Tuesday, July 29, 2014

The Trail by Ed Underwood (Review)

  • Hardcover: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. (July 16, 2014)
  • ISBN-13: 978-1414391120

From a popular and well-loved pastor comes this enchanting, beautifully crafted allegory exploring the mysterious process of discovering God’s will. Matt and Brenda feel trapped because they look for God’s guidance about major life decisions in completely opposite ways. Their friends Brian and Lindsey try to help by introducing them to a person who had helped them gain an unshakable confidence in God’s will.

After meeting Sam Lewis in the stunning High Sierras, the three hike together, Matt and Brenda learn that God’s good and perfect will is not a destination on the horizon of life where everything makes sense, but a place where your life is exposed to God’s power. One by one, Sam’s eight principles illuminate the path ahead. As the story builds to its stunning conclusion, all three characters desperately seek and experience God’s redemptive guidance.

My Review:

This was an interesting book. It is a fiction tale but imparts 8 principles to help find God's will. Each of the eight principles also has a bible verse attached to it. It felt like the principles and plot line were forced in parts. The fiction part on its own was a good story. Matt and Brenda are a married couple who need help figuring out whether they should move to a new town and job with their children. Sam is a rustic self described mountain man who leads couples through the mountain trails and imparts biblical truths along the way. It turns out he has a rough family situation in the past that has not been healed. Their stories bleed together as things come to alight. The principles focus on trusting in God's strength, a relationship with Jesus, intimacy with God, living expectantly, protection from God, encouragement along the way, community, and grace. I think the book was a good idea but I was disappointed with the finished product. The conclusion to the fiction part was just okay. If you like this type of book then you might like this one.

I write about life in Christ from a unique perspective.

I wasn't raised in a religious home. Jesus ran me down with his love during the Jesus Movement of the 60's. I was a 60's radical who became a Jesus Freak.

I spent the years of my youth fighting fire in the Sierras as a member of the Fulton Hotshots. I served as an Army Officer. And then I decided to get some training at Dallas Theological Seminary.
Review copy provided by Tyndale Blog Network in exchange for an honest review.

Monday, July 28, 2014

The Vanishings by Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins (Review)

  • Age Range: 10 - 14 years
  • Grade Level: 5 and up
  • Series: Left Behind: The Kids (Book 1)
  • Mass Market Paperback: 160 pages
  • Publisher: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. (July 1, 1998)
  • ISBN-13: 978-0842321938

This series is based on the best-selling adult Left Behind series. Readers will see the Rapture and Tribulation through the eyes of four kids who have been left behind.

My Review:

 This is the first book in the Left Behind teen series. It sets up the background for the rest.
 The Vanishings introduces us to Judd ("The Runaway") and his three companions: Vicki ("The Rebel"), Lionel ("The Liar"), and Ryan ("The Skeptic"). There was not enough plot and it just stops. It is not a stand alone book even though its book one in a series. I was really hoping for more since the first book in the adult series was so good. Also parents need to be careful and read the book before they give it to their kids. There are mature topics inside. I really think its more appropriate for age 13 and up.

Jerry B. Jenkins, former Vice President for Publishing and currently Writer-at-Large for the Moody Bible Institute of Chicago, is the author of more than 150 books, including the best-selling Left Behind series. Sixteen of his books have reached the New York Times best-seller list (seven in the number one spot) and have also appeared on the USA Today, Publisher's Weekly and Wall Street Journal best-seller lists.

Tim LaHaye is an internationally known author, teacher, and expert on Bible prophecy. He is married to Beverly, who is the founder of the largest women's organization in America, Concerned Women for America. The LaHayes live in southern California.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Saving Amelie by Cathy Gohlke (Review)

  • Paperback: 464 pages
  • Publisher: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. (May 16, 2014)
  • ISBN-13: 978-1414383224

Increasingly wary of her father’s genetic research, Rachel Kramer has determined that this trip with him to Germany—in the summer of 1939—will be her last. But a cryptic letter from her estranged friend, begging Rachel for help, changes everything. Married to SS officer Gerhardt Schlick, Kristine sees the dark tides turning and fears her husband views their daughter, Amelie, deaf since birth, as a blight on his Aryan bloodline.

Once courted by Schlick, Rachel knows he’s as dangerous as the swastikas that hang like ebony spiders from every government building in Berlin. She fears her father’s files may hold answers about Hitler’s plans for others, like Amelie, whom the regime deems “unworthy of life.” She risks searching his classified documents only to uncover shocking secrets about her own history and a family she’s never known.

Now hunted by the SS, Rachel turns to Jason Young—a driven, disarming American journalist and unlikely ally—who connects her to the resistance and to controversial theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Forced into hiding, Rachel’s every ideal is challenged as she and Jason walk a knife’s edge, risking their lives—and asking others to do the same—for those they barely know but come to love.

