Saturday, December 31, 2011

Memorable, moving, funny - one of the best Amish books I've read: My review of "The Keeper" by Suzanne Woods Fisher



If you enjoy Amish fiction (and even if you've never given it a try), you are going to love the Keeper! Read on for my take on this excellent start to a wonderful new series:







Publisher: Revell
Publication Date: January 2012

Synopsis of book as provided by the publisher:



Life on Windmill Farm hasn't been the same since Julia Lapp's father has had trouble with his heart. But that doesn't stop Julia from hoping for a bright future. She has planned on marrying Paul Fisher since she was a girl. Now twenty-one, she looks forward to their wedding with giddy anticipation. But when Paul tells her he wants to postpone the wedding--again--she is determined to change his mind. She knows who is to blame for Paul's sudden reluctance to wed: the Bee Man.

Roman Troyer, the Bee Man, travels through the Amish communities of Ohio and Pennsylvania with his hives full of bees, renting them out to farmers in need of pollinators. A mysterious man who relishes his nomadic life, Roman especially enjoys bringing his bees to Stoney Ridge each year. But with Julia seriously at odds with him, Windmill Farm is looking decidedly less appealing.

Can Julia secure the future she's always dreamed of? Or does God have something else in mind?

MY REVIEW

I can honestly say that "The Keeper" is my favorite contemporary Amish novel that I have read to date. The reason? The characters are simply fantastic! The members of the Lapp family are quirky, unique, lovable, and at times downright hilarious in their thinking and their actions, and Fisher has woven their lives together with expertise. One scene where slightly over-weight Sadie sends her pair of Spanx flying out the window literally left me with tears running down my cheeks in laughter. I won't say more as I don't want to give it away, but several Sadie scenes had me in stitches.

From the moment I picked up this book, I became caught up in their lives and found the book impossible to put down. The book breathes with laughter, heart-break, deep wisdom, hope. As the author gradually allowed me to peek under the characters' interesting exteriors, I discovered hearts that beat with all the dreams and insecurities we all wrestle with at times. God's love absolutely shines through this book, and I came to the last page sad to leave the world of the Windmill Farm. I highly anticipate returning to the farm in book two of the series!

I highly recommend this book, and give it 5 out of 5 stars. I laughed, I cried - I loved it. Readers who enjoy Amish fiction should go purchase this one, because they will not be disappointed!

Book has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc. Available at your favourite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.

Friday, December 30, 2011

A vitally important look at marriage and sex: My review of "Real Marriage" by Mark & Grace Driscoll




Are you looking for an easy-to-read, interesting book about sex and marriage and how to improve your relationship with your spouse? Then read on for my review of "Real Marriage"





Publisher: Thomas Nelson (January 3, 2012)

Book Synopsis as provided by the publisher:


Pastor Mark Driscoll and his wife, Grace, talk about sex and marriage in down-to-earth terms, hitting issues other Christian books won’t. While a wonderful wedding day is important, it’s the last day of marriage that really counts. Will the last day of your marriage come prematurely through divorce? Will it be filled with regrets as you sit at the funeral of your spouse? Or, by God’s grace, will the last day be a day to rejoice in the life you lived together?

Pastor Mark Driscoll and his wife, Grace, want you to finish well on the last day. In this interactive DVD-based study, couples will reflect on Scripture, the trade book, and video conversation starters. Through the homework and group sessions, couples will tackle the tough issues, such as:

· Should I confess my pre-marital sexual sin to my husband/wife?

· Is it okay to have a “work husband/wife”?

· Can I say no to my husband when I really do have a headache?

· What does the Bible say about masturbation and oral sex?

From fun date night tips to the most tricky “can we do that?” sex questions, Mark and Grace share practical help and hope with people just like them—who entered marriage a complete mess—or who are planning to be married someday and want to avoid some sticky pitfalls.

MY REVIEW


I sat down to read this book worried that it would be a chore to read through, filled with nothing but advice and written like a text-book. Instead, the author's humour and humility swept me into the story of their lives and led me on a Biblical discovery of God's design for marriage and sex. Their writing is refreshing in its honesty, with no attempts to pretend at having lived perfect lives, as can sometimes occur in the Christian world. No reader could accuse them of being false or hypocritical. Instead, they write in a way that will bring readers to a place of freedom and grace, and give sound knowledge and wisdom that is sure to bless any marriage that takes their guidance to heart.

Real Marriage is easy to read, filled with interesting topics, and if nothing else is sure to get couples talking about what is and isn't working in their marriage. Sometimes it can be hard for couples to talk about their sex lives or speak openly about pornography or masturbation or lust. Working through this book together will give husbands and wives the chance to freely discuss these issues if they haven't yet done so, in a non-judgmental way. I especially loved the emphasis on husband and wives being best friends, and how this aspect can be so often forgotten in a relationship. My wife and I are, indeed, the best of friends, and I know this is a huge part of what makes our marriage such a blessing to me!

I highly recommend this book and give it 5 out of 5 stars.

Advanced Reader's Copy of the book has been provided courtesy of Thomas Nelson and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc. Available at your favourite bookseller from Thomas Nelson.


Free ebook devotional: Daily Light on the Daily Path (Kindle, Kobo, Nook)

Today another ebook became free from Baker Publishing Group, a devotional you can download for your Kindle from Amazon.com, or as an Epub from Christianbook.com for your Kobo, Nook, Sony ereader, or other ereading device. Get it while you can as the offer is temporary:




Or as an EPUB from Christianbook:

18765EB: Daily Light on the Daily Path: Morning and Evening Devotionals from God"s Word - eBook Daily Light on the Daily Path: Morning and Evening Devotionals from God's Word - eBook

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Encounter stories of humility and grace: My review "I am Second"



Publisher: Thomas Nelson (January 3, 2012)

I Am Second is more than just a book - it's a movement. It is "the honest, raw, and often painful journey of broken people who have decided that life is not about them". Authors Doug Bender and Dave Sterrett have taken the stories of both famous people and everyday folk and allowed us to peek into their lives, at the mistakes they have made, and the encounter they have had with Jesus. Rock star Brian "Head" Welch, athlete Josh Hamilton, one-armed surfer Bethany Hamilton, and Christian musician Michael W. Smith are just a few of the people you will meet through the pages of this book, people who are choosing to put God first and themselves second.

