Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Mark of Distinction by Jessica Dotta (Review)

  • Series: Price of Privilege (Book 2)
  • Paperback: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. (April 18, 2014)
  • ISBN-13: 978-1414375564

London is said to be the glittering jewel of society, a world unto itself—but to Julia Elliston it is a city of shadows. Her life is swiftly dissolving into scandal. And in Victorian society, even a whisper of scandal—substantiated or not—can be the death of a young woman’s reputation.

Now under the watchful eye of Lord Roy Pierson, one of most influential men in England, Julia begrudgingly accepts his protection. But Chance Macy’s power is far-reaching as well, and he is eager to assert his claim over her.

Thrust into society as the Emerald Heiress, Julia is the toast of London, a celebrated curiosity. But in reality she’s trapped between the clutches of two powerful men. Aided only by a gentleman whose intentions she prays she can trust, Julia must finally take control of her own fate—but outwitting one’s foe rarely goes according to plan.

My Review:

Overall I thought this was a good Christian regency book. It was confusing in the beginning until I remembered what happened in the first book and put it together with what was happening in the current book. It is the second book in a series and cannot be read alone. The characters and plot are well developed. I could not turn the pages fast enough. I am so ready for the next book to come out. It has dark Victorian undertones like a Bronte book. I could feel the atmosphere created. There was not a strong Christian message and Julia seems weak at times. The book is somewhat told from Julia's point of view looking back on her life. Otherwise a good regency book if read in order.

Jessica Dotta has always been fascinated by England during the Regency and Victorian era. Her passion for British Literature fueled her desire to write in a style that blends the humor of Jane Austen and the dark drama of a Bronte sister. She lives in the Nashville area with her family and works as a freelance media consultant and publicist.

The Boy Who Came Back From Heaven by Kevin and Alex Malarkey (Review)

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Tyndale Momentum; Reprint edition (March 21, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1414390211
  • ISBN-13: 978-1414390215

In 2004, Kevin Malarkey and his six-year-old son, Alex, suffered an horrific car accident. The impact from the crash paralyzed Alex—and medically speaking, it was unlikely that he could survive. “I think that Alex has gone to be with Jesus,” a friend told the stricken dad. But two months later, Alex awoke from a coma with an incredible story to share. Of events at the accident scene and in the hospital while he was unconscious. Of the angels who took him through the gates of heaven itself. Of the unearthly music that sounded just terrible to a six-year-old. And most amazing of all . . . of meeting and talking to Jesus. The Boy Who Came Back from Heaven is the New York Times bestselling true story of an ordinary boy’s most extraordinary journey. As you see heaven and earth through Alex’s eyes, you’ll come away with new insights on miracles, life beyond this world, and the power of a father’s love.

 My Review:

I did not like this book. It was not well written at all. I felt alarmed several times throughout the book. It did not ring true. I researched it and Alex himself has said he had nothing to do with the book. He did not help write this book.  His mom, Beth, divorced her husband over what he wrote in the book. The proceeds from the book do not go to Alex. I do not recommend this book. A good lesson is to beware of false truths.

Kevin Malarkey is a Christian therapist with a counseling practice near Columbus, Ohio. He attended the College of Wooster and earned a graduate degree from Ohio State University. He and his ex wife, Beth, have four children (Alex, Aaron, Gracie, and Ryan) and attend a nondenominational evangelical church. 

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

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

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.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Real Men Don't Text by Ruthie and Michael Dean (Review)

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. (September 3, 2013)
  • ISBN-13: 978-1414386676

 Welcome to dating in the digital world—where phone conversations followed by dinner and a movie have been replaced by last-minute texts, ambiguous relationships, and vague group hangouts.

While technology makes it faster and easier to connect than ever before, it has also created confusion . . . And heartbreak.

Ruthie and Michael Dean have heard the same story from thousands of women: the disappearing men, the cryptic messages, the disappointing relationships, and the false intimacy of on-screen connection.

