and Christians (who have a corner on true freedom) are eerily silent on the issue.

Our pews (and chairs) are filled with people who don’t feel free…not in the slightest. Sinful urges dog them every day, churches and pastors (sometimes unknowingly) shame and guilt them into a standard of living that is utterly unreachable, and just mention prayer to most Christians and they can feel the chains of guilt shackle around their consciences.

My review:

  I had never heard of this author until I got the email with the review opportunity. The book sounded both helpful and good, so I requested it.

  This is something I personally struggle with, knowing I am forgiven, yet not really feeling free. I say that so it is obvious I am reading and reviewing this book as a person who genuinely needs it. And I can honestly say the author came through. I know it takes more than reading a book and having a "aha" moment to truly change old habits and feelings, but I feel I was helped and encouraged by reading it, and anyone else can who struggles in this area.

 The author has an easy to read style, and I didn't feel the urge to skim over any areas. He knows his stuff, and has a lot of practical and Biblical thoughts and advice on how to feel free. Each chapter is followed by several discussion questions, making it a great book to use for a group study or alone.

 I am not a Calvinist, so I do take issue with his declaration that we will still sin as Christians.... it takes away the whole "freedom of sin" and "sin not having dominion" idea away..... but other than that, there is still a lot of good in this book and it could help others in this area of not feeling free.

I was given a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

About the author:


Noel Jesse Heikkinen is a pastor at Riverview Church, a multi-site church of over 3,000 near Lansing, Michigan. Heikkinen also helps lead the church planting ministry Acts 29 and is the chairman of the board for the mission agency Reliant. He and his wife, Grace, have four children.

Find out more about Noel Jesse at noeljess.com.


Unchained is available from David C Cook.

Thanks to Litfuse Publicity for the review copy.



  Heikkinen1 









Heikkinen2

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Murder Is No Accident, Hidden Springs Mystery #3 by A.H. Gabhart

Book description:

Young Maggie Greene may be trespassing in the old, empty Victorian mansion on a quiet street in Hidden Springs, but all she wants is some private time in the magnificent tower room to write her stories. Certain she'll be in trouble if caught, she hides when a realtor shows up. But someone else is in the house too, someone even more worried about getting caught. When Maggie finds the realtor's body at the bottom of a flight of stairs and the other person gone, Deputy Sheriff Michael Keane is called in. He assumes the realtor's death is a tragic accident--until a second person is found dead in the house. When Maggie is threatened, Michael must catch the murderer before anyone else dies.

Cozy mystery fans will love this third installment in The Hidden Springs Mysteries series from an author who knows how to make small-town America sweet, sentimental--and a little sinister.


My review:

   A.H.(Ann) Gabhart has quickly become a favorite author of mine with this series. The Christian fiction market is mostly a woman's market, and it is unusual for a female author to write a series of books where the main character is male..... but that is exactly what this author has done in this series. I also like the fact that this isn't your run of the mill "guy meets girl in trouble, falls for girl, proposes or marries at the end of the book". In this series, there is a very slow romance going on, but the couple has known each other since they were kids and have been in love for pretty much all that time.... and they don't live near each other. The romance does not dominate the story, which is cool for this confirmed bachelor. :)

  Onto this book: Murder Is No Accident is #3 in the Hidden Mystery Series, and hopefully not the last..... though the ending may indicate it is the final book. As with the previous two books. the story revolves around Deputy Sheriff Michael Keane as he tries to keep the small town of Hidden Springs safe.

   Two murders are stopping the town from being safe, and the author does a great job of keeping the reader guessing the identity of the murderer and the reason for the murders. I have enjoyed every book in this series, but this one may be the best of the three. There isn't the page turning non-stop drama and suspense of many suspense novels, but rather an even slower paced suspense that still kept me wanting to read on and not put the book down. I thoroughly enjoyed the book, and though I enjoyed the very climatic ending, I hated to see the end come when I had to leave this fictional town I have come to love.

 I was given a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

About the author:



A. H. Gabhart is Ann H. Gabhart, bestselling author of many novels, including Angel Sister, Small Town Girl, and Love Comes Home, several popular Shaker novels such as The Outsider, The Believer, and The Innocent, and The Heart of Hollyhill series. Ann grew up in a small rural town in Kentucky much like Hidden Springs, but Ann is happy to report nobody was ever murdered on her hometown's courthouse steps. Ann and her husband still live on a farm near that same little town in Kentucky. Learn more at www.annhgabhart.com.