The stories contained in I Am Second are powerful, engaging, and very well-written. The book is easy to read, and can either be read all at once or over the course of many days, allowing you to meditate on the power of Jesus to change lives. I greatly appreciate the willingness of the contributors to open up their lives and allow us to see their mistakes, their decisions to use drugs, look at pornography, or dive into a myriad of addictions, choices similar to ones we all make, mistakes wiped away by Jesus' grace. Others share about the power of their relationship with Jesus to help them walk through incredibly difficult times. I thought that a neat feature of the book is the provision of the QR codes at the end of each story, which links to the film for the person who is the focus of that story, or for people who have similar stories. Most of all, I liked the chapter at the end of the book about becoming second by recognizing what Jesus' sacrifice offers for us all.

I highly recommend this book, for it's potential to change lives, and give it 5 out of 5 stars.

Book has been provided courtesy of the publisher, Thomas Nelson, through the Booksneeze program, for the purposes of this unbiased review.

For an example of a video that the book links to, please see the below film about Bethany Hamilton, whose story is the subject of the popular film "Soul Surfer", about the surfer who loses her arm in a shark accident but who continues surfing for Jesus: 




Buy from Christianbook.com:


203734: I Am Second: Real Stories, Changed Lives I Am Second: Real Stories, Changed Lives

Free ebook: Drawing Closer to God (devotional) by Dianne Matthews

Free for today, download a devotional "Drawing Closer to God" for your Kindle from Amazon.com. Or, head on over to Christianbook.com and download an epub for your Kobo, Nook, Sony ereader, etc.:

               EPUB from Christianbook.com

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

51 weeks to the end of the world?: My review of "The Alarmists" by Don Hoesel





A book impossible to put down: 


Read on for my review of "The Alarmists", a must read for lovers of suspense novels.








Publisher: Bethany House (April 1, 2011)

Book Synopsis as provided by the publisher:

This is the Way the World Ends...

Sociologist Brent Michaels' specialty is seeing order in the chaos of human interaction and he's just been given the most important assignment of his life. Joining a special Pentagon unit headed by Colonel Jameson Richards, they have one goal: Uncover why the world is rushing toward doomsday.

It's December 2012 and the world is approaching the brink of panic--the timing of which eerily coincides with the ending of the Mayan calendar. But, beneath the despair of fanatics and doomsayers, and amid a rising tide of both man-made and natural disasters, something far more dangerous emerges--someone is manipulating events, pulling strings, and only Michaels and the team have a chance at stopping the end of the world.

MY REVIEW

A few pages into The Alarmists, I knew I was in for an entertaining ride, and I was certainly not disappointed. Skillfully written at an unstoppable pace, I flew through the pages of the book and enjoyed every minute of it. Not only is it filled with twists and turns and fun "what if?" scenarios, but Hoesel has created intriguing characters and woven faith into the tale in a believable manner as well.

I have read other books involving the Mayan calendar that offered a lot of potential, but did not live up to the hype, so I approached this book with caution. However, Hoesel has succeeded at taking the subject of doomsday and the end of the world in a new direction, and packaged it into a novel sure to please it's readers.

I highly recommend this book and give it 5 out of 5 stars.

Book has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc. Available at your favourite bookseller from Bethany House, a division of Baker Publishing Group.

Free ebook: Blame it on the Mistletoe by Joyce Magnin

Joyce Magnin's ebook "Blame it on the Mistletoe" has become free today for a limited time. For some reason, it's not free yet on Amazon.com in kindle format, but you can download it from Christianbook.com as an EPUB for your Kobo or Sony ereader, or at the bottom of the post is a link to Barnes & Noble for the ebook in Nook format:


22575EB: Blame It on the Mistletoe - eBook Blame It on the Mistletoe - eBook

By Joyce Magnin / Abingdon Press Fiction


Is There Really a Fountain of Youth in Paradise?

Welcome back to Bright's Pond, where strange happenings are afoot at the Greenbrier Nursing Home.

The folks have suddenly grown younger, happier, and even a bit friskier thanks to Leon Fontaine, the newest Paradise Trailer Park resident. But Mildred Blessing is suspicious and sets out to investigate while the wedding to end all weddings is being planned. Only, in Bright's Pond, nothing ever really goes as planned . . .



Get it for your Nook:
NOOK book

Free ebook: "One Year Alone with God: 366 Devotions on the Names of God"

A devotional by Ava Pennington, in ebook format, has become free for a limited time by publisher Revell. Download it for your Kindle, Nook, Kobo, Sony ereader, etc., today!

             EPUB from Christianbook.com for your Kobo, Nook, Sony ereader (should be available free soon from this site, so go ahead and follow this link to see if it's been made available yet...)

3 free ebooks: Medical Error, One Imperfect Christmas, A Simple Amish Christmas

3 ebooks from Abindgon Press have been made free as of today, for the next few days, including the following ebooks for your Kindle from Amazon, and as an Epub from Christianbook.com to download to your Nook, Kobo, Sony or other ereader:


                         EPUB from Christianbook.com for your Nook, Kobo, Sony ereader


                         EPUB from Christianbook.com for your Nook, Kobo, Sony ereader


                         EPUB from Christianbook.com for your Nook, Kobo, Sony ereader

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

A book that may transform your life: My review of "The Resolution for Women"

   

Women, are you looking for an easy-to-read book that will both challenge you and celebrate who God has made you to be? Then read on for my review of "The Resolution for Women".




Publisher: B&H Books (July 31, 2011)

Book Synopsis as provided by the publisher:



Written in partnership with Sherwood Pictures' film of the Fall 2011, COURAGEOUS, in The Resolution for Women, popular speaker and author Priscilla Shirer challenges all women to be intentional about embracing and thriving in God’s beautiful and eternal calling on their lives.

