Friday, August 31, 2012

A satisfying conclusion to the series: My review of "Taming the Wind" by Tracie Peterson

Taming the Wind

ABOUT THE BOOK

A young widow nursing the wounds of her past...

A cowboy with demons of his own...

Though grateful for the blessing of her daughter, Carissa Lowe has accepted that widowhood is her lot in life. Bound by fear and mistrust, she feels incapable of opening her heart again.

Tyler Atherton has never forgotten Carissa. When he discovers she's living with her sister on a nearby ranch, his life becomes intertwined with the lovely widow's. And Carissa's daughter, Gloria, seems determined to wrap herself around his little finger. But while Tyler longs to provide a home and future for Carissa, he is haunted by an obligation he feels unable to fulfill.

Challenged by mounting hardships, can Carissa and Tyler preserve their fledgling love in a land as unforgiving and vibrant as the people who call it home?

MY REVIEW


One thing that always impresses me about Tracie Peterson's books is the manner in which they capture the flavour of the time period they are written in, and Taming The Wind is one such book. I found it fascinating how the characters struggled to live in post-Civil War Texas, dealing with the harsh feelings between Union and Confederate supporters, or how Tyler has to deal with the loss of his family's land due to fighting for the losing side. It is clear that the author has done her research well. However, I did find that this book lacks the vitality and swifter pacing of the prior books in the series, as I really struggled to get into the first half of the book. Nevertheless, there were sections of the book, especially towards the end, that captured my interest, and the book brings the series to a satisfying conclusion. Although the ending may be predictable, who can argue with a happy ending, both for Carissa and Tyler but also all of the prior characters who starred in previous books as well?

Overall, this is a series I would recommend for readers who enjoy historical fiction and who have been following the journey of the characters featured in the Land of the Lone Star series. I give this book a rating of 3.5 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.



ABOUT THE AUTHOR


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

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Giveaway & Review for the highly moving "Prayers of a Stranger: A Christmas Story" by Davis Bunn @davisbunn @NelsonFiction

Prayers of a Stranger: A Christmas Story


Amanda Vance remains gripped in grief, as she and her husband Chris seek to heal from the loss of their daughter, who was still-born. Amanda and Chris have immersed themselves in work, both longing for a return of hope and passion to their lives and marriage. Just as Amanda is beginning to take steps beyond the protective walls she's erected around her heart, her neighbour offers her the chance to accompany her to Israel. What follows is an encounter with God in unexpected ways and places, a God seeking to restore hope to Amanda's heart while leading Chris to a place of strength and healing back home. 

Prayers of a Stranger is an emotional, hope-filled novel that brings to life the promise of Christmas, a promise of love and reconciliation and new beginnings. Amanda and Chris are characters who will make your heart ache with their pain, but also uplift you with their integrity, their faith, the noble impact their lives impart. Davis Bunn has crafted a beautiful novel that resonates on many levels. It is a novel that will not only entertain you, but lead you to open your heart this Christmas to all that God desires for you, proving again that it is more blessed to give than to receive. I greatly enjoyed this read, written with Bunn's usual skill, compelling characterization, and splendid prose. Put this novel on your "must read" list for this fall and Christmas season. You'll be glad you did! 5 out of 5 stars.

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



About the Author


Davis BunnDavis Bunn is the author of numerous national bestsellers in genres spanning historical sagas, contemporary thrillers, and inspirational gift books. He has received widespread critical acclaim, including three Christy Awards for excellence in fiction, and his books have sold more than six million copies in sixteen languages. He and his wife, Isabella, are affiliated with Oxford University, where Davis serves as writer in residence at Regent’s Park College. He lectures internationally on the craft of writing.







AND NOW FOR THE GIVEAWAY....



I am giving away 1 copy of "Prayers of a Stranger" to readers from the U.S. and Canada, courtesy of the publisher, Thomas Nelson, and publicist Ruthie Dean (@Ruthie_Dean)

You can get 1 entry into the giveaway for each task you perform:

1. Become a follower of my blog (through Google Followers or Networked Blogs) then leave a comment confirming you became a follower. If you are already a follower, just leave a comment that you already follow and I'll give you 1 entry for that.

2. "Like" my Facebook page, and let me know you did so in a comment. (The link is at the top of the webpage). Let me know if you've already liked it, and I'll give you an entry.

3. Post about the giveaway on your own blog or on twitter or facebook and leave me a comment. You get 1 entry for each method of spreading the word!

OR

4. Leave a comment answering the following question: "What's your favourite Christmas-themed fiction book?"

++ Please include your email address in your comment so I can contact you to arrange to get the book in the mail to you.

That's all there is to it. Contest Ends September 10, 2012.


Looking for more giveaways?


Be sure to check-out Thomas Nelson's "Freebie Friday" where they giveaway books every single Friday! Follow the links below:


Win free books every Friday!

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Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Winner of "The Last Temple" giveaway

Congratulations to Liz Riggs who won the giveaway for a copy of The Last Temple by Hanegraaff and Brouwer. 