In a no-holds-barred narrative style, the husband-and-wife team chronicles their dating mishaps, hilarious attempts to find love, and many mistakes—helping women understand just what men are thinking and how to attract Mr. Right.

Real Men Don’t Text offers game-changing perspectives, bringing a fresh approach to love, sex, and dating. You don’t need to spend one more night staring at a phone screen. It’s time to take back your love life.

My Review:

This was an interesting book about the effect of text messaging on dating relationships. The authors are basically saying its a lazy way to communicate in a romantic relationship. Text can be misleading and the other person is not there for you to read their body language and other signals. I agree with them although I really do not like talking on the phone. It is easy to read and understand. The husband and wife team that wrote take turns giving their point of views from their s*x although it ends up geared more toward females. There were a few statements that bothered me. I thought some of Michael's comments were a little sexist. Also the faith aspect does not show up until the second half and then the author's tell people to skip that part if it makes them uncomfortable. They share a little from their own relationship throughout the book. If you like this genre then you might like this book.

 Ruthie and Michael Dean grew up just down the street from one another, but not being fans of convenience, they fell in love long-distance while Ruthie lived in China and Michael lived in Germany. Now happily married, the Deans love to run, take advantage of Sunday coffee dates (without technology), and can often be spotted driving around Nashville in Michael's classic Ford truck. You can learn more about Michael and Ruthie, and share your own stories of dating, love, and romance on Ruthie's blog,, or on Twitter @MichaelDean10 or@Ruthie_Dean

Annison's Risk by Paul McCusker (Review)

  • Age Range: 8 - 12 years
  • Grade Level: 3 and up
  • Paperback: 158 pages
  • Publisher: Focus on the Family (November 1, 2010)
  • ISBN-13: 978-1589976344

A game of hide-and-seek takes Maddy Nicholaivitch to Marus, where she is taken in by a beautiful princess who has just married the conquering king. After overhearing the secret plans of the king’s most trusted advisor, Maddy must decide if her loyalty to the princess is worth the price of her life. Based on the biblical story of Esther, Annison’s Risk takes readers on a journey with a queen who is willing to risk her life in order to save her people. Any fan of Tolkien will appreciate this fantasy story, and with a new cover and interior graphics, it’s better than ever!

 My Review:

I enjoyed this children's retelling of the bible story Esther. The book starts in the familiar town of Odyssey then Maddy is transported to the alternate land of Marus. She ends up being an assistant to the queen. This is book is part of the passages series but can stand alone. The plot and characters are well developed and interesting. I think this would be good especially for upper elementary girls although boys will like it too. Recommended.

 PAUL McCUSKER is the Peabody Award-winning writer and director of the audio drama "Bonhoeffer: The Cost of Freedom," along with the multiple award-winning audio dramatizations of "The Chronicles of Narnia," "The Screwtape Letters," "A Christmas Carol," his original series "The Luke Reports: The Life of Jesus" (honored as Best Audio Drama by the prestigious Audie Awards) and "The Father Gilbert Mysteries" (also an Audie Award nominee), all for Focus On The Family Radio Theatre.

Apart from dramatizations of C.S. Lewis' "Narnia" and "Screwtape," he also scripted the original audio drama "C.S. Lewis At War" and written the companion book "C.S. Lewis & Mere Christianity: The Crisis That Created A Classic." His work has extended to writing the detailed footnotes for "The Annotated Screwtape Letters" for HarperOne. (It is the first authorized annotated edition of any book by C.S. Lewis.)

McCusker is also a writer and director for the long-running children's audio program "Adventures in Odyssey," scripting over 250 episodes as well as 2 of the animated video series, authoring 18 spin-off novels, and serving as the general editor for "The Imagination Station" chapter books. For adults, he has written the Gold Medallion-nominated "Epiphany," "The Mill House" and, with Dr. Walt Larimore, "The Gabon Virus" and "The Influenza Bomb." His plays and musicals have been performed in churches and community theaters across the country. One, "A Time for Christmas," was a Dove Award nominee. His lyrics have been put to music by the Grammy Award-winning Michael W. Smith.