Murder Is No Accident and the other two books in the Hidden Springs Mystery Series is available from Revell Publishing, part of the Baker Publishing Group.

Thanks to Revell for the review copy.

The Superheroes Devotional: 60 Inspirational Readings

About the book:

“Can you actually find spiritual truths in comicbooks and superhero movies?”   
Yes, you can!

For more than 75 years of comic book history and dozens of gigantic cinematic releases, Superheros have captivated our imagination--filling our senses with heart-pounding adventures, riveting plots, and spectacular special effects—and sometimes they have profound messages woven into them. Often the underlying themes reveal a Judeo-Christian influence, and even when it isn’t intentional, you can still draw deep lessons from them.  Whether it’s the self-sacrifice and humility of Captain America and the Hulk’s struggles with anger or the parallels between Superman and Jesus or between Black Widow and a ruthless Bible heroine, your favorite heroes and heroines (and even villains) have much to teach.

If you’re a fan of this good vs. evil world, you will love The Superheroes Devotional—featuring 60 interesting, challenging, and encouraging readings. With devotions drawn from dozens of favorite superheroes from both the Marvel and DC Comics universes—well-known names like Captain America and Batman and lesser-known heroes like Shazam and Gambit—each reading includes spiritual lessons relating superheroes to the heroes of the Bible in themes like faith, hope, courage, pride, and power. You’ll also enjoy reading about the history and background of each superhero, shared by author and lifelong fan Ed Strauss.

Read on, True Believer, and may you draw inspiration and encouragement from the characters and stories that you know and love from comicbook pages and big screen movies alike.

My review:

   I'll admit that I was a bit dubious about this one. A superheroes devotional book......But I do like superheroes, and Barbour Books doesn't put out junk, so I requested it.

 First off, one might think that this is a devotional book for kids. That is not the case. This is definitely for adults, and the length of the devotions are even longer than the average devotional book. Most of them go between 4 and 5 pages in length. The topics covered are not necessarily deep  theological topics, yet they are deep enough to bring home a point that is worth considering.

 If you know much about superhero comics and/or movies, there is usually a fight between good and evil, thus it isn't difficult to find Christian themes in the comics and superhero movies..... though the author does an even better job of it than I expected.

 I have been reading a devotion a day from the book, and have not had enough days to read the whole book. However, I like what I have read and have been encouraged by what I have read. Each devotion starts with a reference to something in a comic book and/or movie, and ends with a spiritual application.

 This is a devotional that is geared for people who read comic books and/or watch superhero movies. If you do neither, you most likely won't understand or enjoy the book. However, if you are into superheroes..... this book is definitely for you, or would make a great gift for the superhero fan in your life.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Barbour Publishing and was under no obligation to post a review.

About the author:


Ed Strauss is a freelance writer living in British Columbia, Canada. He has authored or coauthored more than fifty books for children, tweens, and adults. Ed has a passion for Biblical apologetics and besides writing for Barbour, has been published by Zondervan, Tyndale, Moody, and Focus on the Family.


The Superheroes Devotional is available from Barbour Publishing.

Thanks to Barbour for the review copy.



Monday, March 13, 2017

Victor: The Reloaded Edition by Tony Ross

Book review:

Victor: The Reloaded Edition is a fast-paced and thought-provoking thriller, set in a disturbing near-future that is far more possible than one might think.

In Sunlight City anything is possible... literally. One overriding law governs everything: "give the people what they want." All things are legal, all lifestyles welcomed and all belief systems embraced. While the citizens of Sunlight City celebrate their unrestricted freedom, darker things also flourish.

In this city of opportunity, Mona Macheski is running for her life. Her stunning scientific breakthrough has been corrupted by Josef, her former employer; what once promised to redefine human life now threatens to unleash hell on Earth. The critical information Mona holds is the only thing standing in Josef's way, and he will kill to reclaim what is his.

Mona's only hope of survival lies in unlocking the mind of Victor, the assassin pursuing her. Victor is a gifted killer, but the success or failure of his mission depends on his ability to hold together his steadily fraying sanity.

Mona's only ally is David, a streetwise and energetic detective thrust into the role of protector; he is Mona's only defense against a killer he cannot hope to defeat.