Check back later this week for another great giveaway :)


The Last Temple

Monday, August 27, 2012

A fun mystery: My review of "Dying to Read" by Lorena McCourtney

Dying to Read

ABOUT THE BOOK

All she wanted was a paycheck. What she got was a murder.

Cate Kinkaid's life is . . . well, frankly it's floundering. Her social life, her career, her haircut--they're all a mess. Unemployed, she jumps at the chance to work for her PI uncle, even though she has no experience and no instincts. After all, she is just dabbling in the world of private investigating until she can find a "real" job.

All she has to do for her first assignment is determine that a particular woman lives at a particular address. Simple, right? But when she reaches the dark Victorian house, she runs into an hungry horde of gray-haired mystery readers and a dead body. This routine PI job is turning out to be anything but simple. Is Cate in over her head?


MY REVIEW

Dying to Read is one of those books that you simply don't want to put down because the character is so utterly likable, as human as you or I, and you have to find out how they are going to get out of the mess they find themselves in! Cate Kinkaid is a fun character, one who refuses to give up on her life despite one disappointment or dead end after the other, and who as a result ends up discovering her real passion in life. This mystery isn't one of those suspense books where you don't want to turn off the lights or you find yourself holding your breathe as you watch a scene unfold. In fact, I had to suspend my belief quite a bit at the end as Cate finds herself in some life threatening circumstances that resolve themselves a bit too neatly. But I had such fun reading this book, and it's one of those mysteries where I turned the last page satisfied by the story and yet wanting to return to the world of Cate Kinkaid to see what other mischief she finds herself in. The plot definitely has some twists and turns that held my interest, and I absolutely loved how the situation with the cat turned out! (I won't say more for fear of ruining the book for you).

So, if you are looking for a fun mystery with stellar characters, and even a bit of romance to keep things interesting, then this is the book for you. I award this book 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 Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

 Lorena McCourtney is the award-winning author of dozens of novels, including Invisible (which won the Daphne du Maurier Award from Romance Writers of America), In Plain Sight, On the Run, and Stranded. She resides in Oregon.


Thursday, August 23, 2012

A fabulous addition to the series: My review of "The Haven" by Suzanne Woods Fisher @suzannewfisher

The Haven (Stoney Ridge Seasons Series #2)


ABOUT THE BOOK


Spring brings new life, young love, and second chances to Stoney Ridge.

On a warm spring day, Sadie Lapp returns home to her quiet, unassertive life in Stoney Ridge after spending the winter in Ohio.

Gideon Smucker, an awkward schoolteacher, has been in love with Sadie since childhood and eagerly awaits her return. But does Sadie feel the same about him?

Will Stoltz, a charming and impetuous college student, has been banished for a semester and sent to babysit endangered peregrine falcons nesting at the Lapp farm. He'd rather be anywhere else . . . until he befriends Sadie.

As the hopes and ambitions of these three young people converge, life in Stoney Ridge may never be the same.

Once again, bestselling author Suzanne Woods Fisher intrigues and delights with a story that explores the bonds of friendship, family, and true love in this captivating series.



MY REVIEW

Well, once again Suzanne Woods Fisher is to blame for causing me to stay up way too late at night to finish one of her books! 

As the clock ticked past midnight, I truly tried to walk away from Sadie's story but just had to reach the end. The Amish family at Stoney Ridge may very well be one of my favourite family of characters to come along in some time. I simply can't get enough of reading about their adventures and seeing their unique perspectives on life. Sadie is a wonderful character who I felt like cheering for as she grew to become comfortable in her own skin, and discovered that God uniquely gifted her and she's able to do more than she even dreamed of. The scene where she boldly helps an older Amish lady let go of her bitterness and discover anew the power of forgiveness was a powerful one indeed. And who ever thought she'd catch the attention of not one but two men interested in her? The resulting tension results in some hilarious scenes!

Fisher's writing continues to be filled with both humour and deep emotion, with smooth flowing words and plenty of action to keep the scenes moving. It is truly Amish fiction at its best, and I award this book 5 out of 5 stars. I can't wait for the final book in the series, The Lesson, featuring one of my favourite characters (M.K.), coming January 2013!!

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.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR


Suzanne Woods FisherSuzanne Woods Fisher is the bestselling author of The Choice, The Waiting, The Search, The Keeper, and The Haven, as well as nonfiction books about the Amish, including Amish Peace. She is also the coauthor of a new Amish children's series, The Adventures of Lily Lapp. Her interest in the Anabaptist cultures can be directly traced to her grandfather, who was raised in the Old Order German Baptist Brethren Church in Franklin County, Pennsylvania. Suzanne is a Christy Award finalist and a Carol Award finalist. She is the host of internet radio show Amish Wisdom and a columnist for Christian Post and Cooking & Such magazines. She lives in California. For more information, please visit www.suzannewoodsfisher.com and connect with her on Twitter @suzannewfisher.



Ready to buy?