 My Review:

I thought this was an okay Christian historical fiction book. The subject matter is not an easy one to read about. I think we forget how a lot of the German people were normal and scared. Rachel and Jason are technically Americans. Rachel has dual citizenship because her father is a scientist but then she discovers she is also part of a big German experiment to create a perfect race. The main plot revolves around Rachel's friend Kristine's deaf daughter, Amelie. Keeping her safe and away from her father is Rachel and Jason's main goal. Along the way Jason becomes champions of other refugees. I liked Jason but Rachel was a little harder to like. She is a spoiled entitled American girl who thinks the world revolves around her. We spend a good portion of the book wondering about her. The book felt too long and drawn out. Some parts felt disjointed. The ending was good but left some loose plot ends. Overall a good book with more potential. If you are drawn to books set in this part of history recommended.

 Cathy Gohlke is the two-time Christy Award-winning author of the critically acclaimed novels Saving Amelie, Band of Sisters, Promise Me This (listed by Library Journal as one of the best books of 2012), William Henry Is a Fine Name, and I Have Seen Him in the Watchfires (listed by Library Journal as one of the best books of 2008), which also won the American Christian Fiction Writers' Book of the Year Award.

Cathy has worked as a school librarian, drama director, and director of children's and education ministries. When not traipsing the hills and dales of historic sites, she, her husband, and their dog, Reilly, divide their time between Northern Virginia and their home on the banks of the Laurel Run in Elkton, Maryland. Visit her website at www.cathygohlke.com

Friday, July 25, 2014

Annie's Stories by Cindy Thomson (Review)

  • Series: Ellis Island
  • Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. (June 20, 2014)
  • ISBN-13: 978-1414368450

The year is 1901, the literary sensation The Wonderful Wizard of Oz is taking New York City by storm, and everyone wonders where the next great book will come from. But to Annie Gallagher, stories are more than entertainment—they’re a sweet reminder of her storyteller father. After his death, Annie fled Ireland for the land of dreams, finding work at Hawkins House.

But when a fellow boarder with something to hide is accused of misconduct and authorities threaten to shut down the boardinghouse, Annie fears she may lose her new friends, her housekeeping job . . . and her means of funding her dream: a memorial library to honor her father. Furthermore, the friendly postman shows a little too much interest in Annie—and in her father’s unpublished stories. In fact, he suspects these tales may hold a grand secret.

Though the postman’s intentions seem pure, Annie wants to share her father’s stories on her own terms. Determined to prove herself, Annie must forge her own path to aid her friend and create the future she’s always envisioned . . . where dreams really do come true.

 My Review:

This was an okay Christian historical fiction book. It is the second book in the Ellis Island series. It can stand alone although some characters repeat and you see more of their story. The focus of this story is Annie and Stephen. Annie comes over from Ireland from bad circumstances and becomes the housekeeper for a small boardinghouse. Stephen is the postman for that route. He admires her from the beginning and flirts each time he sees her. She is not interested and is still recovering from her recent past drama. The romance does not quite ring true and the characters fall a little flat. The plot was interesting. It is set right when the Wizard of Oz comes out and they are both readers. Annie's father was a travel story teller in Ireland and left her a stack of stories he wrote. There are two mysteries that come together in the end and a twist. I liked the first book Grace's Pictures and look forward to reading the next book in the series.

 I'm a full-time writer dedicated to telling the legacy left to us by those went before.

I write historical fiction, genealogy-related articles, history articles, and short stories. I'm also a baseball fan. My favorite team is the Cincinnati Reds, but I have a soft spot for the Cubs who haven't won a World Series since my cousin pitched for them in 1908.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Penny Wise by Neta and Dave Jackson (Review)

  • Series: Windy City Neighbors (Book 3)
  • Paperback: 316 pages
  • Publisher: Castle Rock Creative, Inc. (May 22, 2014)
  • ISBN-13: 978-0982054468

PENNY WISE (Book 3 in the Windy City Neighbors series) introduces us to yet another family in "the neighborhood"-the Jaspers, busy with demanding jobs, busy with church, busy volunteering, parents of three active teenagers, juggling sometimes crazy schedules. All good things. Until all those "good things" feed into a series of crises that affects the whole family. Something's gotta change! PENNY WISE is a contemporary peek at an urban family wrestling with the spiritual and practical challenges of real life. The series employs the innovating storytelling technique of "parallel novels," each with its own drama and story arc, but whose characters' lives become intertwined with their neighbors and affect one another. Welcome to Beecham Street-a typical, isolated American neighborhood that is beginning to come out of its shell . . . for better or worse.

 My Review:

I thought this was a good contemporary Christian fiction book. It is the third book in the Windy City Neighbors series. I have read and liked all of them. This series is written in "parallel novel" format which means the characters repeat. It can be read alone but if you are reading the series its nice to see the other characters interact more. I related more to the first two books in the series but this one still had good character and plot development. I felt the stress of the Jasper's busy lives. The parents have work, children, church, and other life issues that create a hard cycle to get out of and rest. This book points out that although being active in church is good too much is a bad thing. It also tackles a later in life pregnancy and the issues that come with it. The book started slow but picked up. I did not like the ending and thought a different one might be more suitable. I can't wait for the next book in the series.

