Wednesday, September 26, 2018

A Secret to Die for by Lisa Harris

Book description:

Psychologist Grace Callahan has no idea that she has a secret--one worth killing for. But when she finds out one of her clients has been murdered, she quickly realizes that the computer security specialist wasn't simply suffering from paranoia.

Detective Nate Quinn has just been cleared for active duty after a bombing killed eighteen people, including his partner, and left him dealing with PTSD. His first case back on the job involves the murder of Stephen Shaw, and his only lead turns out to be an old friend, Grace Callahan--and her life is in grave danger. Someone believes Shaw gave his psychologist information before he died. Information they are willing to kill for.

With her signature pulse-pounding suspense, Lisa Harris takes readers deep into the heart of fear in this race against the clock.

My review:

  Some years ago I read my first Lisa Harris book. I don't remember the title, but I do remember thinking it was "just OK". She has gone from being just OK to one of my favorite suspense authors whose books I look forward to reading.

 This book is her first after her awesome Nikki Boyd Series. As far as I can tell, this is a stand alone book, with no indications of it being a series.

  I loved the plot for this book. It involved bad guys working to shut down the power grid for the whole country, as the good guys raced to stop their evil and disastrous plan. I have read an am aware of the dangers and fallout if something like that did ever happen, so I found the book to be a fascinating read, even though it was fictional.

 The author did a great job on the technical jargon, and describing how such things in language easy to understand, and an awesome job on the suspense.

 The two main characters were very likable, and were great creations by the author. As with most books of this type, there is a romance brewing throughout the book. Even though I am a confirmed bachelor, I have come to enjoy most of these and cheer on that part of the book, as well as a conclusion to the mystery/dilemma faced by those characters.

 I loved the book, and found it one difficult to put down, and was only disappointed that the ending came so fast. Harris has another book she can be very proud of.

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 from Romantic Times for her novels Blood Covenant and Vendetta. The author of more than thirty books, including Vendetta, Missing, Pursued, Vanishing Point, and the Southern Crimes series, Harris and her family have spent almost fifteen years living as missionaries in southern Africa. Learn more at

A Secret to Die for is available from Revell Publishing, part of the Baker Publishing Group.

Thanks to Revell for the review copy.

Making God Smile by Kim Taylor Henry

My review:

More than just an inspiring daily message, this book leads you on a year-long journey of aligning your actions to your heart’s intentions. Making God Smile overflows with encouragement, reminders, practical tips, personal and inspiring stories, scriptural insight, and biblical teaching that will show you how to reflect love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control. By embracing this fruit, others will see Christ in you and your life will be more than you ever imagined possible.

My review:
  I would think it would be difficult to write a 365 day devotional on living  the fruits of the Spirit, but this author has done exactly that.

 As with any devotional I have reviewed, I didn't read every entry, but read several throughout the book to get a good look at it....and I am impressed at how this devotional turned out. I am sure the average Christian could do better with living the fruits of the Spirit, and what better way to improve on that than reading daily about living those?

  The devotional is for 365 days, but is not split up into months nor labeled by month and dates. They are simply labeled day 1, day 2, etc., on up through 365. Each day starts with a Bible verse, followed by the author's thoughts, and ending with a short one-two line prayer.

 I found the devotionals well written and helpful. The author has come up with a great devotional that is different from others on the market, and I would recommend it.

About the author:

Kim Taylor Henry is a gifted writer, frequent contributor to Daily Guideposts and lifelong student of the Bible. She spent seventeen years as a corporate defense litigation attorney and eight years a vice president of human resources at two major corporations. Kim has three grown children and five grandchildren and lives with her husband near Denver, Colorado.

Making God Smile is available from Worthy Publishing.

Thanks to Worthy for the review copy.