Passages Volume 1: The Marus Manuscripts by Paul McCusker (Review)

  • Age Range: 8 - 12 years
  • Series: Passages (Book 1)
  • Paperback: 464 pages
  • Publisher: Focus on the Family (May 17, 2013)
  • ISBN-13: 978-1589977501

Arin’s Judgment: One minute, Wade Mullins is at home, attempting to destroy top-secret drawings for the atomic bomb. The next minute, he’s in an alternate world staring at a strange prophet who says Wade is the final sign, an end-time omen of a culture on the verge of annihilation.

Darien’s Rise: Anna wanted superpowers, but now she’s not so sure after being transported to a new planet. She sees visions of the future. And her brother Kyle is a bodyguard who can’t fail. But both of their powers are only used to help Darien, the rightful heir to the throne of Marus. Darien is being held by a man so evil, not even Anna and Kyle can save him.

Annison’s Risk: Maddy finds herself in a strange new land called Marus where a conquering king is about to marry a princess. The king’s most trusted adviser is hatching an evil plot to stamp out followers of the “old faith,” and Maddy discovers that plan includes the new princess. Should Maddy reveal the truth and usher in political chaos? Or will the princess have to give up her life to bring peace?

My Review:

 I love this series. This is three separate books packaged together in this edition. They are set in the town of Odyssey and then the main character is transported to a land called Marus. Each book is a retelling of a well known bible story. The characters are well developed and interesting. There are a few mature scenes like people dying or orders being given for people to die. On that note I would recommend these to upper elementary upward. Each story can stand alone although the books began and end with two familiar Odyssey adults researching these stories. Even as an adult I can appreciate these books and enjoyed reading them. Recommended.

  Paul McCusker is the creative content director for Focus on the Family. He has been a writer of fiction, nonfiction, and drama since 1979. His work includes over forty published novels, full-length plays, dramatic sketch collections, and song lyrics. For the Adventures in Odyssey series alone, he has written over 200 half-hour radio episodes, eighteen novels, and two screenplays for the best-selling animated videos. He has dramatized many classics for Focus on the Family Radio Theatre, including A Christmas Carol and Jan Karon's At Home in Mitford. He also wrote and directed the Peabody Award–winning Bonhoeffer: The Cost of Freedom and created the highly acclaimed Father Gilbert Mysteries series. Paul lives in Colorado Springs, Colorado, with his wife, Elizabeth, and their two children.

Firewall by Diann Mills (Review)

  • Series: FBI: Houston (Book 1)
  • Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. (June 20, 2014)
  • ISBN-13: 978-1414389936

After a whirlwind romance, Taryn Young is preparing to board a plane at Houston International Airport, bound for a dream honeymoon, when a bomb decimates the terminal. Injured but still alive, she awakens to discover her husband is missing and they’re both considered prime suspects in the attack. Further, the FBI is convinced her husband isn’t who he appears to be.

Agent Grayson Hall’s number-one priority is to catch those responsible for the day’s act of terror. All evidence is pointing to Taryn and her new husband. But his instinct tells him her pleas of innocence are genuine. Is her naiveté just for show, or could she truly be another victim of a master scheme, possibly linked to the software she recently developed for her company?

With both their lives and reputations on the line, and the media outcry for justice increasing with each passing minute, Taryn and Grayson have no choice but to trust one another . . . and pray they can uncover the truth before they become two more casualties.

 My Review:

I thought this was an okay debut to the FBI Houston series. It had mystery, suspense, romance, and faith which I like. The romance between Grayson and Taryn was a little weird considering the circumstances. She had thought she was just married then her world falls to pieces and she discovers it was fake. He is an FBI agent who mostly believes she is innocent in the whole mess. They connect to try and solve the mystery and stay alive. I liked his father who is a retired agent a lot. He risks his life helping them. The characters and plot were well developed. Recommended to fans of this genre.