Dave and Neta Jackson are award-winning authors living in the Chicago area where their parallel novels from the Yada Yada House of Hope and Harry Bentley series are set.
As a husband/wife writing team, Dave and Neta Jackson are enthusiastic about books, kids, walking with God, gospel music, and each other! Together they are the authors or coauthors of over 100 books.

Find out more about Dave and Neta at http://www.daveneta.com/

Review copy provided by Litfuse in exchange for an honest review.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Dear Son by Dave Bruskas (Review)

  • Series: Christian Theology
  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Resurgence (April 18, 2014)
  • ISBN-13: 978-1414389714

Today’s culture doesn’t encourage men to grow up. Everyone from pastors to op-ed columnists have described a crisis of masculinity, fostered by a media culture that uniformly make men the butts of jokes. Men are much more likely to give up on life than women. One indicator of this is the large gender difference in suicide rates—men are four times more likely than women to drop out of life. This points to a profound lack of effective mentoring of men, especially in the church. Dave Bruskas seeks to fill in this gap with this book. Two decades ago, Dave lost his only infant son to a congenital heart defect. That devastating loss fueled his desire to provide effective mentoring to young men. Dear Son contains the guidance and insights Dave would have given his son if he had lived through the milestones of growing up: from first dates to first jobs, from weddings to births, from friendships to funerals. Dear Son contains heartfelt wisdom for life’s journey, especially for guys—and for those who want to strengthen them.

My Review:

 I did not particular enjoy reading this book. I am definitely not the target audience. That said it might appeal as a book for religious unmarried men. It is an advice book to them. Each chapter begins with a letter to his son that died in infancy and what he would hope for him as an adult. Each chapter also has some bible verses in it. There were several statements that I did not agree with or like including him putting down jobs like being a movie theater manager. He said they do not make enough money to properly support a family and good men should not want jobs like that. He points out do this and be a great husband/father or stink at it. I would not recommend this book.

 Pastor Dave is one of three Executive Elders at Mars Hill Church in Seattle, WA. Pastor Dave earned a masters degree in Theological Studies from Dallas Theological Seminary. His Acts 29 church, City On A Hill, in Albuquerque, NM became the first out-of-state Mars Hill Church in 2009. He currently serves as the Teaching Pastor at Mars Hill Church, where he overseas all 15 Mars Hill Church locations and the Lead Pastor Residency Program. He will also be a teacher at Mars Hill Schools, teaching both Corban University and Western Seminary courses. He is married to Kara and together they have four daughters. He's a lifelong Dallas Cowboys fan, no matter how down in the dumps their season may be

Review copy provided by publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Oath of the Brotherhood by C. E. Laureano (Review)

  • Series: The Song of Seare (Book 1)
  • Paperback: 448 pages
  • Publisher: TH1NK (April 18, 2014)
  • ISBN-13: 978-1612915876

In a kingdom where the Old Ways hold fast and a man’s worth lies entirely in his skill with the sword, Conor Mac Nir is a scholar, a musician, and a follower of the forbidden Balian faith: problematic for any man, but disastrous for the son of the king.

When Conor is sent as a hostage to a neighboring kingdom, he never expects to fall in love with the rival king’s sister, Aine. Nor does he suspect his gift with the harp (and Aine’s ability to heal) touches on the realm of magic. Then his clan begins a campaign to eliminate all Balians from the isle of Seare, putting his newfound home in peril and entangling him in a plot for control of the island that has been unfolding since long before his birth.

Only by committing himself to an ancient warrior brotherhood can Conor discover the part he’s meant to play in Seare’s future. But is he willing to sacrifice everything—even the woman he loves—to follow the path his God has laid before him?

My Review:

I was entranced by this book. I could not read fast enough. The author does a great job at description and developing the characters. I felt like I was there with Conor and Aine. The plot was unique and though confusing at times it is the first book in a series. This would be considered a YA Christian fantasy although I really think it goes beyond that. The ending has a huge cliffhanger and I almost wish the book would have just kept going for a long time. I can't wait for the next book in the series. I am going to get a copy to give to my 17 year old girl cousin who loves books like this. It is reminiscent of Narnia and Lord of the Rings. Highly Recommended. :)

 C.E. Laureano's love of fantasy began with a trip through a magical wardrobe, and she has never looked back. She's happiest when her day involves martial arts, swords, and a well-choreographed fight scene, though when pressed, she'll admit to a love of theater and travel as well.

Appropriately, she's the wife to a martial arts master and mom to two boys who spend most of their time jumping off things and finding objects to turn into light sabers. They live in Denver, Colorado with a menagerie of small pets.

Review copy provided by publisher in exchange for an honest review.