Thursday, January 31, 2013

Mesmerizing and as good as I hoped for: My review of "Judge" by R. J. Larson


about the book...

Kien Lantec, you will bear witness to my followers in ToronSea.

The last thing Kien Lantec expects on his first day of military leave is to receive marching orders from his Creator, the Infinite. Orders that don't involve destroyer-racing or courting the love of his life, Ela. Adding to Kien's frustration, his Infinite-ordained duties have little to do with his skills as a military judge-in-training. His mission? To warn the people of ToronSea against turning their backs on the Infinite to worship a new goddess.

Tell them I see they are beguiled. Tell them I seek their hearts. The wise will hear Me.

But why Kien? Isn't this the role of a true prophet, such as Ela of Parne? Seeking answers, Kien visits Ela and finds her stricken by a devastating vision of her own. Her birthplace, Parne, has forsaken their Creator and will soon suffer judgment. Pulled in separate ways, each must seek to follow the Infinite's leading... and hope He will reunite them again soon.

Child of dust, will you be My servant?

my review....

You know an author is good when a book arrives at my house and my wife and I immediately start battling to see who can read it first. Such was the case with "Judge" by R.J. Larson, especially shocking because my wife doesn't even usually like fantasy fiction! However, both of us were absolutely mesmerized by the first book in the series, "Prophet", and couldn't wait to return to the story of Ela of Parne and Kien Lantec. We were certainly not disappointed. From the first page, the story pulses with energy and moves along quickly, following the story of both Ela and Kien as the Infinite sends them in opposite directions to proclaim his longing for people to turn to him. The conclusion is suspenseful and climatic, and both my wife and I found it extremely difficult to put the book down. Larson's writing is poetic, a pleasure to read, and yet absolutely entertaining at the same time. As with the first book, I also found my faith challenged and tested by reading this fiction book set in a fantasy world, as I saw all too many similarities to the world around us as the reader encounters a people and societies bent on their own pleasure, ignoring the divine.

R.J. Larson continues to impress me with her writing ability and also the fantastic world and stories she has created in this series. "Judge" is a worthy read, and sure to appeal to readers who usually are drawn to fantasy books, but also to readers who normally wouldn't give such books a try. I urge you to pick up this book - you won't be disappointed! 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.

about the author...

R. J. Larson
R. J. Larson is the author of numerous devotionals featured in publications such as Women's Devotional Bible and Seasons of a Woman's Heart. She lives in Colorado Springs, Colorado, with her husband and their two sons. Prophet marks her debut in the fantasy genre. Visit for more information.

Buy the Book

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Leaves me longing for the sequel: My review of "Vanished" by Irene Hannon

Vanished: A Novel

about the book...

A tenacious reporter. A skeptical PI. And a secret that will shatter lives.

Reporter Moira Harrison is lost. In the dark. In a thunderstorm. When a lone figure suddenly appears in the beam of her headlights, Moira slams on her brakes-but it’s too late. She feels the solid thump against the side of her car before crashing into a tree on the far side of the road.

A man opens her door, tells her he saw everything, and promises to call 911. Then the world fades to black. When she comes to, she is alone. No man. No 911. No injured person. But she can’t forget the look of terror she saw on that face in the instant before her headlights swung away. And she can’t get anyone to believe her story-except maybe a handsome ex–homicide detective turned private eye, who reluctantly agrees to take on the case.

As clues begin to surface, it becomes obvious that someone doesn’t want this mystery solved-and will stop at nothing to protect a shocking secret.

my review....

Now this may utterly shock you, but I've never read a book by Irene Hannon before. I know, I know, that's simply crazy to consider when she's written over 35 novels! However, I'm glad to report that I've finally joined the club - and it was worth every minute!