Award-winning author DiAnn Mills is a fiction writer who combines an adventuresome spirit with unforgettable characters to create action-packed, suspense-filled novels. DiAnn's first book was published in 1998. She currently has more than fifty books published.

Her titles have appeared on the CBA and ECPA bestseller lists and have won placements through the American Christian Fiction Writer's Carol Awards and Inspirational Reader's Choice awards. DiAnn won the Christy Award in 2010 and 2011.

DiAnn is a founding board member for American Christian Fiction Writers and a member of Inspirational Writers Alive, Romance Writers of America, and Advanced Writers and Speakers Association. She speaks to various groups and teaches writing workshops around the country. DiAnn is also the Craftsman mentor for the Jerry B. Jenkins Christian Writers Guild.

She and her husband live in sunny Houston, Texas. 

Monday, July 14, 2014

The Antelope in the Living Room by Melanie Shankle (Review)

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. (February 4, 2014)
  • ISBN-13: 978-1414385549

Welcome to the story of a real marriage.

Marriage is simultaneously the biggest blessing and the greatest challenge two people can ever take on. It is the joy of knowing there is someone to share in your joys and sorrows, and the challenge of living with someone who thinks it’s a good idea to hang a giant antelope head on your living room wall.

In The Antelope in the Living Room, New York Times best-selling author and blogger Melanie Shankle does for marriage what Sparkly Green Earrings did for motherhood—makes us laugh out loud and smile through tears as she shares the holy and the hilarity of that magical and mysterious union called marriage.

My Review:

 I thought this was a good memoir that focuses on marriage.There were lots of hilarious moments. I have never been married or close to it and still enjoyed the book. I have also read her first book Sparkly Green Earrings and enjoyed it too. It seems to me that younger married couples might appreciate the book more than older. Some parts of the book feel a disjointed in the stories told otherwise the writing was easy to read. This book is heavy on religion especially toward the end so Christian women might like the book more.

 Melanie Shankle writes daily on her blog, Big Mama. She is a graduate of Texas A&M and loves writing, shopping at Target, checking to see what's on sale at Anthropologie, and trying to find the funny in every situation.

Most of all, she loves being the mother of Caroline and the wife of her husband, Perry. The three of them live in San Antonio, Texas.

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

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Appointments With Heaven by Dr. Reggie Anderson with Jennifer Schuchmann (Review)

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Tyndale Momentum (August 30, 2013)
  • ISBN-13: 978-1414380452

When Dr. Reggie Anderson is present at the bedside of a dying patient, something miraculous happens. Sometimes as he sits vigil and holds the patient’s hand . . . he can experience what they feel and see as they cross over. Because of these God-given glimpses of the afterlife—his “appointments with heaven”—Reggie knows beyond a doubt that we are closer to the next world than we think. Join him as he shares remarkable stories from his life and practice, including the tragedy that nearly drove him away from faith forever. He reveals how what he’s seen, heard, and experienced has shaped what he believes about living and dying; how we can face the passing of our loved ones with the courage and confidence that we will see them again; and how we can each prepare for our own “appointment with heaven.” Soul-stirring and hope-filled, Appointments with Heaven is a powerful journey into the questions at the very core of your being: Is there more to life than this? What is heaven like? And, most important: Do I believe it enough to let it change me?

My Review:

I thought this was an interesting memoir. It was misrepresented though. It is more a story of his life with a few appointments with heaven thrown in. A big part was his journey to faith and religion that took up at least half of the book. If you are looking for a book that focuses on death and afterlife experience this is not the book for you. If you like to read memoirs of regular people coming to Christ then you might like it.