The scientist. The assassin. The detective. The choices of these three people will influence the future of our world. 

All three are bound by the darkest of secrets. Only the truth will set them free. 

Victor: The Reloaded Edition is a powerful story of choice and consequence, love and conflict, sacrifice and redemption. It will make you question the choices we make, the future of our world... and the fate of your eternal soul. 

My review:

  The way I got this book to review was unusual: an acquaintance of mine who likes my book reviews, but says she isn't any good at book reviews, messaged me on Facebook and asked me if I would review a book if she bought a copy for me. I agreed, so she bought it on Amazon and had it sent to me. She likes the author's books, and wanted to give him some exposure through my blog and book reviews.

 My friend has read enough of my book reviews to know what kind of books I like to read, and this was definitely one such book. It is suspense, which is my favorite genre'. It also has a lot of action and drama in it, which is pretty much non-stop.

 For a self-published book, the book was well written. I liked the characters, even the assassin - I know that may sound weird, but I did. The plot was a great one, and left enough mystery that I was eager to find out what wasn't being brought out in the open by the main characters.

 The book had a few surprises. I won't give any spoilers away, but at the center of the whole book was something that will present a big moral dilemma if it is ever accomplished, and is not something you find in your average Christian novel. I enjoyed reading about it, and it made me think about what could happen if scientists ever manage to do this thing.

 I like an author who isn't afraid to put Christian content in their books, and this author did exactly that. It isn't preachy, but it is there.

 And I did have a hard time putting the book down. The author can be proud of this novel, and it is one I can recommend.

About the author:



Tony Ross is an author who's not afraid of the dark.

In his first book, The Ugly Duckling's Revenge, he opens the door to his own past struggles with alcoholism and depression. He shares what God did to pull him out and offers a message of hope to readers: "If God can do it for me, He can do it for you!"

His next two books, Victor and Orion, are what Tony defines as "thrillers for thinkers," stories filled with action, adrenalin and deep spiritual meaning, stories that look into the deepest darkness of man to shine a brighter light. Victor won a silver medal for Christian Fiction in the Readers Favorite 2013 International Award Contest.

Melody's Memory is a departure from thrillers; it's a novella focusing less on suspense and action and more on the condition of the heart. Tony invites readers to open the long-locked doors of their own hearts, shine the light on what may be hidden there, and allow healing to come.

Tony is now revisiting the world he created in Victor and Orion in The Black Cat Chronicles, a series of short novellas set before Victor. He is also in the process of editing Brimstone, the third book following Victor and Orion.

When he's not writing, Tony enjoys country living, backyard campfires, recreational reading and outdoor sports. He has been a member of the ministry team at Calvary Apostolic Church in Clintonville, WI since 2004. Tony is happily married and has five children.

Open Hands CD by Laura Story, with a giveaway


About the CD:
(my review after this section, giveaway at the end)

 Throughout the Bible, there are countless stories of ordinary people whole-heartedly attempting to live a life fully surrendered to God’s unique calling on their lives. More than once, God asks people of faith to relinquish control and simply trust Him. These days, singer/songwriter Laura Story is discovering the beauty found in letting go. It’s this posture of surrender that she’s striving for on her fifth studio album, Open Hands (Fair Trade Services).

  “We have this picture all the way through the Scriptures of all these great leaders in this process of surrendering everything. What the Lord is asking them is not, ‘You need to hold on tighter. You need to manage this better.’ What the Lord asks us is to surrender,” she offers, “It’s about learning to live with open hands, learning to live life in this constant state of saying, ‘Lord, my life is Yours. My time is Yours.My resources are Yours. All of this is Yours. Do what You will.’”



   Story has built a life—and a career—around submission to her calling. She’s led worship at Atlanta’s Perimeter Church for the past 12 years. In addition to penning songs recorded by artists like Chris Tomlin, Story has found success as a recording artist in her own right. Since the release of her solo debut in 2008, Story has amassed a GRAMMY® Award, a Billboard Music Award, multiple GMA Dove Awards and an RIAA Gold certification for her massive No. 1 hit “Blessings.” In addition, she’s also the author of two books, including the latest "When God Doesn't Fix It - Lessons You Never Wanted to Learn, Truths You Can't Live Without."