Tuesday, August 21, 2012

I'm glad I gave this book a try: My review of "Digital Winter" by Mark Hitchcock and Alton Gansky

Read on for a preview and my review of  "Digital Winter", courtesy of the publisher and First WildCard:


Digital Winter


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 (August 1, 2012)

***Special thanks to Ginger Chen of Harvest House Publishers for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHORS:

Mark Hitchcock is the author of nearly 20 books related to end-time Bible prophecy, including the bestselling 2012, the Bible, and the End of the World. He earned a ThM and PhD from Dallas Theological Seminary and is the senior pastor of Faith Bible Church in Edmond, Oklahoma. He has worked as an adjunct professor at DTS, and he and his wife, Cheryl, have two sons.


Alton Gansky is the author of 30 books—24 of them novels, including the Angel Award winner Terminal Justice and Christy Award finalist A Ship Possessed. A frequent speaker at writing conferences, he holds BA and MA degrees in biblical studies. Alton and his wife reside in Southern California.

www.altongansky.com



SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:

Prophecy expert Mark Hitchcock and novelist Alton Gansky provide a suspenseful and fast-moving story of life after a massive cyber attack. Surgeons find themselves operating without electricity. The military can’t use its computers… This gripping story of darkness and heroism highlights prophetic themes and the danger of a cyber attack.


Product Details:
List Price: $14.99
Paperback: 352 pages
Publisher: Harvest House Publishers
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0736949127
ISBN-13: 978-0736949125


AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


Stanley Elton

January 20, 2014
Shadow, shadow on my right,
Shadow, shadow on my left,
Shadow, shadow everywhere,
Shadow has all the might.
Stanley Elton emerged from the bedroom at precisely 7:10 a.m., his favorite mug in his hand containing his favorite African blend of coffee. Truth was, he had seven favorite mugs, one for each day of the week. He had seven favorite blends of coffee as well, seven favorite dress shirts, seven chosen suits of varying shades of gray, and seven power ties.
T he morning sunlight had already pushed back some of the thick clouds that covered the parts of San Diego closest to the Pacific. His part of San Diego was called Coronado Island, although it wasn’t a true island. Situated on a stretch of land called the Strand, the small community rested on a jut of property that looked from the air like an arthritic thumb sticking into the blue waters.
Founded in 1860, the city of Coronado was home to the elite. North Island Naval Air Station took much of the prime real estate, but there was still plenty of room for retired admirals, CEOs, and entrepreneurs who made sudden wealth in the digital age. A stroll through the city streets sometimes allowed tourists a glimpse of a celebrity.
Stanley Elton was no celebrity or entrepreneur; he wasn’t a retired admiral or a man of old money. He was, however, the CEO of San Diego’s largest CPA firm, a company whose client list included scores of the top companies in the country. He was on a first-name basis with people often mentioned in the Wall Street Journal. For thirty years he worked for OPM Accounting. Most people assumed OPM stood for the founders of the firm, people who died a generation ago. It didn’t. Insiders knew OPM stood for Other People’s Money. A bit tongue in cheek, but it drew hearty laughs for the few who knew the joke.
“Nice day.” Stanley moved to the open kitchen and kissed his wife on the top of the ear.
“You know that gives me the shivers.” Royce Elton pulled away and tried to rub her ear on her shoulder, her hands busy flipping eggs and turning bacon. A pot next to the frying pan cooked down some oatmeal. Instant oatmeal wasn’t good enough for her son, Donny. At least he ate something close to healthy.
“My presence has always made you shiver.” Elton slurped his coffee.
“Shudder is more like it.” Her tone was playful.
“Shiver, shudder; potato, patahto.” He moved from the kitchen and took his usual spot at the floor-to-ceiling window overlooking the rolling Pacific. T he $3.5 million condo was on the top floor of one of the fifteen ten-story structures on the Strand. Built in the 1960s, the luxury buildings caused such a stir that a city ordinance was passed forbidding similar towering structures in Coronado. Too late and too little.
From the wide living room, Stanley could look to the left and see the Pacific Ocean or look right and see the calm waters of Glorietta Bay. “Water everywhere and not a drop to drink.”
“Good thing we have plumbing and coffee.” Royce dropped two pieces of bacon (well done) and two eggs (over hard) onto a scalloped-edged green plate. A moment later, she added two pieces of rye toast.
He stepped to the dining table. “Dining room” would be inaccurate. T he only real rooms in the open floor plan were the bathrooms and bedrooms. Royce set the plate on the glass top. She sat next to him, sipping a chocolate diet shake.
“Eating real food while watching you suck on that stuff fills me with guilt.” He stuck a piece of bacon in his mouth.
“You’re a man. You’re supposed to feel guilty. It goes with the Y chromosome.”
“T his is what I get for marrying a geneticist.”
“Brains are sexy.”
“Really? I hadn’t heard.”
Royce raised an eyebrow. “You know, I can poison your breakfast.”
“T hat’s why we have Rosa cook our other meals. Cuts down on your opportunity to cash in on the life insurance.” He cut one egg in half and scooped it into his mouth. Stanley didn’t like wasting time on trivial things like breakfast. “Busy day?”
“Usual classes at the university, and then I have about four hours in the lab. I’ll be late. I have to grade test papers after that. Rosa has something planned for you and Donny.”
“She’s as good a cook as she is a nurse.” Down went the second half of the egg.
“She’s a jewel. We should pay her more.”
It was Stanley’s turn to raise an eyebrow. “Really? She makes good money now.”
“I’m not sure it covers all she does. Dealing with Donny isn’t easy.”
Stanley contemplated the comment while gnawing on the bacon. “What do you mean? He sits in his room and doesn’t cause any trouble. He’s as passive as someone with his condition can be.”
Royce frowned. She hated it when Stanley referred to Donny’s challenges as his condition.
“Sorry,” he said. “You know what I mean. Other people like him can be high maintenance.”
Another frown. “He requires a lot of care, Stan. You know that.”
“Of course. I do my share.”
She touched his arm. “I know, dear. I didn’t mean that. You do more than any other father would. You provide an income that allows us to get all the help we need. My professor’s salary wouldn’t pay for one room in this place. I’m just saying we should reward Rosa. She’s been with us since Donny was ten. T hat’s twelve years.”
“She’s a trooper. Did you have something in mind?”
“I thought of a paid vacation, but I don’t think she’d leave Donny for more than a few days. She’s so devoted to him. I know that her car is getting a little long in the tooth. She had to take it into the shop. Cost her a pretty bundle to get the transmission fixed.”
“You want to pay for the repairs?”
“No, I want to buy her a car.”
Stanley lowered his fork. “You’re kidding, right?” He could see she wasn’t. “You mean like a Porsche or Ferrari or—”
“Of course not. I was thinking of a Prius or some other hybrid. It would save her some gas money.”
Stanley furrowed his brow, narrowed his eyes, and clinched his jaw, but he couldn’t maintain the pretense. He had never been angry at his wife and couldn’t imagine starting now. T he forced frown gave way to the upward pressure of a smile.
“You’re working me, aren’t you?”
“Yep.”
“Okay, but it’s going to cost you another cup of coffee. I’ll let you make the arrangements. Take the money from the house account.” He paused. “We are talking just one car, right?”
“For now.” She rose, kissed him on the forehead, and took his cup to refill it. “Speaking of Rosa, she said something yesterday that seemed…”
“What?”
“I don’t know what word to use. Unexpected.” She filled the cup and returned to the table. “She said Donny spoke.”
“Spoke? You mean more than one word?”
“She meant sentences.”
“You’re kidding. I’ve never heard him link words together. I thought it was beyond his ability.”
“We don’t know that.” Royce the geneticist was talking now. “His condition is a mystery. T here are only a handful of savants in the world. We don’t know what goes on in his brain.”
“What did he say?”
“She told me she couldn’t make out all the words. He stopped when she entered the room. Something about shadows.”
“Maybe she was hearing something from one of his computers.”
“Maybe, but she didn’t think so.”
Stanley checked his watch. “Why didn’t you tell me this last night?”
“Um, because you didn’t come home until nearly midnight and you were half asleep.”
“Oh, yeah.” He rose. “T hanks for breakfast. Good as Rosa is, food cooked by my wife always tastes better.”
“I manipulate the alleles in the eggs.”
“T hat’s more science talk, isn’t it?”
“You going to say goodbye to him?”
“Just like every day for twenty-two years.”
“T hanks.”
Stanley started the most difficult task of his day. He loved his son, but he would rather face off against a bunch of IRS attorneys than turn the doorknob to his boy’s bedroom.
As his hand touched the brass knob, he heard a voice from the other side of the door:
Shadow, shadow on my right,
Shadow, shadow on my left,
Shadow, shadow everywhere,
Shadow has all the might.
....
Donny Elton sat in his chair as he did every hour he wasn’t sleeping. T he chair was an expensive, well-padded iBOT designed by inventor Dean Kamen. It was powered and could raise Donny to the eye level of any adult not playing in the NBA. A series of gyros and a robust computer program enabled it to climb stairs without tipping. T he invention had been a boon to wheelchair-bound consumers.
But Donny wasn’t bound to the wheelchair. He could walk if he wanted, jump if he desired, and even sprint if he had a mind to, but he never did. At least that was what the doctors said. Under heavy sedation, Donny had endured MRIs, CAT scans, X-rays, muscle conductivity studies, and other medical tests. All came back negative.
“T he problem isn’t with this body,” the doctors said. “T he problem is in his mind. He doesn’t want to walk.” T hat had been the end of their assessment. No one could offer any ideas of how to make a healthy twenty-two-year-old who was monosyllabic on his best day and mute on his worst and who possessed an IQ above 200 do what he didn’t want to do. “You simply cannot make a man walk if he doesn’t want to.” T hey had been united in that assessment.
Stanley, in the few quiet moments he allowed himself, wondered why his son refused to walk or engage with humanity. Yes, his savant condition was probably due to autism, but research had yet to come to a consensus on that.
Stanley stood in the open door with a bowl of hot oatmeal in one hand and wondered if he had heard what he thought he heard.
“Hey, buddy. Mom whipped up some oatmeal for you.” He moved to the long desk that took up all of one wall in the place they called Stanley’s bedroom. It looked more like a NASA control center than a place to sleep. A series of four 27-inch monitors lined the table, and two computer towers sat nearby. T hey were never turned off. More than once, Stanley had awakened in the night to hear Donny’s fingers tapping on the keyboard.
“Oatmeal. Food. Oatmeal. Good.”
Stanley set the bowl and spoon on an unoccupied spot of the table. “Whatcha working on, pal?”
“Oatmeal. Good.”
Stanley was thankful Donny could feed himself. He needed help dressing and using the bathroom, but at least he could manage to put a spoon in his mouth or hold a sandwich. Small blessings.
T he large window of the bedroom overlooked the Pacific side of the Strand. T he thinning cloud cover allowed the morning sun to paint sparkles on the gentle swells and surf. A short distance from the shore, surfers waited for the ocean to offer more waves. Although Stanley couldn’t see them from this window, he knew that new Navy SEALs were training there. Such was Coronado: home to the wealthy, a mecca for sun worshippers, a training ground for the Navy, and a magnet for tourists.
Donny knew none of this. Stanley doubted his son had ever noticed the beauty outside his window, the kind of view that made the 1700-square-foot, three-bedroom, three-bath condo worth $3.5 million. T he only things Donny seemed to notice were on the computer monitors. Stanley doubted the young man even knew him. T he last thought brought pain, as it did a dozen times every day.
Line upon line of code filled the monitors. For a few moments, Stanley considered having a programmer look at it, but he dismissed the idea. What difference would it make?
“I’m headed to work, son. I’ll be home late again, but I’ll look in on you. Mom will be here until Rosa arrives.”
“Rosa. Oatmeal. Good.” Donny took a bite of the pasty meal.
Stanley ran his fingers through his son’s hair. He loved the boy even if he had never caught a baseball or watched a football game. “Take it easy, champ.”
“Bye. Later. Oatmeal.”
Stanley turned when something appeared in the corner of his eye—something dark, indistinct. He snapped his head around but saw nothing.
Closing the door, Stanley paused and tried to push back the gloom that draped his mind. T hen he heard Donny’s voice again.
Shadow, shadow on my right,
Shadow, shadow on my left,
Shadow, shadow everywhere,
Shadow has all the might.