The opening scenes of Vanished were perfect, grabbing me with their intensity and immediately absorbing me into the story. The beginning of Moira's bizarre tale left me wondering what on earth was going on, and as the story unfolded layer by layer I found myself hooked by the suspense, while growing ever fonder of the characters Moira and the PI, Cal. Their relationship develops with a nice touch of romance and one that I found to be realistic rather than over the top, two individuals striving to overcome some deep hurts from their past. The story doesn't spend a lot of time on issues of faith, but does touch on the topic of prayer, morals, and ethical questions. The writing is free of anything that would offend a reader, and as such will appeal to a broad fan base. Irene Hannon is a talented author who can spin a splendid yarn that features solid characterization, action-packed suspense, and romance that will no doubt leave readers grinning. Honestly, what more could you ask for?

I give this book a solid recommendation and a rating of 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...

Irene Hannon
Irene Hannon is the author of more than 35 novels, including the bestselling Heroes of Quantico and Guardians of Justice series. Her books have been honored with two coveted RITA Awards from Romance Writers of America, a Carol Award, a HOLT Medallion, a Daphne du Maurier Award, and two Reviewers' Choice Awards from RT Book Reviews magazine. Booklist also included one of her novels in its "Top 10 Inspirational Fiction" list for 2011. She lives in Missouri.

For more information about her and her books, Irene invites you to visit her website at

Buy the Book

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

A fantasy book that has it all! My review of Angel Eyes by Shannon Dittemore (Christian Science Fiction & Fantasy Blog Tour)

Angel Eyes

about the book....

Once you’ve seen, you can’t unsee.

Brielle went to the city to chase her dreams and found tragedy instead. She’s come home to shabby little Stratus, Oregon, to live with her grief and her guilt . . . and an incredible, numbing cold she can’t seem to shake.

Jake’s the new guy at school. The boy next door with burning hands and an unbelievable gift that targets him for corruption.

Something more than fate has brought them together. An evil bigger than both of them lurks in the shadows nearby, hiding in plain sight. Two angels stand guard, unsure what’s going to happen. And a beauty brighter than either Brielle or Jake has ever seen is calling them to join the battle in a realm where all human choices begin.

A realm that only angels and demons—and Brielle—can perceive.

my review....

I totally love well-written books that feature scenes of good colliding with evil, angels battling demons, and, of course, happy endings, and fortunately Angel Eyes has it all! I once again find myself astonished at the caliber of juvenile fiction that is being published these days, something that was sorely lacking in my own teen years. Angel Eyes is thoroughly entertaining and stars characters that are immediately intriguing. I loved the perspective that the author takes on the angelic realm and how they interact with our world around us, and while reading the book I found myself glancing around my own living room imagining what may be hidden from my eyes. I also appreciated the theme of brokenness and healing that permeates the book, and that the author tackles the difficult issue of suffering and where God is in the midst of all the pain. I found that a few places in the book had a bit of awkward writing as the author switched between the views of the different characters, but these parts were the exception and overall I really enjoyed the book.

Now I should warn you that this is only the first book in the series, and so not everything is completely resolved. But who wouldn't want to read more about a girl who can see into the angelic realm? I know I'm game! I give this book a solid recommendation and award it 4 out of 5 stars.

Book has been provided courtesy of the publisher, Thomas Nelson, and Christian Science Fiction & Fantasy blog tours, for the purposes of this unbiased review.

 about the author....

Image of Shannon DittemoreShannon Dittemore has an overactive imagination and a passion for truth. Her lifelong journey to combine the two is responsible for a stint at Portland Bible College, performances with local theater companies, and a focus on youth and young adult ministry. The daughter of one preacher and the wife of another, she spends her days imagining things unseen and chasing her two children around their home in Northern California. Angel Eyes is her first novel.

This biography was provided by the author or their representative.