Like the men in the movie who resolve to fully accept their responsibilities before God, Shirer explains how today's women can and should live out their own resolution. It is "a defining banner that hangs over your life, written in the ink of your own choices." A woman's banner should be an accurate reflection of who she desires to be-someone completely Christ-centered who blesses and changes things in her world for the better.

The Resolution for Women inspires women with intentional, spirit-filled living from three unique angles. Section one, entitled, "This Is Who I Am," helps a woman define herself as "authentically me, purposefully feminine, surprisingly satisfied, and faithfully His." Section two, "This Is What I Have," invites her to value "my best, my blessing, my honor, and my heart." And Section three, "This Is What Matters To Me," focuses on joyfully honoring God as a wife, mother, and family member while resolving to live with the grace that leaves a godly legacy. The Resolution for Women is designed to inspire a revolution.

MY REVIEW


Filled with deep insight and godly wisdom, The Resolution for Women is a book that has the potential to change lives. The book tackles many difficult issues that are common for women, and does so in a way that gently challenges women to change any behaviors that are not God-honoring and seek to leave a "legacy of faith, compassion, gratitude, perseverance, forgiveness, patience, and love". The book is filled with short chapters that are easy to read, either in one sitting or here and there in the midst of the hustle and bustle of your day. My wife especially appreciated the questions that accompany the end of each chapter that allow the reader to truly ponder what they've read and see how they can apply it to their lives. As such, the book could be read on ones own or in a small group. The book is very well-written, conveyed in a conversational manner, and the author includes many personal anecdotes that are both entertaining and will leave the reader greatly inspired.

The wisdom in the book is clearly based on scripture, and as such, women who apply it's message to their lives will surely fulfill the promise of Proverbs 31:28, that "her children will rise up and call her blessed".
I and my wife highly recommend this book and give it 5 out of 5 stars.

Book has been provided courtesy of David C Cook and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc. 
Available at your favourite bookseller from B&H Publishing Group.

AWESOME Free ebook; The Pawn by Steven James (Bowers File Series)

An awesome ebook became free today for a limited time for your Kindle, Kobo, Nook, etc. Download it while you can!

        EPUB from Christianbook.com for your Kobo, Nook, Sony ereader.

While you're at it, check out my review of The Queen, the latest book in the series!

Monday, December 26, 2011

A sure hit for pre-teens: My review of Allison O'Brian on Her Own, volume 1



Publisher: Revell; Reprint edition (May 1, 2011) 

Book Synopsis as provided by the publisher:

Join Allison on the adventure of a lifetime!

It's 1948, and fourteen-year-old Allison O'Brian has never known what it's like to have a real family. She knows nothing about her father, and her mother is a glamorous movie star who has little time for her. But when Allison stumbles upon a long-lost letter, she learns there is more to her past than meets the eye, and she embarks on a coast-to-coast adventure to find the love of a family she has always dreamed about.

Volume 1 includes the first two stories in Allison's adventure: The Hope and The Wish. In The Hope, Allison discovers a mysterious letter that leads her on a cross-country train trip to find her family. In The Wish, Allison's movie-star mother wants to take her back to New York, but Allison must find a way to stay in Oregon with her newly discovered family.

Join this sweet and spunky girl as she makes her dreams come true!

MY REVIEW 


I have no doubt that preteen and teen youth will greatly enjoy Melody Carlson's first two stories about Allison O'Brian. Although those teen years are long behind me, I was still swept up into her story, the injustice, the loneliness, her search for home and a place of belonging. This first volume provides plenty of drama and surprises to keep the pages flying by, and Carlson writes with her usual skill that keeps the reader engaged. Allison is a character that teens will relate to, and she's given a realistic portrayal with both flaws and great strengths, from her lies to her courage to set out across the country to uncover the truth about her past. Parents may debate whether the book is sending the right message with Allison's decision to lie and take off without her mother's permission. But at the same time, her actions are understandable in light of her difficult and lonely experiences growing up, and the whole situation makes for some excellent talking points to chat about with your child...while providing great entertainment at the same time. Allison's search for home ultimately leads her into the hands of God, and her journey to belief is wonderful to behold. The volume ends with a court trial that will have you on the edge of your seat, and the cliffhanger that concludes the book will have you wishing to have the next volume in hand!

I highly recommend Allison O'Brian on Her Own, and award it 5 out of 5 stars.

Book has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc. Available at your favourite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

On LIES, SCANDAL, TRUTH...and WAFFLES: Merry Christmas!


 

LIES:

If you turn on the t.v. and watch commercial after commercial, you'll learn that Christmas is just about giving presents. It's about Santa flying through the air to deliver gifts, about getting the best present, the biggest toys. Surely that's the true meaning of Christmas?





SCANDAL: 
That the son of God would be delivered by a teen peasant girl, Mary, who became pregnant before she was wed. Utterly scandalous!  









THE TRUTH:  

God's plans are so far above our own understanding. He always knows exactly what he's doing, even in choosing to work through the humble and poor (and thank goodness he does, or there'd be no hope for any of us!).

How amazing that God would give up his own power and glory and be wrapped up in a tiny baby and be born in a lowly stable! "The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us" (John 1:14).

How amazing that God himself would give his life for all of us, because he knew that we couldn't save ourselves, that we could never be "good enough" to earn our way to heaven, that instead he'd give us eternal life as a free gift. "For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whosoever believes in Him will not perish, but have eternal life" (John 3:16).

This Christmas, I'm determined to remember that it's not about the presents, about me, me, me. It's about Jesus. Well, and...


WAFFLES.


Okay, maybe not really. But come on, what would Christmas day be without waffles? Whip cream and strawberries? Mmmm.






Time with family and friends, celebrating the real meaning of Christmas, THAT is what Christmas is all about... preferably with waffles too!

Merry Christmas!