Friday, September 21, 2018

A Christmas by the Sea by Melody Carlson

Book description:

When Wendy Harper inherits her family's beach-side cottage in Seaside, Maine, she sees it as a way to finally pay off the debts that have mounted since her husband died. But before it can be sold, the neglected property must be renovated. She and her 12-year-old son Jackson move in--temporarily, she reminds him--in order to do the work themselves, even though Christmas is coming. The charming town, along with local craftsman Caleb Colton, pulls on both Wendy and Jackson, who even registers himself for school in a bid to get his mom to move them there permanently. Wendy knows that the most responsible thing to do is to sell the cottage and return to Ohio, but the lure of the sea is hard to resist.

Join award-winning author Melody Carlson for a Christmas story that will warm your heart and have you dreaming of your own enchanted seaside holiday.

My review:

  I have come to equate a great Christmas story with Melody Carlson. She has been writing a Christmas novel every year for several years now, and I have a shelf containing those books. It may seem odd to be reading and reviewing a Christmas book in September, but there was no way I'd pass up a chance to review her newest Christmas novel. I would rather have read it closer to Christmas, but the review dates are this month.

 Of all of her books I have read, I find this one to be her best one yet. It is possible there are aspects of the book that made me like it even better.

 The setting is a beach house by the ocean, and I love the ocean and have vacationed there several times. Granted, I have no desire to be there in the winter, but it still made a great setting for the book.

   I am also a sucker for a book with kids in it, especially a fatherless young boy. Carlson did a great job on creating his likable character, along with the other main characters.

 The book actually takes place before Christmas, a week before Thanksgiving, and the time after. There is a lot of talk about Christmas, and much decorating for the holiday also. The town in the book sounds like a delightful place to live, whether or not it is modeled after a real town or not.

 These Christmas books are actually novellas, with this one coming in at just 167 pages. A lot is packed into those pages, and the story tugged at my heart strings of a 12 year old boy so desperately wanting what seemed impossible, but then Christmas is a time for miracles.....

 I thoroughly enjoyed the book, though the whirlwind romance was was too fast to happen in real life...though I did love the ending and how it was all wrapped up. A great read indeed.

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

About the author:

Melody Carlson is the award-winning author of over two hundred books, several of them Christmas novellas from Revell, including her much-loved and bestselling book, The Christmas Bus.

She also writes many teen books, including the Diary of a Teenage Girl series, the TrueColors series, and the Carter House Girls series.

Melody was nominated for a Romantic Times Career Achievement Award in the inspirational market for her books, including the Notes from a Spinning Planet series and Finding Alice, which is in production as a Lifetime Television movie. She and her husband serve on the Young Life adult committee in central Oregon.

Check out her website:

A Christmas by the Sea is available from Revell, part of the Baker Publishing Group.

Thanks to Revell for the review copy.

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Healing the Scars of Addiction by Gregory L Jantz, Ph D

Book description:

The wreckage of addiction lies scattered around too many people--from the one who is or was addicted to those in relationship with that person. Age-old culprits of drugs, alcohol, and gambling are joined by newer addictions, such as food, prescription medication, shopping, pornography, and technology. Left unaddressed, addiction devastates lives now and makes it difficult to see a positive way forward.

For anyone struggling with an addiction, attempting to live in recovery, or seeking to understand the mind of an addict they love, Dr. Jantz's newest book is a lifeline. In it he helps readers answer tough questions, such as

- Am I an addict?
- Why is the first step so hard?
- How can I put my life back together?
- Where do I go from here?

Addiction doesn't have to have the last word. Healing the Scars of Addiction offers a holistic approach to healing so that readers can reclaim their lives and move forward in hope.

My review:

   It is all too easy to get addicted to a multitude of things today, but it can be really difficult to get rid of those same addictions. I am a firm believer in prayer and God's help, but these things are still hard to battle, so it is good to have books out there on issues one struggles with to get some additional help and advice.

 I have read and reviewed other books along the lines of this one, but I found this one to do a better job than most. The author seems to really know his "stuff", and approaches it from both a professional and compassionate standpoint.

 Among other things, the book addresses how and why addictions can happen, then goes on to the how's of getting rid of an addiction.