   Open Hands is the follow-up to 2013’s critically-acclaimed God of Every Story, and in the years that have passed since her last release, Story has given birth to twins, making their brood a family of five. Now, as a mom to three kids—Josie, Benjamin and Griffin—the posture of “open hands” feels more necessary than ever before as she juggles ministry and motherhood.

  “We never get to a point where we can do life apart from complete and total daily dependence on Jesus,” Story admits. “The irony is the less control we have, the more peace we have and the more, I would even say, success and joy we find. It’s a contrary picture to what the world tells us, but it’s gaining through letting go.”

  Open Hands’ fresh collection of originals blends Story’s signature congregational worship with intimate moments. “I wanted to make an album so that each song I write would be just that seed of hope or that lifeline that someone listens to during that tough moment and thinks, ‘I’m going to choose to trust God, even during this,’” Story shares. “I pray that God would speak through me in the midst of the music.”



   A parade of A-list songwriters, including Matt Redman, Matt Maher, Mia Fieldes, Hank Bentley, Sarah Hart and Seth Mosley, among others, pepper the album’s 11 tracks. Through writing sessions both alone and with others, Story began to gradually see this common thread of surrender emerge.

  “Rather than picking a theme and writing around it, a lot of times, it takes me writing to be able to step back and see what the themes are, not just of the record but of my life,” she says of her creative process. “It was neat to step back and see that ‘open hands’ is a theme that ended up presenting itself rather than me choosing it.”

  The title track—already a chart-topper prior to the album’s release—features guest vocals from Third Day’s Mac Powell, a fellow Atlanta-native and Story’s longtime friend. “You Came Running” borrows imagery from the biblical narrative of the Prodigal Son. In true Story fashion, several selections (“AwakeMy Soul (1000 Tongues),” “For The Love of My King”) reimagine timeless hymns, which she refreshes with an original chorus.

   “I’m pretty sure that the theology that I learned as a kid was from old hymns. It’s amazing, even now as an adult, how those hymns come back and really provide that sturdy foundation for life. It reminds me ofhow important it is for me to teach my kids those old hymns,” Story reflects, adding, “As long as I am singing, I will be singing hymns.”

   Poignant piano ballad “Give You Faith” finds the singer pondering the legacy she wants to leave her children. “The song is about releasing your kids into the hands of God,” she explains. “The most important thing that we could possibly give our children is to not just tell them about the faith that we have but to live out that faith as a family. Sometimes that means not giving them everything they want but showing them that the most important thing in my life isn’t even them—it’s actually my faith in Jesus Christ—and just point them to Jesus.”

  To that end, Story readily admits motherhood has impacted her songwriting on all levels. Thinking specifically about her daughter, she says, “I’ve realized that these songs form people’s theology, and they affect how this little girl is going to think about herself in the future. They might affect decisions that she makes in the future because of what she believes about God and what she believes about His Word. I’ve changed as a songwriter with kids.”

    Reflecting on the world her kids are growing up in, Story wrote the album’s sparse closer, “Grace Abounds,” after weeks of turning on the television only to continue to watch stories of terror attacks, extreme injustice and racial tension make headlines day after day. “It’s easy to lose heart, and the song is about just acknowledging the brokenness. First of all, we can’t just pretend like it doesn’t exist,” she advises. “When it seemingly doesn’t make sense, I’m choosing to believe that God’s grace is enough. God’s grace is enough for any social injustice. God’s grace is enough for any loss that we go through. God’s grace is enough for any loneliness that we experience, for any relational strain and for any relational rejection.

   “When it feels like hope can’t be found, when we don’t even know how we’re going to put one foot in front of the other,” she continues, “Scripture teaches us that’s when grace abounds.”

  Story isn’t afraid to write about grace at work in the middle of unexpected, unexplainable situations. She can only write from experience and how she’s seen God redeem the darkest chapters of her own life. “My greatest goal is always for my story to encourage listeners to believe that they, too, can live out their faith in the midst of hard circumstances,” she says. “I truly believe that the songs we sing and the songs we write act as the soundtrack for people’s faith. So I want to give people the most substantial tools that give them the clearest picture of who God is and who they are in Christ.”