Free ebook: Ruby (Dakota Treasures #1) by Lauraine Snelling for Kindle, Nook, Kobo

This morning, Bethany House publishers and author Lauraine Snelling have made her ebook "Ruby" FREE for a limited time, for your Kindle, Kobo, Nook, Sony ereader, etc.:

               EPUB from Christianbook.com for your Nook, Kobo, Sony ereader.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

A book I devoured: My review of Unexpected Dismounts: A Novel (The Reluctant Prophet Series)




Publisher: David C. Cook; New edition (October 1, 2011)

Nancy Rue continues the story of modern prophet Allison Chamberlain in this second book of "The Reluctant Prophet" series. Allison is continuing to learn to hear God's voice and to obey his nudges, something that isn't always as clear as she would like. When she hears God telling her to "wash their feet" she at first resists and thinks she must be hearing wrong. However, God has some surprising moments in store for Allison as she continues to learn to trust God and his leading, whether with her care of former prostitutes, her relationship with fellow Harley rider, Chief, or her plans to adopt Desmond, the boy left in her care by his now-deceased mother.

I enjoyed Unexpected Dismounts as much as I did the first book in the series. There were moments that made me smile and laugh, moments that left me feeling challenged in my faith, moments that made me think a tear was about to emerge! The characters continued to grow in their personal journeys, and I loved being able to follow their journies, especially Allison's unique one. Some added suspense in this book, some legal drama,  and a few twists I didn't see coming left me devouring the pages. The series just keeps getting better and better, and I cannot wait for the third and final book in the series.

I highly recommend this book and give it 5 out of 5 stars. Those readers who enjoyed the first book in this series will want to add this one to their Christmas wishlist.

An egalley of this book was provided by the publisher via netgalley for the purposes of this unbiased review.

Free ebook: To Love Anew by Bonnie Leon, for your Kindle, Nook, Kobo

Happy Christmas Eve!

Today, "To Love Anew" became free for a limited time, from publisher Revell.

       EPUB from Christianbook.com for your Kobo, Nook, Sony ereader...

Friday, December 23, 2011

Another winner from Lauraine Snelling: My Review of Valley of Dreams (Wild West Wind Book 1)



If you love unique characters and reading about women who refuse to be defined by the societal norm, you're going to love Valley of Dreams.

See below for my latest review:




Publisher: Bethany House (November 1, 2011)

Book Synopsis as provided by publisher:

When Cassie Lockwood's mother died, Cassie began travelling with her father's Wild West Show. Along the way, she became an amazingly skillful trick rider and sharpshooter, likened by some to the famous Annie Oakley. When her father passed away, she continued to work with the show, having nowhere else to go.

Now Cassie has discovered that "Uncle" Jason, the show's manager, has driven the show into debt, and he's absconded with what little money was left. Devastated, Cassie decides to try to find the hidden valley in the Black Hills of South Dakota where her father had dreamed of setting down roots. She has only one clue. She needs to find three huge stones that look like fingers on a giant hand. With Chief, a Sioux Indian who's been with the act for twenty years, and Micah, the head wrangler, she leaves the show and a bundle of heartache behind and begins a wild and daring adventure.

Will they find the valley before winter closes in on them?

MY REVIEW

Cassie Lockwood is one of those characters that you wish existed in real life. What I wouldn't give to be able to watch someone like her shooting an apple off of a dog's head or shooting the ash off of a cigarette someone is smoking (a talent that might come in handy in convincing someone to give up smoking!). So much about her left a smile on my face, such as her scandalous actions of wearing pants to ride a horse, and her loving relationship with a Buffalo named George.

Lauraine Snelling has absolutely succeeded at creating a host of characters who are entertaining and larger than life. I found myself flying through this book, not because it necessarily had non-stop action or unexpected plot twists (though the book does move at a fairly good pace), but because I simply couldn't wait to see what the characters would do next. I was captivated by all the adventures Cassie was having, which contrasted nicely with the author's portrayal of life on the ranch in the hidden valley Cassie was seeking. The writing was strong, and although some parts were slower than others, I have no doubt that fans of Lauraine Snelling will be utterly pleased with this new series and the promise of more to come in these character's lives. My only complaint is that the end of the story leaves the reader hanging. However am I going to wait for book 2 in the series?

I highly recommend this book and give it 4.5 out of 5 stars.

Book has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc. Available at your favourite bookseller from Bethany House, a division of Baker Publishing Group.

Free ebook: Holiness Day by Day

And the last free ebook of the day for your Kindle, Kobo or other ereader:

               EPUB from Christianbook.com for your Kobo, Nook, Sony ereader, etc.

Free ebook: Dwelling in His Presence / 30 Days of Intimacy with God: A Devotional for Today's Woman

Grab this devotional ebook for women free for a temporary time, for your Kobo, Kindle or Nook:





    or      EPUB from Christianbook.com for your Nook, Kobo, or other ereader

Free: The Message SOLO New Testament ebook

Today, the Message Solo New Testament ebook became free for a limited time for your Kindle, Kobo or other ereader:

                   EPUB from Christianbook.com for your Kobo or Sony ereader or Nook

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Darkness shattered by light: My review of Composing Amelia



Publisher: David C. Cook; New edition (September 1, 2011)

Amelia and Marcus have been married six months, living in L.A., working hard at two or three jobs to make ends meet, and waiting to realize their dreams - Marcus of becoming a pastor, and Amelia of becoming a professional pianist. When Amelia is offered her first job being paid to play piano for a theater group and Marcus is soon after offered a position as senior pastor of a church in Nebraska, their dreams collide. A decision to take three months to try out their new positions while temporarily living separately sparks a downward spiral in Amelia that she's unsure she'll recover from. Both Marcus and Amelia must face darkness from their past to wade through the present and discover if their marriage, and their faith, will survive.