 I found the book very well written, and containing a lot of helpful material and advice for those battling addictions.

About the author:

Gregory L. Jantz, PhD, is a popular speaker and award-winning author of many books, including Healing the Scars of Emotional Abuse, Healing the Scars of Childhood Abuse, and Overcoming Anxiety, Worry, and Fear. He is the founder of The Center • A Place of Hope ( in Washington state. Learn more at

Healing the Scars of Addiction is available from Revell Publishing, part of the Baker Publishing Group.

Thanks to Revell for the review copy.

The Crescent Stone, Sunlit Lands #1 by Matt Mikalatos

Book description:

A girl with a deadly lung disease . . .
A boy with a tragic past . . .
A land where the sun never sets but darkness still creeps in . . . 

Madeline Oliver has never wanted for anything, but now she would give anything just to breathe. Jason Wu skates through life on jokes, but when a tragedy leaves him guilt-stricken, he promises to tell only the truth, no matter the price. When a mysterious stranger name Hanali appears to Madeline and offers to heal her in exchange for one year of service to his people, Madeline and Jason are swept into a strange land where they don’t know the rules and where their decisions carry consequences that reach farther than they could ever guess.

My review:
  I'll admit this book sounded a bit weird to me, but I requested it because it also sounded interesting. And it is a bit weird, but a good weird.

 This is a fantasy novel written for teens, but I have found that books written for teens can be very enjoyable reads, and this one definitely was. I would put this book in the category of the Chronicles of Narnia. As with the Narnia books, one can spend too much time trying to find spiritual applications and allegorical truths where there are none. I simply read the book, and enjoyed it.

 That is not to say there are not truths and lessons to be learned and gained from reading the book. There definitely are....such as Jason's intense determination to always tell the truth, no matter what.

 The author came up with a great imaginary land to set his book in, along with a vast array of people and races that are in that land. Then he tossed two human teenagers into that land who had no clue as to the rules and what was really going on in that land. There were indeed many surprises in the book, and not is as it seems in the Sunlit Lands.

 The Chinese teen Jason absolutely made the book. Madeline is intended to be the main character, but the book would not have been nearly as entertaining and interesting without his antics. With his determination to tell the truth no matter what, coupled with his reckless habit of doing and saying the wrong thing at the worse times made me laugh out loud often while I was reading. He may be one of the funniest characters I have ever run across in all of my years of reading. I loved his antics and his fierce loyalty and determination to his friends.

 I would not call this a Christian book in the terms of the ones I usually read, but it is a great clean fantasy novel that has Biblical truths and lessons throughout it. I am hooked, and am looking forward to the next book in the series. This is a fantasy novel that stands above most I have read.

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

About the author:

Matt Mikalatos writes books (surprise!). In the past, Matt worked as a high school teacher and a comic book clerk, but currently focuses on nonprofit work devoted to helping people love one another despite their differences. He lives in Portland, Oregon, with his wife, three daughters, two unicorns, a gryphon, a dragon, and three brine shrimp.

The Crescent Stone is available from Tyndale Publishing.

Thanks to Tyndale for the review copy.

Monday, September 3, 2018

Less Than Perfect: Broken Men and Women of the Bible and What We Can Learn from Them by Ann Spangler

Book description:

What can the Bible’s most flawed men and women reveal about who God is and how he reaches out to less-than-perfect people? In Less Than Perfect, bestselling author Ann Spangler takes us beyond cardboard cutouts of 38 biblical characters to show us how these were real individuals who had dreams, temptations, and weaknesses just like us.

Whether considering the murderous Herodias, the scheming Jacob, or the doubting Sarah, Spangler approaches both familiar and lesser known characters with fresh eyes. We meet each of these individuals again as if for the first time as Spangler offers a dramatic retelling of their lives, insight into the historical and cultural context of their time, and key takeaway points for our lives today. Each chapter includes questions for discussion or reflection, making Less Than Perfect ideal for individual or group Bible study.