MY REVIEW

I am so glad I gave this book a try!

I have to admit that on occasion I get a bit tired of reading "end of the world" type books, as they seem to become similar in plot or sometimes feature idiotic characters. Digital Winter is something different, in a class of its own, based on a plausible premise that was chilling to watch unfold. As I read the book and watched the lights go out and saw the world get thrown back a 100 years, I thought to myself, "this could happen today!" I found myself wondering what I would do, how I would handle it, if I no longer had access to power and all the electronic devices our society has become dependent upon. The plot unfolded in a masterful manner, with the story drawing me in early and holding me tightly in its grip to the end. Not only is this book action packed, but the characters are quite well-developed, featuring heroic yet human men and woman who inspire by their acts of sacrifice, and Jeremy in particular points to Jesus by both his words and actions. I love stories that not only entertain me, but cause me to pick up by Bible and examine what it says for myself. Not everyone will necessarily ascribe to the same view of prophecy that these authors do, but I don't think that's necessary for you to enjoy this read and to simply think about "what if?" this scenario occurred, what you would do to protect your family, and what would God's purpose would be in allowing it to happen.

I give this book 4.5 out of 5 stars. Readers who love "end time" books will find this one to be a keeper, and to those readers who usually steer clear of such novels - you may want to give this one a chance.

Book has been provided courtesy of the publisher, Harvest House, and First Wildcard, for the purposes of this unbiased review.


READY TO BUY?
                                                                                                          
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Sunday, August 19, 2012

GIVEAWAY & my review of The Last Temple by @HankHanegraaff and @SigmundBrouwer1


Check out my review of "The Last Temple" and make sure you enter my giveaway at the end for your own copy of the book!

The Last Temple


Return to the Roman Empire in the final installment of the Last Disciple Trilogy, The Last Temple, as Gallus Sergius Vitas finds himself playing a role in the fulfillment of both Jesus' prophecy and the prophecy shared through the book of Revelation, prophecies about the Roman empire and the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem. Vitas remains a fugitive from Emperor Nero, and agrees to pose as a slave to his brother to help spy on a household. The situation ends in disaster and near death for Vitas, but also miraculously leads to a reunification with his wife and child. After a year spent with his family, a determination to repay debts to powerful friends who saved his life bring Vitas out of hiding and back to first Rome to help coordinate the downfall of Nero, and then later Jerusalem as the Roman Empire turns their wrath on the Jews who have rebelled against Roman rule.