Composing Amelia is the first book that I have ever read by Alison Strobel, and I was floored by her mastery of the English language, her ability to create complex and interesting characters, and her courage in tackling difficult issues, such as childhood neglect and mental illness. What I was most amazed about is that this novel deals with dark issues, descending into Amelia's heart and soul where we are greeted by Amelia's feelings of despair and hopelessness, and yet it still moves along at a good pace, such that I was entertained while left deep in thought. I did get impatient at one point in the second half, waiting for the moment when things would start turning around, but this is because I had grown to care about the characters and was anxious to see how the story would unfold.

Readers will be left enlightened about mental illness, while being stirred by the hope that comes by God's grace. I strongly recommend this book and give it 4.5 out of 5 stars.

An egalley of this novel was provided courtesy of the publisher via netgalley for the purposes of this unbiased review.

Free: The dog next door (ebook) by Callie Smith Grant

Today, an ebook by Callie Smith Grant has become free for a limited time (possibly just today, as Baker publishing group has been releasing a lot of ebooks this season free just for 1 day). The book is "The dog next door". Make sure to download it for your Kindle, Kobo, Nook, or other ereader:


                  NOOK              EPUB from Christianbook.com for your Kobo, Sony ereader, etc.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Don't end up on the shelf of mediocrity: My review of "Courageous Living" by Michael Catt

 
If you long to be someone who follows Christ without fear or hesitation, someone who is called to do something greater than they could imagine, then be challenged and read Courageous Living.

Here's my take on this great book:



Publisher: B&H Books; Original edition (September 1, 2011)

Book Synopsis as provided by publisher:

Catch a fresh wind of bravery through the bold biblical accounts of Abraham, Joshua, Ruth, and many others in Courageous Living by Michael Catt, pastor and executive producer of the unforgettable film COURAGEOUS.

In the movie, four police officers are focused and confident when it comes to facing danger on the job. But leading their families at home in a God-honoring way? That takes courage.

Because we are called to take a faithful, fearless stand in all that matters, Catt sheds new light on the stories of people in the Bible who displayed great courage when it would have been easier to play it safe. They challenge and inspire us now to keep moving forward, to examine our priorities, and to deal with anything that brings fear to our heart.

MY REVIEW


Inspiring, convicting, entertaining - Courageous Living packs quite the punch. Written in an easy-to-read style, this book will hold your attention from the first page, and lead you to examine your life and the choices you have made. This is the type of book that you'll want to read yourself and then get a copy to others that you know - it's that good! Imagine if everyone lived life as described in this book, living without fear of what the world thinks, but instead solely focused on God and his incredible plan for our lives, no matter the cost - the world would be transformed!  One of my favorite quotes in the book is, "The life of courage will see what others can't see and believe what others can't believe. Courage is a pattern and a path that will keep us going when all around us are falling and failing". The author reminds us that this courage can't be conjured up on our own - but it comes from God through the power of his Holy Spirit.

The author weaves together sound wisdom with key scriptures and messages from the lives of characters from the Bible, and creates a stirring call to be courageous. I highly recommend this book and give it 5 out of 5 stars.

Don't settle for less. Read this book.

Book has been provided courtesy of David C Cook and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc. Available at your favourite bookseller from B&H Publishing Group.

Image of Michael C. CattMichael Catt is senior pastor of Sherwood Baptist Church in Albany, Georgia, and executive producer of popular films including Facing the Giants and Fireproof that originated from the congregation. USA Today, Time magazine, the Wall Street Journal, and the New York Times have all interviewed him about this unique movie-based ministry. Michael also authored the best seller Fireproof Your Life, The Power of Desperation, The Power of Persistence, and The Power of Surrender and founded the ReFRESH® revival conference. He and his wife, Terri, have two children.

FREE ebook: "What Your Son Isn't Telling You: Unlocking the Secret World of Teen Boys"

Get insight into the "secret life of teen boys" by downloading this free ebook for your Nook, Kobo, and Kindle:


             NOOK               EPUB from Christianbook.com for your KOBO

FREE ebooks: Code Blue, The Prayers of Agnes Sparrow, and A Texan's Promise

3 ebooks from Abingdon Press have been made free today for your Kindle, Nook, and Kobo. They include:


                   NOOK             EPUB from Christianbook.com



                   NOOK             EPUB from Christianbook.com



                   NOOK             EPUB from Christianbook.com

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Be transported back in time: My review of A Lasting Impression by Tamera Alexander

From it's beautiful cover to the satisfying conclusion, A Lasting Impression is sure to please readers who love historical fiction.

Read on for my review of Tamera Alexander's latest book:   





Publisher: Bethany House (November 1, 2011)

Book Synopsis as provided by Publisher:

Claire Laurent's greatest aspiration is to paint something that will bring her acclaim. Yet her father insists she work as a copyist. A forger. When she's forced to flee from New Orleans to Nashville only a year after the War Between the States has ended, her path collides with attorney Sutton Monroe. She considers him a godsend for not turning her in to the authorities. But after he later refuses to come to her aid, Claire fears she's sorely misjudged the man. Finding herself among the elite of Nashville's society, Claire believes her dream to create a lasting impression in the world of art is within reach--but only if her fraudulent past remains hidden.

The Federal Army has destroyed Sutton's home and confiscated his land, and threatens to destroy his family's honor. His determination to reclaim what belongs to him and to right a grievous wrong reveals a truth that may cost him more than he ever imagined--as well as the woman he loves.

MY REVIEW:


Pick up a copy of A Lasting Impression and you will find yourself transported back in time, to a country trying to recover from war, and a young woman trying to overcome the death of her parents and the shame of misusing her talents to deceive others. Tamera Alexander has written a novel that is sure to please lovers of historical fiction, and has created a unique rags-to-riches story in the character of Claire Laurent and the journey she undertakes from painting forgeries for her father to securing a highly sought-after position at the mansion and falling in love with a true man of God. The characters are deftly developed, and Claire is sure to win your heart and your affection as you follow her story and cheer her on for her determination and pluck.