Wait! There's more:

Be sure to check out other bloggers who have read "Angel Eyes" through the CSFF tours by checking  out the link(s) below:

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

God is awesome: Sharing God's love with operation Christmas boxes

Missions trips are amazing. My favorite part so far has been handing out boxes filled with gifts and toys for some needy children in a fishing village. Here is an excerpt from an email I wrote my wife:

"We then went to the orphanage to pick up about 7 children who are amazing! Here these kids have HIV but they love Jesus and came with us to sing songs and hand out the operation Christmas boxes with joy on their faces. Incredible! While at the orphanage we learned the planned location of the outreach fell through. We all prayed hard and lo and behold of course God provided. We went to this small communal spot by the ocean and a small inlet river where fishermen families live and at first there were like 5 children. But soon there were over 60 after the orphanage children went around the neighborhood telling kids to come hear about Jesus and they did!

One mom brought her baby over and just plopped her on my lap. I sang and bounced her and suddenly realized she had no diaper and her bare bottom was on my pants. So funny! Fortunately she didn't let loose on me :) Jon (a missionary) then gave a message about the gift of Jesus and they were invited to ask Jesus to live in them and many kids put up their hands! I pray God holds them safely in his hand."

I've included some pictures of the fun :)

Monday, January 21, 2013

Crisp writing makes for an enjoyable read: My review of "The Tainted Coin" by Mel Starr

The Tainted Coin: The Fifth Chronicle of Hugh de Singleton, Surgeon

Master Hugh de Singleton, surgeon and bailiff, returns in a fifth installment to star in "The Tainted Coin". Set in the year of 1367, the story finds Hugh enjoying life in Bampton and just about to settle down to a satisfying breakfast when a pounding on the door interrupts his peaceful life. Hugh is soon tasked to uncovering who murdered a traveling merchant in the nearby woods. In the process of burying the man, a corroded coin is found in the man's mouth. The coin, along with the distinctive footprint of a horse believed to belong to one of the men responsible for his death, are the only clues Hugh has to follow. His journey soon finds him rescuing maidens in distress, a man set to be wrongfully hung, and a woman and her children who have been kidnapped.

I enjoyed returning to the world of Hugh, both as he used his powers of deduction to follow the trail of murderers, and also as he exercised his skills as a surgeon in a world steeped in superstition. The writing is crisp, the scenes fly by, and the dialogue keeps the story moving along while containing a delightful medieval flavor. Hugh is one of those characters who is so well developed that I feel that I could just read book after book about him - and I'm glad to see that another installment is already in the works! This book ends well, but doesn't completely wrap up the crime, providing a very realistic ending for a story set in a time where there wasn't DNA testing, finger print kits, and all the wonders of modern technology. I enjoyed the original characters, the fascinating setting, and the suspense of the story, making for a satisfying read.

I strongly recommend this book and award it 4.5 out of 5 stars.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher, Monarch, and Kregel blog tour services, for the purposes of this unbiased review.


Friday, January 18, 2013

I'm off to "Toyland" (Thailand) - Who knows what God has in store?

As you are reading this post, I may very well be en route to Thailand, no doubt getting tired of squeezing my 6 foot 5 frame into the cramped seat on the plane.

Why, you may ask? 

I am off on a Missions Trip, a part service, part exploratory trip with my church.

We will do a little touring of the country, including touring the Grand Palace in Bangkok:

However, most of the trip will be spent doing things like visiting an orphanage, teaching English at a school to help build relationships in the community, handing out Operation Christmas Child boxes, visiting a medical clinic in Northern Thailand. The goal is to share the love of Jesus to people who may have never met Him. 

We are also meeting a number of amazing missionary couples, and exploring the options of how our church can partner with them in the future to send regular ongoing short-term missions teams to Thailand (i.e. send over doctors, nurses, etc. for a medical missions trip). 

I can't wait to see what God is going to do! I'm really going to miss my wife and my children, as I've never been apart from them for 2 whole weeks. I'm going to miss hearing them say all the things that make me smile and laugh.

For example?

My 5-yr-old daughter, when I told her I was leaving for 2 weeks, turned to her 3-yr-old brother and said "I have something to tell you. It's going to make you cry. Daddy's going to Toyland!". Now, if I really WAS going to Toyland without her, she'd REALLY cry!