Dr. Reggie Anderson has practiced family medicine for over 25 years and was recently awarded the Frist Humanitarian Award by the Centennial Medical Center in Nashville. A graduate of the University of Alabama Medical School, Reggie is a physician with the Frist Clinic. He also serves as Chief of Staff of TriStar Ashland City Medical Center, as well as medical director of three nursing homes. Reggie and his wife Karen have four adult children and reside on a farm in Kingston Springs.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Love Comes Home by Ann Gabhart (Review)

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Revell (July 1, 2014)
  • ISBN-13: 978-0800721855

When the flush of victory fades, there remains a winding road to an uncertain future.

World War II is finally over and the people of Rosey Corner are joyfully welcoming the boys home. The Merritt sisters in particular are looking toward the future. Kate is eager to start a family and live out her dream of happily ever after with Jay. Evangeline craves a beautiful house and encourages Mike to pastor a big-town church. Victoria wants what can never be. And Lorena is growing up and wondering more and more about her birth family.

Each sister must learn to hold her plans with a loose hand, trusting that God will guide and strengthen them as they share the joys and sorrows of life in their little corner of the world.

Award-winning and bestselling author Ann Gabhart invites you back to Rosey Corner for a heartfelt story that closes the distance between the things that were and things that can yet be.

My Review:

This was a great conclusion to the Rosey Corner series. In this book WWII is over and the guys come home. Jay and Kate got married right before he went off to war so they did not get to live together for long. Evie and Mike had been married for a little bit. Neither couple was ready for the PTSD following the war. The wives knew the men would not be the same. Mike no longer wants to preach and that is his calling in life. Jay has trouble sleeping at night and is scared of having children and being like his crappy father. The book and series really centers around the four Merritt sisters. The other two are Victoria and Lorena. In this book Tori has a young daughter that she is raising on her own because her husband died in the war. Lorena is a teenager and was found by the family in the first book in the series abandoned by her parents. In this book she wants to find them. Love in different forms is the main theme. The characters and plot are well developed and interesting. I really enjoyed reading this Christian WWII book. Recommended. 

Ann H. Gabhart is the bestselling author of Angel Sister, Small Town Girl, and Words Spoken True, as well as several Shaker novels--The Outsider, The Believer, The Seeker, The Blessed, and The Gifted--and The Heart of Hollyhill series. She lives with her husband a mile from where she was born in rural Kentucky. Learn more at

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

Sunday, July 6, 2014

C. S. Lewis & Mere Christianity: The Crisis That Created a Classic by Paul McCusker (Review)

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. (June 20, 2014)
  • ISBN-13: 978-1624053221

Mere Christianity is one of the best books of Christian apologetics ever written. Arguably, no book other than the Bible itself has had as much influence for the cause of the gospel over the past 60 years. The story of how that message came to be created, during the rigors of World War II in England, is fascinating in and of itself. But it also addresses a very important question: How do we present the gospel effectively to a culture that has Christian foundations but has become largely secularized and ignorant of biblical truth?

C. S. Lewis & Mere Christianity develops the circumstances of Lewis’s life and the inner workings of the BBC. It also goes into greater detail about life in the middle of war against Nazi Germany, and Lewis’s series of broadcasts that extended into 1944.

 My Review:

This was an interesting book. The focus was on what was happening in C. S. Lewis life before, during, and after writing one of his most famous apologetic book, Mere Christianity. I read the latest biography on him by Alister McGrath last summer so much of this I already knew. This book focused more on world events happening at the time. It was worth reading. I feel like I have a rounded perspective now. Recommended.

PAUL McCUSKER is the Peabody Award-winning writer and director of the audio drama "Bonhoeffer: The Cost of Freedom," along with the multiple award-winning audio dramatizations of "The Chronicles of Narnia," "The Screwtape Letters," "A Christmas Carol," his original series "The Luke Reports: The Life of Jesus" (honored as Best Audio Drama by the prestigious Audie Awards) and "The Father Gilbert Mysteries" (also an Audie Award nominee), all for Focus On The Family Radio Theatre.