I aslo greatly enjoyed the fact that Tamera set the story in a real location, Nashville's historic Belmont Mansion, a detail that helped me appreciate the descriptions of the beautiful grounds and the awe-inspiring interior even more. And most of all, I walk away from this story remembering the importance of being honest and having integrity in every part of our lives, of not presenting a false front, a forgery of ourselves for the world to see. Though Claire never set out to outright deceive, her actions of witholding information when perhaps it should have been disclosed were as harmful as if she'd outright lied. The conclusion is ultimately satisfying, and Clarie's growth in her faith is one sure to inspire.

I highly recommend this book and give it 4.5 out of 5 stars.

Disclaimer: Book has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc. Available at your favourite bookseller from Bethany House, a division of Baker Publishing Group.

The Whole Bible Story (ebook) by Dr. Marty, FREE today as Kindle, Nook, or EPUB

Newly made free today is the ebook "The Whole Bible Story", from author Dr. William H. Marty and publisher Bethany House. Get it today for your Kindle, Nook, or Kobo (as it is only free for a very limited time):

                     NOOK                   EPUB from Christianbook.com for your Kobo

Monday, December 19, 2011

An enjoyable suspense novel: My review of Refuge on Crescent Hill by Melanie Dobson



Publisher: Kregel Publications (March 11, 2010)

After years of pouring her life into photography, Camden Bristow falls victim to the downturn in the economy. When her employer goes bankrupt, Camden turns to the only person she can think of and leaves New York to drive to her grandmother's house in Etherton, Ohio. However, when she arrives she discovers that her grandmother has recently passed away and, equally shocking, has left her the 150 year old mansion on Crescent Hill. Camden soon finds herself embroiled in threats from her step-sister to contest the will, a notice form the city that they are going to condemn the house, and a mysterious intruder who appears in the mansion. In an attempt to overcome these challenges and discover who is breaking into her home, Camden uncovers long-held secrets that may forever change her life.

Filled with ever-building suspense and plot twists, Refuge on Crescent Hill is a fast-paced read that is sure to please any reader who loves a good suspense novel. The pacing is spot-on, and each chapter leads deeper into a mystery that is resolved in a highly satisfying manner. Camden and Alex are likeable characters who I was sad to leave by the end of the book, and their interactions provide humor and even a touch of romance that was well-handled without being over the top. Camden's journey of faith was also blended perfectly into the story and did not at all detract from the plot in any way. I loved the line in the book where one of the character's states, "I'm learning that life isn't about me anyway, nor is it about what I want out of it. Following Christ is about surrender and faith and about God working through me instead of me working for God". Now that is a thought worth thinking about.

I greatly enjoyed this book from start to finish and give it a high recommendation of 4.5 out of 5 stars.

Book provided courtesy of the publisher, Kregel, for the purposes of this unbiased review.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: 


Melanie Dobson is the award-winning author of The Black CloisterLove Finds You in Liberty, Indiana; and Together for Good


Prior to launching Dobson Media Group in 1999, Melanie was the corporate publicity manager at Focus on the Family where she was responsible for the publicity of events, products, films, and TV specials. Melanie received her undergraduate degree in journalism from Liberty University and her master's degree in communication from Regent University. She has worked in the fields of publicity and journalism for fifteen years including two years as a publicist for The Family Channel.


Melanie and her husband, Jon, met in Colorado Springs in 1997 at Vanguard Church. Jon works in the field of computer animation. Since they've been married, the Dobsons have relocated numerous times including stints in Virginia, Tennessee, North Carolina, Colorado, Berlin, and Southern California. These days they are enjoying their new home in the Pacific Northwest.


Jon and Melanie have adopted their two daughters —Karly (6) and Kinzel (5). When Melanie isn't writing or entertaining their girls, she enjoys exploring ghost towns and dusty back roads, traveling, hiking, line dancing, and reading inspirational fiction.

Free ebook: An Irish Christmas by Melody Carlson

Melody Carlson's ebook "An Irish Christmas" has become free very temporarily for your Kindle, Nook, and Kobo. Get it while you can (lately, these Christmas offerings have been free only a day or two):

                    NOOK                  EPUB from Christianbook.com for your Kobo

Sunday, December 18, 2011

A satisfying conclusion to the Songbird Series: My review of "Love Lifted Me"



Publisher: Thomas Nelson (January 3, 2012)
Jade and Max Benson return in fine form for this satisfying conclusion to the Songbird Series.

Book three, Love Lifted Me, continues to follow the Bensons after their marriage has been tested by secrets of past affairs and the introduction of Max's previously unknown son, Asa, into Jade's life (see my review of Softly and Tenderly for a summary of book 2 in the series). The novel begins with Max's return from the rehab ranch he had attended to deal with his addiction to pain medication; Max's return forces Jade to decide whether she is willing to trust him again. Their lives take a surprising turn when Max is offered the position of head coach of a football team at a struggling school, and they decide to take this opportunity for a new start in their lives. A visit from an old friend of Asa's birth mother introduces a shocking secret that has the potential to unravel the healing Max and Jade have experienced, while Max faces challenges at work that will put the entire family, and their faith, to the ultimate test.

I greatly enjoyed returning to the lives of the Bensons in this moving book. The authors have held to the standard they set in the previous novels in the series, and have penned a drama that is action-packed, with plenty of twists and turns to hold my interest. Jade and Max have been so fully developed that it felt like I was revisiting old friends, while new characters who were introduced likewise found a place in my heart, such as occurred with one of my favorite new characters, Tucker, a youth who overcomes a hard past and utter lack of confidence in a spectacular manner. The writing is skillful, the pacing swift, and the beauty of strong faith in God shines through. The spiritual growth of both Jade and Max, especially in such trying times as presented in the novel, is sure to challenge us all to trust God with our lives in a similar manner. Readers who enjoy the drama created by struggling sports teams will especially appreciate reading this book.

I highly recommend this book and give it 4.5 out of 5 stars, and I also recommend the entire series for those readers who have not yet had the chance to enjoy the prior books.

Disclaimer: Book has been provided courtesy of the publisher via the Booksneeze program and netgalley, for the purposes of this unbiased review.