The Last Temple is a satisfying conclusion to a strong trilogy that I have greatly enjoyed from start to finish. The historical details are fascinating, as the story follows the downfall of Nero to the utter destruction of Jerusalem. I can say with utter honesty that reading this book and indeed the entire series has made my experience of reading the Bible to be so much richer. The authors have done a fantastic job of capturing both the Roman and Jewish cultures of that era, from the decadence and perversion of the Roman empire, to the zeal of the Jewish people as they revolted against the oppression of Rome. For the first time I am able to understand the amazing significance that the fulfillment of Jesus' prophecy about the destruction of Jerusalem holds. Numerous characters in these stories share their disbelief that Jerusalem, with its fortifying walls and endless supply of water, could ever truly be destroyed. And yet to watch this unfold through the pages of this book is powerful indeed, and gives me a greater appreciation of this occurring.

Like the first two books in the series, the story is well-written, fast-paced, and entertaining, and I definitely plan on reading this trilogy over again in the future - it's just that good! If you are looking for a captivating historical read, then pick up this book. 4.5 out of 5 stars.

Book has been provided courtesy of the publisher, Tyndale, for the purposes of this unbiased review.

Check out a neat trailer made for this book...




ABOUT THE AUTHORS


Hank Hanegraaff Hank Hanegraaff serves as president and chairman of the board of the North Carolina–based Christian Research Institute International. He is also host of the Bible Answer Man radio program, which is broadcast daily across the United States and Canada as well as around the world through the Internet at http://www.equip.org.

Widely considered to be one of the world's leading Christian apologists, Hanegraaff is deeply committed to equipping Christians to be so familiar with truth that when counterfeits loom on the horizon, they recognize them instantaneously.



Sigmund BrouwerWhether writing youth or adult fiction, Sigmund Brouwer is a best-selling author of more than 40 fast-paced novels. Some of his works encourage young reluctant readers into the world of books, and others provide adults with riveting tales. His youth series include Mars Diaries; Short Cuts Extreme Sports; Lightning on Ice; CyberQuest; The Winds of Light; Dr. Drabble: Genius Inventor; and The Accidental Detectives. His adult fiction titles include Out of the Shadows, Morning Star, Thunder Voice, Double Helix, and Blood Ties.



READY TO BUY? BOOK MAY BE PURCHASED FROM....





AND NOW FOR THE GIVEAWAY...



I am giving away 1 copy of "The Last Temple" to readers from the U.S. and Canada, courtesy of the publisher, Tyndale.

You can get 1 entry into the giveaway for each task you perform:

1. Become a follower of my blog (through Google Followers or Networked Blogs) then leave a comment confirming you became a follower. If you are already a follower, just leave a comment that you already follow and I'll give you 1 entry for that.

2. "Like" my Facebook page, and let me know you did so in a comment. (The link is at the top of the webpage). Let me know if you've already liked it, and I'll give you an entry.

3. Post about the giveaway on your own blog or on twitter or facebook and leave me a comment. You get 1 entry for each method of spreading the word!

4. Leave a comment answering the following question: "If you'd been born in the period of time this series is set in, would you rather have been born a Roman citizen or born Jewish? Why?"

++ Please include your email address in your comment so I can contact you to arrange to get the book in the mail to you.

That's all there is to it. Contest Ends August 27 , 2012.

Good luck!


Friday, August 17, 2012

A needed message for the next generation: My review of "Live to Give" by Austin Gutwein

Live to Give: Let God Turn Your Talents into Miracles


ABOUT THE BOOK

Want to do something for God but don’t know what? Want to help others but don’t know who? Want to know what it is you’re really good at doing? Your gifts may feel small and insignificant. But God can use them to work a miracle! 

Inspired by the biblical story of the feeding of the 5,000, Live to Give delivers a message of hope that we all have something to give. Written in the down-to-earth, candid voice of the gifted young man who as a kid founded a relief ministry that has saved and improved countless lives in Africa, Live to Give is the message that every teen needs to hear: You are more special than you know, and you can do big things. 

Jesus proved that no gift is too small when He used five loaves and two fish to feed a crowd of thousands. And if no gift is too small, too ordinary, or too random, there is no limit to what the youth of today can accomplish! 

A teenage philanthropist who has built a high school, two medical clinics, and a dormitory in Africa—all before the age of 16—Austin Gutwein shares how to take what may seem like the simplest of talents, gifts, and interests and use them for something Jesus can use to move mountains.


MY REVIEW

Live to Give is an incredible call to live a radical life of both excitement and sacrifice, as the author urges us to realize that God has made us to give back to the world around us. The book is written in easy to read chapters, with "study questions" at the end of each chapter that are designed to make you think about what is unique about you, what gifts God has given you, and how to go about using your talents and time for his purposes and glory. I did find some of the chapters a bit repetitive, but overall feel it a worthwhile read, and one that both teens (the target audience) and adults will enjoy and be inspired by. Austin Gutwein is an individual worth reading about, someone who didn't let his young age hold him back but instead put feet to his faith and has made a significant difference in this world. His message is one worth spreading, especially for the next generation who is looking for purpose in a world that often seems so hopeless.