Anyway, I am indeed going to be gone, and will miss them a lot. But I'm trying to trust God to care for them in my absence, and I look forward to showering them with hugs and kisses when I return.

I've scheduled a few posts to appear on my blog in my absence, but otherwise won't be posting until I get back in February.

God bless everyone!

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Julie Klassen continues to shine: A GIVEAWAY & my review of "The Tutor's Daughter"

The Tutor's Daughter

about the book...

Award-Winning Regency Romance from Bestselling Author Julie Klassen

Emma Smallwood, determined to help her widowed father regain his spirits when his academy fails, agrees to travel with him to the distant Cornwall coast, to the cliff-top manor of a baronet and his four sons. But after they arrive and begin teaching the younger boys, mysterious things begin to happen and danger mounts. Who does Emma hear playing the pianoforte, only to find the music room empty? Who sneaks into her room at night? Who rips a page from her journal, only to return it with a chilling illustration?

The baronet's older sons, Phillip and Henry, wrestle with problems--and secrets--of their own. They both remember Emma Smallwood from their days at her father's academy. She had been an awkward, studious girl. But now one of them finds himself unexpectedly drawn to her.

When the suspicious acts escalate, can the clever tutor's daughter figure out which brother to blame... and which brother to trust with her heart?

my review....

I am certain that Julie Klassen’s latest novel, Tutor’s Daughter, is not standard fare for gentleman readers like myself. However, her writing style is so absorbing and her characters so entertaining that I simply can’t resist from grabbing up each new offering she makes! And so I found myself almost hiding the novel and it’s feminine cover as I devoured it from start to finish, transported to the world created by Julie’s talented pen.

Tutor’s Daughter is a fantastic novel, filled with all the drama and, yes, romance that readers could hope for, along with a Gothic flavor to boot! Klassen has an admirable grasp of English phrases, writing a book that moves at a splendid pace while demonstrating her skill in turning a phrase. I loved Henry’s description of Emma in his thoughts, that “she guarded her reactions and words as though she wore bit and bridle and God himself held the rein”. Such phrases add a flair to her writing that makes it a pleasure to read. The characters are beautifully developed and perfectly reflect their time period, invoking a delightful sense of reading a Jane Austen novel. The author does an outstanding job of unfolding the mysterious elements of the plot, creating some wonderfully suspenseful scenes throughout the book. Klassen will even keep you guessing about the romantic relationships that develop, and the romance is such that it is not at all over the top and so is likely to appeal to a wide variety of readers. All in all, Julie Klassen continues to shine in the world of Christian fiction, and I greatly anticipate who she will introduce us to next!

I highly recommend this book, 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 Bethany House, a division of Baker Publishing Group.

about the author...

Julie Klassen
Julie Klassen loves all things Jane--Jane Eyre and Jane Austen. A graduate of the University of Illinois, Julie worked in publishing for sixteen years and now writes full time. She has won the Christy Award: Historical Romance for The Silent Governess (2010) and The Girl in the Gatehouse (2011) which also won the 2010 Midwest Book Award for Genre Fiction. Julie and her husband have two sons and live in a suburb of St. Paul, Minnesota. For more information, visit

Buy the Book

And now for the giveaway....

I am giving away 1 copy of "Tutor's Daughter" to readers from the U.S. and Canada, courtesy of the publisher, Bethany House, and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc

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: "Have you read a book by Julie Klassen before? If so, which one was your favorite?"

++ 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 February 2, 2013.

Good luck!

2 Free fiction ebooks: The Beginning by Karen Kingsbury & Beyond the Storm by Carolyn Zane

2 free ebooks for today:

From Barnes & Noble:


Monday, January 14, 2013

A book every parent should put into practice: My review & Giveaway of "Praying Circles around your Children" by Mark Batterson

Praying Circles around Your Children

Pastor Mark Batterson, best selling author of "The Circle Maker", offers up thoroughly Biblical yet practical guidance for parents in "Praying Circles Around Your Children". Parents who may struggle with wondering how to protect their children through prayer are provided with step-by-step help in shaping the future of not only their children but their grandchildren and on through the generations. The author tackles subjects such as  praying God's promises over your children, how to make prayer lists specific to your family, or praying through the Bible. Batterson not only provides advice, but he uses stories of everyday parents to do so.