Free ebook: 11:15: The Making of a Halfling, for your Kindle, Nook, Kobo

And my final post about free ebooks for the day is the ebook "11:15: The Making of a Halfling", the illustrated prequel to the Halflings trilogy, available for your Kindle, Kobo and Nook:

                 NOOK       EPUB from Christianbook.com for your Kobo

Enjoy :)

Free ebook: "Smart Women Know When to Say No" by Dr. Leman

You can get Dr. Kevin Leman's ebook "Smart Women Know When to Say No" for free right now, for your Kindle, Nook, and Kobo:

                NOOK                EPUB from Christianbook.com for your Kobo and other ereaders


Free ebook: "Faith" by Lori Copeland

Tyndale Publishers and author Lori Copeland have made her ebook "Faith" free for download for a limited time, for your Kindle, Nook, Kobo and other ereaders that use Epub:

                     NOOK                   EPUB from Christianbok.com for your Kobo/other

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Do NOT read this book in public: My review of "I didn't ask to be born, but I'm glad I was" by Bill Cosby



Publisher: Center Street (November 1, 2011)

Unless you do not mind giving people a look at your tonsils and, quite possibly, a glance up your nose as your head is tilted back in laughter, I urge you to read this book in private.  If you are of the male species, I definitely recommend finding a private corner, so when you have to grab a Kleenex to wipe off the tears brought on by out-of-control laughter, no one will be looking at your crying self and questioning your manhood!

Bill Cosby has regaled us with random thoughts on life in his latest book, I didn't ask to be born, but I'm glad I was. Whether recounting his teenage romantic angst or providing commentary on the book of Genesis in the Bible, Cosby shares his wisdom in stories that are sure to bring a smile to your face.

I found myself particularly illuminated by stories on such tender subjects as the all-knowing powers of mothers, the hazards of literally bathing in cologne prior to your first date, or the explanation for the war cry of Native Americans (I literally had tears streaming down my face at reading the first paragraphs of THAT chapter). I do have to admit that some of the chapters were funnier than others, and that his style may not appeal to everyone, but overall the book is worth the time to read it, and sure to lighten your day.

I highly recommend this book and give it 4.5 out of 5 stars. Fans of other works from Bill Cosby should plan on picking up this book!

Book provided courtesy of the publisher for the purposes of this review.

Friday, December 16, 2011

The best children's Bible I've seen so far: A review of "My Favorite Bible" by Rondi DeBoer and Christine Tangvald



Publisher: Revell (August 1, 2011)

Book Synopsis as provided by publisher:

Bring the Bible alive!

The most treasured stories of the Bible come alive in My Favorite Bible. Start your little ones on a life-long love of God's word! This colorful and dynamic gospel-centered Bible storybook guides children through the foundational truths of Scripture. Each story is fully and vividly illustrated and includes a simple narrative with things children ages 4—8 love: repetition, rhythm, and energy, along with a key biblical theme, a key Bible verse, an activity page, and discussion questions. Adults and children will cherish time together as they grow closer to God.

MY REVIEW

I have read and looked through many children's Bibles since becoming a parent, and I can honestly say that this is my favorite one so far. Every Christian parent longs to impart God's wisdom to their little ones, to interest them in the things of God in a way that both teaches and entertains. My Favorite Bible succeeds at both! The pictures are simply adorable and my children can't get enough of looking at them. The actual Bible stories are easy for them to understand and held their attention. And what I loved most is that at the end of each story are two sections called "Family Talk" and "Family fun" that provide some great questions for the children that engage them, and some truly fun activities as well. For example, my family read the parable of the lost lamb, and then proceeded to play a version of hide and seek where we took turns being the "Good Shepherd" and going off to find the scattered sheep! My kids had a blast, and won't soon forget this valuable lesson.

I highly recommend this children's Bible and give it 5 out of 5 stars.

Put this one on your Christmas list! You won't regret it.

Book has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc. Available at your favourite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Wisdom from the wee ones: Thou shalt not bonk your sister on the head with a crown

On the way home from church the other day, I learned a very important lesson from my 2-yr-old son.

The kids had just spent time in Sunday school, absorbing a crucial lesson in being kind and loving to each other. Each had made a crown to wear on their head, with a wonderful verse printed on it that was to help the children remember this kindness and loving nature they were to exemplify.

As I was driving out the church parking lot, I heard a screeching sound coming from my daughter in the back seat. I peered into the rear-view mirror to observe my son firmly whacking her on the head with the kindness crown.

Nice.

After dealing with the issue by removing said crown, I reflected on how often I myself leave the church parking lot and immediately forget what God was trying to impart to me on that day. How often do I leave and then do the exact opposite of what I learned? Instead of being patient and kind, I lose my cool or say something I later regret. Instead of responding with grace, I act with judgment. Instead of running from sin, fleeing the devil, I give in to temptation.

I encourage you this year, during the Christmas season, to reflect on Jesus birth and what His coming means for you. The hope of His coming. The freedom that flows from His sacrifice on the cross. The joy of giving over every part of your life to Him. And whatever truth God highlights to you, whether in church or while reading the Bible on your own or talking to a friend, I encourage you to walk away and actually act on what you learned. I know that's what I'll be trying to do!

Thanks, son, for that lesson!

++ Note: Just wanted to let you know, that occasionally I'm going to write a "Wisdom from the wee ones" post about something I've learned from my children. Feel free to let me know what you think of them :)

My review of On the Path with God (by author Erwin Lutzer and photographers John & Debora Scanlan)

MY REVIEW:

On the Path with God is filled with absolutely gorgeous pictures accompanied by beautifully written devotionals. The book is simply beautiful in how it is put together, from the way the pictures are laid out to the inspiring quotes and verses scattered throughout, and even in the quality of the binding and the pages themselves. My children couldn't get enough of gazing at the pictures and marveling at the beauty of God's creation that is depicted! Reading this book can only result in a deeper intimacy with God.