   The life of a songwriter is a sacred calling and one Story doesn’t take lightly whether she’s writing songs for her church, for a new record or simply for herself as a cathartic release. “It’s not about my songs or my story or even my artistry,” she asserts. “It really is about Him getting the glory for the work that I believe He has chosen to do through songwriters and through songs. It’s a unique work that He’s chosen to do there.”She may lead others in worship through song on stages both big and small, but on a daily basis, Story is intent on loosening her grip and choosing to live with open hands as an ultimate act of praise.

“Worship at the very core of what it is is ‘worth-ship.’ It’s the easiest definition I’ve ever heard of worship. It’s giving God worth, and sometimes that means verbal adoration and praise. Sometimes that’s showing Him worth with our calendars and our checking accounts. No matter what it is, it always begins with open hands. It always begins with a willingness to say, ‘You are worth whatever cost you call me to give,’” she maintains. “Worship in its very core begins with surrender. That’s how we really show God that He’s worth it all.”


My review:

  I mostly listen to Southern Gospel music, but after hearing the song "Blessings" by Laura Story, I bought the CD with that song on. I liked it so well, I bought her other CDs over the period of a few months.

 This CD seems a bit different than her others, in my opinion. Her other CDs lean more towards the Praise and Worship genre', where this one seems to lean more contemporary. I still liked the CD, and have been listening to it since it came in the mail.

Song listing:
1) Death Was Arrested
2) Open Hands
3) You Came Running
4) Give You Faith
5) For The Love of My King
6) Awake My Soul (a 1000 Tongues)
7) Whisper
8) Every Word You Breathe
9) Majesty
10) Extraordinary
11) Grace Abounds

  My favorites: Death Was Arrested (great Easter song), Open Hands, You Came Running, and Grace Abounds. There is some quality song writing on this CD, and all 11 songs have great lyrics and truth in them.... there are no tracks I felt like skipping.

 It is a becoming rare to buy a CD that has the lyrics printed inside, but this disc does, a plus in my book.

 This is a CD that I think will appeal more to CCM fans more than Praise & Worship fans, but anyone who enjoys Laura's music should like it.

 I was given a copy of this CD in exchange for my honest review.

About Laura Story

GRAMMY® award winning artist, speaker, songwriter, author and worship leader Laura Story has a gift for penning songs that connect with people all around the world. Among her successes as a solo artist with her smash hits “Mighty to Save” and “Blessings,” Laura has also penned hit songs for other renowned artists including Chris Tomlin’s “Indescribable.” Her solo artist music debut in 2008 with Great God Who Saves led to four Dove nominations and the award for “Inspirational Album of the Year.” In 2011, Laura released her sophomore project Blessings. The album and the emotionally powerful title was inspired by her real life trials and adversities, primarily her husband Martin's diagnosis of a brain tumor. The album resonated with a huge audience and led to whirlwind career highlights for Laura, peaking at the No. 1 album spot for three consecutive weeks on Billboard’s Contemporary Christian Overall chart, topping the iTunes® Christian/Gospel Top Songs chart and holding the No. 1 spot for an impressive 28 consecutive weeks on the Christian charts. The success of the single “Blessings,” which was certified RIAA Gold, includes the GRAMMY® Award for Best Contemporary Christian Song, the Billboard Music Award for Top Christian Song and the Dove Awards for Song of the Year, Pop/Contemporary Song of the Year, Pop/Contemporary Album of the Year and Songwriter of the Year. The song inspired Laura's first book, “What If Your Blessings Come Through Raindrops?” in 2012. God Of Every Story released in 2013 to much acclaim, and her first ever Christmas project God With Us, released in October of 2015. Laura recently released a new book and bible study curriculum When God Doesn’t Fix It; Lessons You Never Wanted to Learn, Truths You Can’t Live Without.  She has a graduate degree from Covenant Theological Seminary and has served as a worship leader at Perimeter Church in Atlanta since 2005, but her greatest joy is being a wife to Martin and the mother to Ben, Griffin and Josie.

Web and Social Links:
http://laurastorymusic.com/

https://twitter.com/laurastorymusic

https://www.facebook.com/laurastory

https://www.instagram.com/laurastorymusic/

Giveaway:

 I have one Open Hands CD to give away. To enter, just comment on this blog post. I will use random.org and pick a winner on March 23.





Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Grace Is Greater by Kyle Idleman

Book description:

The writer of the letter to the Hebrews said, "See to it that no one misses the grace of God." Over the centuries much ink has been spilled on the subject of grace. Yet perhaps nothing is as hard to explain as God's grace. It doesn't make sense. It's not fair. It can't possibly cover over what I've done. The best way--perhaps the only real way--to understand it is to experience it. But too often in our churches we're not getting grace across and grace is not experienced. 