I greatly enjoyed reading through this excellent book, finding it to be non-judmental and easy to immediately put into practice. I loved how the author comments that, "You'll never be a perfect parent, but you can be a praying parent", allowing us to release expectations that we will be everything our children need us to be and instead allow God to be all that they need. The book is well-written and laid out in an understandable, accessible manner. I also appreciated how the author inserts personal anecdotes or interesting stories from other parent's experiences, which helped keep me engaged throughout the book. Most importantly, the book is solidly based on scripture, and so it serves to increase our understanding of prayer by helping parents to put it into practice specifically in relation to their family. In a world that has become ever crazier for children and full of unbelievable temptations that accompany the increase of technology, there is nothing more important than bathing our families in prayer.

I highly recommend this book to any parent or grandparent who is seeking to enrich their prayer life and to grow in their understanding of how prayer impacts their family. 5 out of 5 stars.

Book has been provided courtesy of the publisher, Zondervan, for the purposes of this unbiased review. Available at your favourite bookseller and everywhere good books are sold!

about the author....

Mark Batterson serves as the lead pastor of National Community Church in Washington, D. C. Recognized as “one of America’s 25 most innovative churches,” NCC is one church with seven locations. Mark’s blog ( and webcast ( also reach a virtual congregation around the world. Mark is the author of several bestselling books, including New York Times Bestseller - The Circle Maker and In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day. He and his wife, Lora, live on Capitol Hill with their three children. You can follow Mark on Twitter: @markbatterson

Find out more info about the book and the author at the Zondervan Product Page

Ready to buy?

And now for the giveaway....

I am giving away 2 copies of "Praying Circles Around Your Children" along with a piece of chalk, to readers from the U.S. and Canada, courtesy of the publisher, Zondervan.

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: "What is your favorite book about prayer that you've read so far?"

++ 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 February 2, 2013.

Good luck!

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Enter to win an iPad from @SuzanneWoodsFisher in “The Lesson” Giveaway!

Celebrate the release of The Lesson with Suzanne Woods Fisher by entering to win one of TWO iPads!


Two winners will receive:
  • A brand new iPad
  • A $15 gift certificate to iTunes
Enter today by clicking one of the icons below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on January 20th. Winner will be announced on 1/22/13 at Suzanne's Blog.

Tell your friends via FACEBOOK or TWITTER and increase your chances of winning.

Let's hope this fiction stays fiction: My review of "Fatherless" By James Dobson, Kurt Bruner

Fatherless: A Novel

about the book...

The year is 2042, and a long-predicted tipping point has arrived. For the first time in human history, the economic pyramid has flipped: The feeble old now outnumber the vigorous young, and this untenable situation is intensifying a battle between competing cultural agendas. Reporter Julia Davidson-a formerly award-winning journalist seeking to revive a flagging career-is investigating the growing crisis, unaware that her activity makes her a pawn in an ominous conspiracy. Plagued by nightmares about her absent father, Julia finds herself drawn to the quiet strength of a man she meets at a friend's church. As the engrossing plot of FATHERLESS unfolds, Julia will face choices that pit professional success against personal survival in an increasingly uncertain and dangerous world.

In the dystopian tradition of books like 1984, Brave New World, and The Hunger Games, FATHERLESS vividly imagines a future in which present-day trends come to sinister fruition. The second and third books in the series, CHILDLESS and GODLESS, will follow at eight-month intervals.

my review....