Entertaining, informative, and inspirational, Less Than Perfect gives you a big picture view of the Bible even as it takes you into the hearts and minds of people with struggles just like yours. As you learn more about the individuals who are part of your spiritual family tree, you’ll discover why God loves to use imperfect people to tell his perfect story of redemption.

My review:

 I have read a few of Ann Spangler's books, and also have the Names of God Bible which she was the editor for. I have been impressed with what she has written, and really enjoy the Bible. When I saw this book for review, I knew it was worth reviewing.

 I am honest in my reviews, so I will admit I don't like the cover of the book very well. This was a case of not judging the book by its cover. Had I not read books by the author before, I may have passed....which would have been a mistake.

 The book covers 30 people from the Bible, some good and some bad. Delilah and Jezebel are covered, and also people like David and Mary Magdalene.

 Each chapter is a different Bible character, and starts out with at least one verse about the character. The author then relates the story of  the person, with Bible verses on the side throughout. Next is the "Times" section. It gives the approximate dates of the story, and where in the Bible it appears. It also gives some details about the setting and customs of that time.

 The Times section is followed by the "Take Away". It consists of some questions about the story, and some are personal questions to do with the reader based on the story.

 This is a great and interesting book that shows what Bible characters did wrong, and how we can learn from their mistakes and lives. It would make a great Bible study for a group, or even a 30-day devotional. It is well written, and the author brought out a lot of interesting points and questions.

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

About the author:

Ann Spangler is an award-winning author, publishing her first book, an instant bestseller, in 1994. Since then, she has gone on to write several bestselling books, including Women of the Bible (co-authored with Jean Syswerda), Praying the Names of God, Praying the Names of Jesus, and Sitting at the Feet of Rabbi Jesus (co-authored with Lois Tverberg). Her latest book is Praying the Attributes of God. Together her books have sold millions of copies.

In 2013 she was named the Logos Bookstore Author of the Year, an award given to an author "whose body of works exemplifies the power of books to change lives forever."

By paying attention to the spiritual and emotional hungers that animate us and by finding creative ways to explore God's self-revelation in Scripture, her writing surprises by revealing a God who is often far bigger and better than we might imagine.

In addition to writing, Ann has enjoyed a lengthy career in Christian publishing, working for William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Servant Publications, and Zondervan Publishing in marketing, editorial, and management roles. Her broad experience in publishing has convinced her that readers are looking for well-written books that explore the connection between spiritual experience and everyday life, books that both engage the mind and strengthen the heart.

Less Than Perfect is available from Zondervan Publishing.

Do Angels Really Have Wings? by writers from Today In the Word

Book description:

Do Christians, Jews, and Muslims all pray to the same God? Is it okay to be mad at God? Did Adam have a belly button?

We all have questions, even if we don't know how to find answers. Over the last 30 years, Today in the Word from the Moody Bible Institute has taken questions from people all around the world and published a few of them each month with answers from reliable Bible experts. Do Angels Really Have Wings? is a collection of the most repeated, most intriguing questions (with a few lighthearted ones too). These questions are then answered by trusted Christian voices like Don Cole, Mike Kellogg, and Rosalie de Rosset. Whether you're curious about Christianity or have been in the church since you were in diapers, this book is a great place to start exploring some of your own questions about God, life, and the Bible.

My review:

  I thought this sounded like an interesting book to review, and I was right. There are 200 questions in all, from serious ones on sexuality and dating, to not so serious ones like "did Adam have a belly button?"

 The book is not just an interesting read, but also a fun read. It is a great book to read a page or two, and then pick it up for a few minutes later. I found the answers well thought out, though I didn't always agree 100% because of theological differences, such as if you read the book, keep in mind that though the book is interesting and fun, you may have some differences with the answers to some of the questions.

 I did enjoy the more fun questions, and as long as I have been around the church, there were some things asked that I did find the answers I definitely recommend the book.

Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus: A Devout Muslim Encounters Christianity by Nabeel Qureshi

   Book description:

  In Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus, now expanded with new bonus content, Nabeel Qureshi describes his dramatic journey from Islam to Christianity, complete with friendships, investigations, and supernatural dreams along the way.

Providing an intimate window into a loving Muslim home, Qureshi shares how he developed a passion for Islam before discovering, almost against his will, evidence that Jesus rose from the dead and claimed to be God. Unable to deny the arguments but not wanting to deny his family, Qureshi struggled with an inner turmoil that will challenge Christians, Muslims, and all those who are interested in the world’s greatest religions.

Engaging and thought-provoking, Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus tells a powerful story of the clash between Islam and Christianity in one man’s heart--and of the peace he eventually found in Jesus.

The New York Times bestselling Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus has been expanded to include:

A revised foreword and introduction
A new afterword by Mark Mittelberg and reflection by Nabeel's wife
A substantially extended epilogue that shares how Nabeel told his friend David of his decision to follow Christ, how his parents found out, and much more
Expert contributions from scholars and ministry leaders on each section of the book, contributions previously included only in the ebook edition
An appendix with a topical table of contents (for teaching from Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus)
An appendix tackling the objection that Ahmadi Muslims are not true Muslims
And a sneak peek prologue from Nabeel’s book, No God but One: Allah or Jesus?

My review:

  I have read a few books about/by Muslims who converted to Christianity, but this is the best I have read, and is likely the best that has been written.

  This is an amazing story, and very well written. The author tells a lot about his childhood and what it was like to grow up Muslim, and what it was like to be a Muslim in America on and after 911. He gives an interesting look at not only the teachings of Muslim, but how steeped they are in their beliefs and what it means for a Muslim to leave their faith and become a Christian.

 Slight spoiler: I found it fascinating how dreams were used by God to bring Nabeel to the Christian faith, and have read that it is fairly common for Muslims who have become Christians.

 One thing that really stood out to me in the book, was Nabeel's Christian friend David. There were four friends who hung out at college: David the Christian, Nabeel the Muslim, a Hindu, and an atheist.......and all 3 of the non-Christians came to Christ, largely because of the influence of David.

 I did previously read the original book, and I found the added content very interesting. Of all the extra content, I especially found the part where it relayed how Nabeel told David of his decision to become a Christian, and of how his parents found out about it.

 It is sad Nabeel left this earth at such a young life. God was truly using him, but his story and legacy will live on.

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

About the author:

Nabeel Qureshi was the author of the New York Times bestsellers No God But One and Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus, the only book ever to win Christian Book Awards for both "Best New Author" and "Best Nonfiction." Nabeel was an accomplished global speaker and held an MD from Eastern Virginia Medical School, an MA in Christian apologetics from Biola University, an MA in religion from Duke University, and an MPhil in Judaism and Christianity from Oxford University.

Raised as a devout Muslim in the United States, Nabeel grew up studying Islamic apologetics with his family and engaging Christians in religious discussions. After one such discussion with a Christian, the two became friends and began a years-long debate on the historical claims of Christianity and Islam. Nabeel chronicled his resulting journey in his first book, Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus.

Throughout his years of ministry, Nabeel lectured to students at more than 100 universities, including Oxford, Columbia, Dartmouth, Cornell, Johns Hopkins, and the University of Hong Kong. He participated in 18 moderated, public debates around North America, Europe, and Asia. Christianity Today heralded Nabeel as one of “33 Under 33” in its cover story on emerging religion leaders in July 2014.

Other works of Nabeel's include Answering Jihad—a balanced examination of jihad, the rise of ISIS, and Islamic terrorism—and the Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus Video Study, which goes deeper into the apologetics that led Nabeel himself to Christ.

Following a year-long battle with stomach cancer, heaven welcomed Nabeel home on September 16, 2017. He leaves behind his wife and young daughter who aspire to honor the ministerial legacy Nabeel established during his brief 34 years on earth.

Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus is available from Zondervan Publishing.

Thanks to Zondervan for the review copy.