I definitely plan on recommending this book to the teenagers I interact with on a regular basis, and hope that they take this message and run with it, learning that they have been given so much by God, gifts that they can use to bless the world around them. I award this book 4 out of 5 stars.

Book has been provided courtesy of Thomas Nelson and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc. Available at your favourite bookseller from Thomas Nelson.



ABOUT THE AUTHOR


Image of Austin Gutwein
As founder of Hoops of Hope, Austin started what is now known as the worlds largest Free-Throw marathon. Austin's Hoops of Hope has raised more than $2.5M to help orphan children in Africa. Austin also serves as Co-Chair of Arizona Governor Jan Brewer's Youth Council. As a highly sought after speaker, Austin has spoken and shared his heart in venues around the world. In 2009, Austin was selected into the Caring Hall of Fame as one of the top 10 most caring Americans.


Austin's first book, "Take Your Best Shot" shared stories that captured readers hearts and won a Moonbeam Award. Austin's second book, "Live to Give" will be released by Thomas Nelson in August 2012 and can be pre-ordered on Amazon.com. Visit Austin's Author page to view a video about one boy whose life was changed.

For information on booking Austin or general inquiries, please visit www.austingutwein.com.

This biography was provided by the author or their representative.


Ready to Buy?

 

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Free ebook: "Almost Amish" by Kathryn Cushman (published July 1, 2012!)

Free for download today is a fairly new ebook "Almost Amish" for your Kobo, Kindle, Nook, etc.:

From BarnesandNoble:



From Christianbook.com (as an epub for your Kobo, Sony ereader, etc.:)
28281EB: Almost Amish - eBook Almost Amish - eBook
By Kathryn Cushman / Bethany House Publishers

Julie Charlton is at the breaking point. She's overwhelmed and burned out, and in today's unrelenting society, her kids are, too. When her sister-in-law Susan, a Martha Stewart-in-training, lands the chance to participate in a reality TV series promoting simple living, and needs another family to join her, it seems like the perfect opportunity.
The location is an idyllic farm outside an Amish community in Tennessee. Julie, with her two children, joins Susan and her teenage daughter for a summer adventure. Susan needs to succeed in order to become self-sufficient after an ugly divorce, Julie needs to slow down long enough to remember what her priorities are and regain a sense of purpose and meaning. It becomes clear from the start that "living simple" is no simple matter. With the camera watching every move, Susan's drive for perfection feels a lot like what they left behind, while Julie suddenly finds herself needing to stand up for slowing down. With each new challenge, their season of "going Amish" gets more and more complicated, as each woman learns unexpected lessons about herself and her family.




And from Amazon.com
(free as of midnight tonight)


A powerful portrayal of one of the most famous women of the New Testament: My review of Mary Magdalene by Diana Wallis Taylor

Mary Magdalene: A Novel


ABOUT THE BOOK

One woman desperate for hope. One Savior with the power to heal.

A beautiful girl blossoming into womanhood, Mary has high hopes for a life filled with learning, family, and young love. In one dreadful night, all of that changes. The nightmares come first, then the waking visions of unspeakable terror, until Mary hardly remembers her dreams for the future.

Can the Most High deliver her from this torment? How long must she wait for healing?

This vivid portrait of the enigmatic Mary of Magdala comes to life in the hands of an imaginative master storyteller. Diana Wallis Taylor introduces you to a Mary who is both utterly original and respectful of the biblical account, opening your eyes to a redemption that knows no bounds.

MY REVIEW

Mary Magdalene is a moving read, a powerful portrayal of one of the most famous women of the New Testament. I found myself immediately drawn into this artfully crafted novel, and I must say that the first half of the story in particular was impossible to put down, from Mary's childhood experience that resulted in her being inhabited by demons, to her miraculous delivery by Jesus. The settings and descriptions the author uses are vivid and absolutely brought each scene to life. It is clear that Taylor has carefully researched the person of Mary Magdalene and the culture of the day, and while obviously some poetic license had to be used to create a work of fiction from Mary's life as detailed in the Bible, Taylor does so in a manner that is faithful to scripture while providing for an entertaining read.  While waiting for Mary to be delivered, I literally was gripping the book due to the suspense of whether all would fall into place for her to be freed (and this despite knowing the Biblical outcome of the story!). I did find that the latter part of the book slowed down in pace for me, and while it was still enjoyable, it didn't hold the same gripping power over me. However, all told I find this to be a worthy re-telling of Mary's story, and one that deserves a permanent place on my shelf.