Every so often I read a book that leaves me feeling like the plot is entirely too possible, and I shudder to imagine that it might come true. Fatherless is just such a book, depicting a not-so-distant future where it becomes routine for an elderly person to end their burdensome life, where the average man doesn't even bother to have children but instead remains the eternal playboy, and where the concept of marriage is simply laughable. I found the plot to be fascinating, and needless to say I was hooked from the first sentence and held captive to the last page. Dobson and Bruner are a dynamic writing team, and have created unforgettable characters who will draw you in to their complex lives.

The book is sure to appeal to a wide audience, as there's no real violence to scare off readers used to more gentle reads. However, the plot is absolutely action-packed and filled with every day people working through deep ethical issues, ones that we are already facing on a much smaller scale. I can't even imagine what it would be like to live in a world where helping someone die because they are elderly and disabled becomes viewed as something heroic! I pray God saves us from such a future.

Fatherless is an excellent start to a series that is bound to not only entertain, but to leave you thinking about where our world is headed in the near future. I encourage you to pick up this book and journey with the characters through some frightening possibilities that will make you thankful that we're not living in that world - yet. 5 out of 5 stars.

Book has been provided courtesy of Hachette Book Group Canada, for the purposes of this unbiased review.

about the authors...

Dr. James Dobson is the Founder and President of Family Talk, a nonprofit organization that produces his radio program, "Family Talk with Dr. James Dobson." He is the author of more than 30 books dedicated to the preservation of the family. He has been active in governmental affairs and has advised three U.S. presidents on family matters. Dr. Dobson is married to Shirley and they have two grown children, Danae and Ryan, and two grandchildren. The Dobsons reside in Colorado Springs, CO.

Kurt BrunerKurt Bruner serves as Pastor of Spiritual Formation at Lake Pointe Church and on the adjunct faculty of Dallas Theological Seminary. A graduate of Talbot Seminary and former Vice President with Focus on the Family, Kurt led the teams creating films, magazines, books, and radio drama. As President of HomePointe Inc., he helps local church leaders create an ongoing culture of intentional families. Kurt is the best-selling author of more than a dozen books. Kurt and his wife, Olivia, live in Rockwall, Texas.

Buy the Book

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Bees in the Butterfly Garden: A pleasant surprise

about the book...

Raised in an exclusive boarding school among Fifth Avenue’s finest, Meg Davenport has all she’s ever needed . . . but none of the things she’s wanted most, like family, or dreams of a future that includes anything other than finding a suitable match. So when her distant father dies, she seizes the chance to throw etiquette aside and do as she pleases. Especially when she learns that John Davenport wasn’t the wealthy businessman she thought, but one of the Gilded Age’s most talented thieves.

Poised to lead those loyal to Meg’s father, Ian Maguire knows the last thing his mentor would have wanted is for his beloved daughter to follow in his footsteps. Yet Meg is determined, and her connections to one of New York’s wealthiest families could help Ian pull off his biggest heist yet. But are they both in over their heads? And in trying to gain everything, will they end up losing it all?

my review....

Every so often I actually READ one of the free books that I've downloaded over the previous few months. My latest choice was Bees in the Butterfly, an ebook that had been offered by Tyndale House Publishers at no cost, and I chose to give it a try because the premise was one that intrigued me. Oh, I knew that it would need to be somewhat predictable where two people who seemingly come from two different worlds are destined to fall in love. But I enjoyed the author's fresh take on the story, with Meg choosing to embrace her father's thieving past, and I definitely enjoyed a few of the twists thrown in along the way. The characters are fun, and they learn valuable lessons along the way, both about who they are and about the grace of God. The author paints a powerful portrayal of the meaning of forgiveness in the pages of this story, and that alone makes this a book worth reading.

If you haven't read a book by Maureen Lang, well then what are you waiting for? I hadn't either, but I'm glad I gave her a try. I'll certainly be looking up her next books!

I give this book a solid recommendation of 4 out of 5 stars.

about the author....