Bestselling author and pastor Kyle Idleman wants everyone to experience the grace of God. Through the powerful medium of story, Grace Is Greater leads readers past their hang-ups toward an understanding of grace that is bigger than our mistakes, our failures, our desire for revenge, and our seemingly impossible situations. No sin is so great, no bitterness so deep that God's grace cannot transform the heart and rewrite the story. 

Perfect for individuals and also for small groups and church-wide studies, Grace Is Greater will help readers truly grasp God's grace, even if the Christians around them have failed to live it.

My review:

  Kyle Idleman is most likely my favorite non-fiction author. When I saw a post about being in the launch team for his new book, I immediately filled out the application and waited with fingers crossed......and was happy to get in on it.

   I have read, enjoyed, been convicted, and encouraged by all of Kyle's books. Grace Is Greater may be his best yet. Grace is a big subject to tackle, but Kyle does a great job of doing so in this book.

 He first emphasizes the grace that is available to us, no matter how bad we are or have been. He then goes on to address how we need to show the same grace we have received to others....even those who have wronged us. I found that part of the book very convicting, especially as I read examples of people who had forgiven much and showed grace to those who had severely wronged them.

  Often books of this type are stuffy volumes that are difficult to wade through. Grace Is Greater is far from stuffy or boring. Kyle writes of grace in a way that is interesting and entertaining as he tells his own faults in a self deprecating manner.

 Obviously it is going to take more than reading a book like this to change, but it is a great start. There is a lot of good and Biblical advice in here how to accept God's grace, how to show it, and how to forgive the unforgiveable. There are no quick and easy formulas, yet Bible-based instructions on how to get where we need to be.

 I highly recommend this book. It has the potential to be a life-changing book.

I was given a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

About the author:


Kyle Idleman is teaching pastor at Southeast Christian Church in Louisville, Kentucky, the fifth largest church in America, where he speaks to more than twenty thousand people each weekend. He is the bestselling and award-winning author of Not a Fan as well as Gods at War and The End of Me. He is a frequent speaker for national conventions and in influential churches across the country. Kyle and his wife, DesiRae, have four children and live on a farm.



Grace Is Greater is available from Baker Publishing.

Thanks to Baker for the review copy.




 

Monday, February 27, 2017

In His Image, A Mother's Reflection on Homosexuality by Carol Nesbitt

  ** I normally post a description of the book, but I cannot find one anywhere, so I will just say it is a book written by the mother of a gay son as she comes to terms with his being gay.

  My review:

   Disclaimer:
Lest I be accused of being homophobic or anti-gay, let me say up front I have had same-sex attractions as far back as I can remember. I know how difficult it is. I know how unfair it seems to not be allowed to give into those desires and attractions......believe me, I get it. Now onto my review:

  I usually try to be as nice as I can when I don't like a book I review. I strive to be honest, but say what needs to be said in as nice of a way as possible. I may not be able to do that with this book.

First, the writing:

 The book is written in a rambling style that sounds like someone's diary......an amateur diary. There is way too much information given about other family members, and the issue of her son's sexuality takes up so little of the book, it could be cut in at least half to tell that part.

Second: anti-Biblical views

  Since there was little information about the book, I didn't know the author's views on the issue of homosexuality. Since a Christian publisher was offering it for review, I assumed the book was from a Biblical standpoint....... and how wrong I was.

 The author tells at how she was horrified at first to learn her son was gay, but then came to accept it. It took awhile before she blatantly disagreed with the Bible. Not only does she feel God made him gay and is OK with him being gay - as in having sex with other guys - she went through every passage in the Bible that condemns homosexuality, and very poorly refutes it. She shows her lack of Biblical knowledge by her desperate attempts to make her son's sexuality OK with God.

 I'll be honest: I didn't finish the book. I got about 75% of the way through it, and that is when she started contradicting the Bible, twisting Scripture, and tossing out what is inconvenient. I admire her love for her son, but true love doesn't pat people on the back and tell them the Bible is wrong about their sin. True love tells the truth and points those held captive even by homosexuality to the God who can set them free.

 Do not buy this book. It is completely against the Bible.