I give this book a solid recommendation and award it 4 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.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR


 Diana Wallis Taylor is the author of Journey to the Well and Martha, and has published many articles, and has contributed stories to several books. Taylor lives in California. Find out more at http://dianawallistaylor.com/.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Top-notch supernatural suspense: My review of "House of Mercy" by Erin Healy

House of Mercy


ABOUT THE BOOK


When Beth’s world falls apart, can she ever be whole again?

Beth has a gift of healing—which is why she wants to become a vet and help her family run their fifth-generation cattle ranch. Her father’s dream of helping men in trouble and giving them a second chance is her dream too. But it only takes one foolish decision for Beth to destroy it all.

Beth scrambles to redeem her mistake, pleading with God for help, even as a mystery complicates her life. The repercussions grow more unbearable—a lawsuit, a death, a divided family, and the looming loss of everything she cares about. Beth’s only hope is to find the grandfather she never knew and beg for his help. Confused, grieving, and determined to make amends, she embarks on a horseback journey across the mountains, guided by a wild, unpredictable wolf who may or may not be real.

Set in the stunningly rugged terrain of Southern Colorado, House of Mercy follows Beth through the valley of the shadow of death into the unfathomable miracles of God’s goodness and mercy. 


MY REVIEW

House of Mercy is one of those books where I became so absorbed in the character's lives, so worked up over the unjust treatment Beth received (especially from her brother), that I could barely sit still while reading it due to my desire to reach down into its pages and make people behave! Erin Healy is a fabulous author, seeming to effortlessly combine a unique, fast-paced plot with suspense and elements of the supernatural. She excels at creating characters who pulse with life, who are set down in situations that immediately draw upon your sympathies and have you rooting for them to succeed. Beth is a character who broke my heart after she finds herself in dire circumstances, suffering from a horrible mistake with far-reaching consequences. However, not only was Beth a well-developed character, but the rest of the cast of characters who star in this novel were equally well-fleshed out (and I must say that the villain is ever so creepy, mostly due to her normal and respectable exterior caging the mind of a delusional killer!). What I loved most about this story is Erin's portrayal of God's mercy, and the profound truth that God is good. I love where Beth is asked "Why do you follow such a God?" and answers "because I believe he is good. Not because he gives me what I want, but just because he is. He doesn't owe me any other explanation". That, indeed, is truth to live by. The conclusion is true-to-life, providing resolution while reminding that in reality not everything works out perfectly, and while the story doesn't leave you hanging per se, I for one would love to see Beth return in a future novel.

There's so much to like here, from the excellent characters and the enjoyable plot, to the miracles and the unique role of the wolf, to the faith that has been woven into the book's pages. I award this book 5 out of 5 stars.

Book has been provided courtesy of the publisher, Thomas Nelson, and Rick Roberson of B & B Media Group.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR


Image of Erin Healy Erin Healy writes supernatural suspense novels from a Christian worldview. Her books explore what it means to be a spiritual being in a physical world, and a physical creature in a spiritual world. She is an award-winning fiction editor who worked with Ted Dekker on more than a dozen of his stories before their collaboration on KISS and BURN. She owns WordWright Editorial Services, a consulting firm specializing in fiction book development. Her latest novel, HOUSE OF MERCY, releases August 4, 2012
Learn more about her books at erinhealy.com.
This biography was provided by the author or their representative.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

A delightful pop-up Bible for young children: My review of "My Pop Up Bible Stories" by Juliet David and Daniel Howarth

Noah's Ark Jonah Pack



Featuring five favourite Bible Stories, authors Juliet David and Daniel Howarth have created a wonderful pop-up Bible to engage your little ones. The stories featured include the story of Moses in the basket, Daniel in the lions' den, the story of Jesus bringing Jairus' daughter back to life, the parable of the lost sheep, and Jesus calming a storm. Each story includes a reference to a Bible passage where further information or details can be found.

My children were absolutely delighted with the colourful images, the simple stories, and of course the fun pop-up scenes in this Bible. Although it has not been in my home long, my children have already brought this book to me numerous times asking to look through it with me! I find the book to have been crafted of sturdy materials, an important feature when little hands are holding it tight and tugging this way and that to engage the pop-ups. Although the stories are very short, they are perfect for the intended audience, and the combination of the story and pictures is sure to help the readers vividly remember the stories.

I strongly recommend this Bible for families with young children looking for a creative Bible that will capture their children's interest, while instilling eternal truths at the same time. This Bible gets my vote, and that of my children. 4.5 out of 5 stars.

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

Monday, August 13, 2012

Free HIGHLY recommended ebook: "Prophet (Books of the Infinite)" by R. J. Larson

I'm so excited about this one because I absolutely loved this book!

Free for today is the following ebook:


Grab the Epub from Christianbook.com for your Kobo, Sony ereader, etc.:

26706EB: Prophet - eBook Prophet - eBook
By R.J. Larson / Bethany House Publishers
(Ignore the incorrect image Christianbook.com has with this download)



From Barnes & Noble: 
 

 From Amazon.com: 

(free as of tomorrow August 14, 2012)