I was both challenged and uplifted by what I read and viewed, and I cannot encourage you enough to consider getting this book either for your own library or as a gift to someone you love. I highly recommend this book and give it 5 out of 5 stars.

Thank-you to the publisher, Harvest House Publishers, and First Wildcard, for providing this book for the purposes of this unbiased review. 

AND NOW...

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!


Today's Wild Card author is:


and the book:

Harvest House Publishers (July 1, 2011)
***Special thanks to Karri | Marketing Assistant, Harvest House Publishers for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR and PHOTOGRAPHERS:


Dr. Erwin W. Lutzer, Senior Pastor of The Moody Church since 1980, is an award-winning author of more than 20 books including Walking with God. He’s a celebrated international conference speaker and the featured speaker on three radio programs that are heard around the world. He and his wife, Rebecca, have been married for 35 years. They live in the Chicago area and are the parents of three married children.

Visit the author's website.

John and Debora Scanlan are partners in life and in creating Scanlan Windows to the World™ Fine Art Photography. They are internationally renowned for capturing the beauty, intrigue, and romance of the world while presenting the essence of every scene. Their work is featured in galleries, special exhibitions and juried art shows, on numerous products including cards and calendars, and in their breathtaking fine art photography book Windows to the World.

Visit the photographers' website.

SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:



Inspiring meditations from the heart of popular pastor and author Dr. Erwin Lutzer join breathtaking photographs of winding country paths and cobblestone streets and invite readers to take time to walk with God. The joy-filled promises of faith await those who treasure an enriched journey with the Creator.



Product Details:

List Price: $15.99
Hardcover: 48 pages
Publisher: Harvest House Publishers (July 1, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0736939369
ISBN-13: 978-0736939362

AND NOW...THE FIRST FEW PAGES (The images were scanned so that you may see what this delightful book looks like, but the words were placed here from these scanned images, so that you may read and be blessed.) Please click on the images to see them larger:



Why Walk with God?

When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world.

Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

John 8:12



A tour through a cemetery can be beneficial and educational. I like to read epitaphs because they often say something interesting about the person who is finished with this life and has gone on to the next. Maybe epitaphs should be required reading for everyone once a year. They are a reminder that life is short and that eternity is near.

Most epitaphs are serious, some are tragic, and yes, there are at least a few that are funny. I’m told that this poem is found on the tombstone of a lady named Anna Wallace in England:

The children of Israel wanted bread.

The Lord sent them manna.

Old clerk Wallace wanted a wife.

The devil sent him Anna.

Here is a poem I learned in grade school, though I doubt it is on a tombstone—it could be. It contains an important message about automobile safety:
Here lies the body of William Jay,

Who died while maintaining his right of way.

He was right, completely right as he sped along,

But he’s just as dead as if he’d been wrong!

My favorite epitaph is found in the Bible, embedded in a long list of genealogies in the fifth chapter of Genesis. To read these verses is like walking though a cemetery. The names are difficult to pronounce and we are left to guess what life was like so many centuries ago. Like the tolling of a bell, every tombstone bears the same message; six times we read the simple phrase “and he died.”



Then unexpectedly we discover that there was a man who did not die! His name was Enoch, and of him we read in verse 24, “Enoch walked with God; then he was no more, because God took him away.” Twice we are told that Enoch “walked with God.” In fact, He walked with God right into heaven!

This epitaph is perhaps one of the most beautiful phrases in the entire Bible. If it could be said of you and me that we “walked with God,” nothing more need be said. Those few words contain an eternity of meaning.

An Invitation to the Journey

Walking with God is both difficult and simple. Difficult because it takes thought, discipline, and commitment; simple because the same characteristics that apply to walking with a close friend or a loved one apply to walking with God.

Enoch walked with God in the midst of a society filled with temptations and obstacles just like those we face. He is a powerful reminder that we can be faithful to walk with God in our day as well. When we accept the invitation to begin the journey, trials and distractions need not keep us from our time with the Almighty.



Interestingly, Enoch was motivated to begin this journey after his first son Methuselah was born. Maybe he felt a new sense of responsibility as he held the baby boy in his arms. Perhaps as the child reached out to touch the stubble of his father’s beard Enoch said to himself, “I need to reorder my priorities and begin to take God more seriously.” Evidently he realized that the greatest contribution he could make in life was to guide his family on the right path.

Spend some moments reflecting on what motivates your heart to walk with the Lord today. Have you faced a trial and found yourself ready to give your sorrow to God? Do you long to leave a legacy of faith for your children? Maybe you’ve been in fellowship with the Lord for many years and you are ready for refreshment. Together we can explore how to walk with God and embrace the meaningful, remarkable, and abundant life He has planned for you. Let’s take a step forward toward the light of life.

You have declared this day that the LORD is your God

and that you will walk in his ways, that you will keep his decrees,

commands and laws, and that you will obey him.

And the LORD has declared this day that you are his people,

his treasured possession as he promised, and that

you are to keep all his commands.

Deuteronomy 26:17-18



Help for the Journey

I’ve often thought about what others might say of me after I die. I don’t mean the beautiful eulogies often given at funerals. Instead, I wonder what people will really think—what they will really remember about the impact for good or ill I have had in their lives. God of course, will give the final evaluation, but imagine our legacy if it could be said that we “walked with God.”



If an epitaph were written for you today, what would it be? Are you satisfied with that? What do you hope you will be remembered for?

Consider Jesus’ simple invitation to brothers Simon and Andrew referenced below. Think about how wonderful it feels to have Jesus call to you today in the same, simple way. What is your response to Jesus as He waves to you and says, “Come, follow me?”

As Jesus walked beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will make you fishers of men” (Mark 1:16-17).
God provides what you need each step of the way. What worries or weaknesses do you want to give to God—need to give to God—in exchange for His hope and renewing strength?


Even youths grow tired and weary,
and young men stumble and fall;

but those who hope in the LORD
will renew their strength.

They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint.

Isaiah 40:30-31
Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path.

Psalm 119:105