Image of Maureen LangMaureen Lang has been writing stories since the age of ten, when she figured out a way to write the stories she feels like reading. Since then she's become the award-winning author of over a dozen published novels. In the last ten years her faith has directed her to write stories that reflect Christian hope and traditional values. She's also been an active member of the disability community since her oldest son was diagnosed with Fragile X Syndrome, a genetic form of mental retardation. Maureen loves going on research trips to get a feel for the settings of her novels, and lives in the Chicago area with her husband, children, and lovable Labrador Retriever. Visit her on the web at

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Free ebook: The Calling of Emily Evans (Women of the West #1) by Janette Oke

Free for download today is an ebook from Janette Oke, "The Calling of Emily Evans", a story I loved when I first read it as a teenager:

From Barnes & Noble &/or

Sunday, January 6, 2013

A sweet, beautiful tale: My review of "A Christmas Home"

A Christmas Home

about the book...

Todd McCray, hero of A Dog Named Christmas, is now twenty-four years old and working at a local animal shelter, where he meets and quickly becomes best friends with Laura, a young volunteer. Laura, like Todd, has disabilities of her own, but her struggles are more physical than developmental. Their friendship is sealed when Todd—with the help of his trusted companion, the tenacious Labrador retriever named Christmas—trains a beautiful dog named Gracie to help Laura with the day-to-day life tasks that are difficult for her.

            Life seems good for Todd, but all is not well in his hometown. Struggling families unable to make ends meet are abandoning more and more dogs, and the shelter is swelling to capacity.  The local government is struggling to meet its obligations too, and in early December, on the cusp of another holiday season, Todd’s boss delivers the bad news.  Due to funding problems, the shelter will close its doors before the end of the year.  But what will happen to all the animals?
   As the Christmas holiday approaches, Todd has limited time to find homes for all the dogs. Not to mention that he needs to secure a new job and figure out what to do when his friendship with Laura takes an unexpected romantic turn. All this seems overwhelming unless you’ve got a loving family, dedicated friends, and a couple of very special dogs behind you. In which case, nothing is impossible.

My review....

A sweet, beautiful tale that left tears in my eyes, "A Christmas Home" is just what the doctor ordered if you are looking for a book that will leave a smile on your face! Todd is a fantastic character, learning to fully grasp all life has to offer while dealing with an intellectual disability that makes things more challenging for him. The story follows his journey of dealing with the animal shelter closing, the place where he had found his first job and discovered his passion for animals and training dogs. I thoroughly enjoyed following the plot-line of the developing relationship between Todd and Laura, and I also loved how Todd takes steps of independence in a manner that truly inspired me. Despite being a character-driven drama, the plot moves along very well and kept me engaged throughout. The writing is solid, featuring likable characters, a unique plot, and a conclusion that will leave you grinning (and perhaps wiping a tear from your eye).

If you haven't read the previous story featuring Todd (A Dog Name Christmas) - don't worry about it! I hadn't either - and I still loved this book.

This is the first book by Greg Kincaid that I have had the pleasure of reading - but it certainly will not be the last. I strongly recommend this book and award it 4.5 out of 5 stars.

Book was provided courtesy of the publisher, Crown Publishing Group (an imprint of Ranedom House Inc.) for the purposes of this unbiased review.

about the author...

Greg Kincaid PhotoGREG KINCAID, when not writing, is a practicing lawyer, specializing in divorce and family law mediation. He lives on a farm in eastern Kansas with his wife, three horses, two dogs, and two cats.

Buy the Book

3 free ebooks: "For Time & Eternity", "The Ultimate Prescription" and

Free for download today are 3 ebooks, including both fiction & non-fiction.

Grab them from Barnes & Noble:

For Time and Eternity The Ultimate Prescription: What the Medical Profession Isn't Telling You Face To Face With God



Friday, January 4, 2013

A Smart & Entertaining Thriller: My review of "The Lawyer's Lawyer" by James Sheehan

The Lawyer's Lawyer

about the book...

Celebrated trial attorney Jack Tobin was known in courtroom circles as a "lawyer's lawyer"--the guy the best lawyers say they'd want to represent them in a fight. Now retired from the high-powered Miami scene to the sleepy fishing town of Bass Creek, Tobin only represents people who he believes are innocent. When he is asked to represent a suspected serial killer, Tobin, at first, is hesitant. After reviewing the criminal investigation, however, Jack becomes convinced that the man was set up and decides to take the case. That decision not only pits Jack against the powerful elite of Apache County, its citizens, and the woman he loves, it also takes him down a road of self-searching and despair, and ultimately, into the courtroom where he must fight for his life in a battle that neither he nor any other lawyer has ever waged before.

my review....

A smart and entertaining thriller, "The Lawyer's Lawyer" is a book that is sure to please fans of legal-themed suspense novels. I've never had the chance to read a book by James Sheehan before, but I certainly enjoyed his latest offering, appreciating the fast-paced nature of the plot, the action filled pages, and the complex character of Jack Tobin. The author keeps the story moving along with one twist after another, and the courtroom scenes contain the element of realism, making it clear that the author knows exactly what he's talking about. I appreciated the deeper themes the author explores, such as the ethical dilemma around whether a lawyer should take on a case of defending a serial killer who may not be innocent, if there has clearly been a procedural injustice at work in his conviction. The characters in the Lawyer's Lawyer certainly aren't perfect, but there is much to admire in Jack's drive to represent truth and to act with utter loyalty. I also enjoyed the supporting characters in this book, who demonstrate what true friendship should look like. I must say that there was a bit more swearing than I expected from this publisher (Center Street), and the spiritual themes are definitely on the light side. But if you are looking for a well-written book that will have your pulse accelerating from start to finish, then you are definitely going to love this book.

I award it 4.5 out of 5 stars. I look forward to future books from this talented author.

Book has been provided courtesy of Hachette Book Group Canada, for the purposes of this unbiased review.

about the author...

jim photo
JAMES SHEEHAN is the author of The Mayor of Lexington Avenue and The Law of Second Chances. He was a successful trial attorney for 30 years, and currently teaches trial law and is the Director of the Tampa Law Institute at Stetson University College of Law in Tampa, Florida. Learn more at

Buy the Book

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Let your year be marked by courage: Inspiration from "The King's Speech"

I'm sure most of you watched "The King's Speech" back when it first came out over 2 years ago in 2010, back when it garnered it's four Oscar Awards and had everyone talking about the film. Last night, my wife and I watched the movie for the second time as we saw the year 2012 draw to a close, and we again decided that it is definitely a movie worth seeing!

As I reflected on the movie throughout the day today and thought ahead to what this next year would be like for me, I thought about how fantastic it would be to live a life that is characterized by the courage that King George VI showed in this movie and in real life. How difficult it would be, to be a King and have the world staring at you, and having everyone notice your stutter and your struggle to speak clearly. How embarrassing to have to address a nation of people while stumbling over your words! And how amazing that a simple common man, the amiable Lionel Logue, the self-taught and almost unknown Australian speech therapist, was able to befriend and goad the future King to work through his speech impediment. I was moved (again) to tears as I watched Lionel and the King facing head-on the daunting task of the King giving his first speech via radio, to the world, following the declaration of war between Germany and Britain.
I pray that this year God will give me that kind of courage and spirit that refuses to give up. I think of God's calling to go out into all the world and spread the good news. I think of those times I am hesitant, not wanting to offend anyone, and certainly missing chances to introduce people to a God of grace and of freedom. Why do I hesitate? Why do I miss those opportunities to lead people to the truth?

And so, my verse for this year is from Joshua, chapter 1 verse 9: "Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” Amen Lord! Let it be so!

Whatever I face, wherever the Holy Spirit leads me, may this be the verse I remember, that God is with me and that I can be strong and courageous to do what he has called me to do.

(And if you haven't seen the King's Speech, what are you waiting for already? It's worth viewing, and is almost entirely clean except for some minimal foul language used as a technique in the speech therapy sessions. Enjoy!)