Apart from dramatizations of C.S. Lewis' "Narnia" and "Screwtape," he also scripted the original audio drama "C.S. Lewis At War" and written the companion book "C.S. Lewis & Mere Christianity: The Crisis That Created A Classic." His work has extended to writing the detailed footnotes for "The Annotated Screwtape Letters" for HarperOne. (It is the first authorized annotated edition of any book by C.S. Lewis.)

McCusker is also a writer and director for the long-running children's audio program "Adventures in Odyssey," scripting over 250 episodes as well as 2 of the animated video series, authoring 18 spin-off novels, and serving as the general editor for "The Imagination Station" chapter books. For adults, he has written the Gold Medallion-nominated "Epiphany," "The Mill House" and, with Dr. Walt Larimore, "The Gabon Virus" and "The Influenza Bomb." His plays and musicals have been performed in churches and community theaters across the country. One, "A Time for Christmas," was a Dove Award nominee. His lyrics have been put to music by the Grammy Award-winning Michael W. Smith.

Review copy provided by publisher in exchange for a review.

Friday, July 4, 2014

The Revealing by Suzanne Woods Fisher (Review)

  • Series: The Inn at Eagle Hill (Book 3)
  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Revell (July 1, 2014)
  • ISBN-13: 978-0800720957

Naomi King, soft spoken, loyal, and easily overlooked, has a gift. She sees what others can't see. Intuition, she calls it. Others in Stoney Ridge don't know what to make of it and dismiss her hunches and inklings altogether.

When a young woman arrives at the Inn at Eagle Hill with a shocking secret about Tobe Schrock, Naomi fears the worst. She can't ignore the feeling that something sinister is at work-- something more than a threat to the tenuous love begun between her and Tobe.

As signs mount, they begin to point to Jake Hertzler, the elusive mastermind behind Schrock Investments' downfall. Soon, events spiral hopelessly out of control and Naomi must decide whether to listen to her head or her heart.

In this riveting conclusion to The Inn at Eagle Hill series, bestselling author Suzanne Woods Fisher pulls out all the stops with a fast-paced tale of deception, revelation, and just the right dose of romance.
 My Review:
This is the last book in the Inn at Eagle Hill series. It does not stand alone as it ties up all the ends in the series. I like all the books and think it is a great atypical Amish series. The characters and plot are interesting and unique. I felt like there was a little too much going on in this book. There were many characters and separate but connected plot lines. I wish they could have split this book into two. It was still a satisfying conclusion to the series and ties up all the loose ends. The mystery of the Schrock family and who stole the money; that follows  all the books is finally revealed. I was riveted to the pages reading as fast as I could. Highly Recommend the whole series.
 Suzanne Woods Fisher is the bestselling author of The Letters, The Calling, the Lancaster County Secrets series, and the Stoney Ridge Seasons series, as well as nonfiction books about the Amish, including Amish Peace. She is also the coauthor of an Amish children's series, The Adventures of Lily Lapp. Suzanne is a Carol Award winner for The Search, a Carol Award finalist for The Choice, and a Christy Award finalist for The Waiting. She is also a columnist for Christian Post and Cooking & Such magazines. She lives in California. Learn more at and connect with Suzanne on Twitter @suzannewfisher 
Review copy provided by publisher in exchange for an honest review.

All For a Sister by Allison Pittman (Review)

  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. (July 1, 2014)
  • ISBN-13: 978-1414366821

In Hollywood during the Roaring Twenties, Celeste DuFrane has it all. Her father’s work with color movie film opens doors that lead to the stardom she’s always aspired to. But after losing her mother, she discovers that half the estate has been left to a woman accused of killing Celeste’s baby sister before Celeste was even born.

Dana Lundgren arrives on the steps of the DuFrane mansion having spent most of her life imprisoned for a crime that never happened. After accusing her of murder so many years ago, why did Marguerite DuFrane leave her a sizeable inheritance?

As Celeste and Dana learn each other’s stories, they come up with more questions than answers. Then a surprising discovery begins to fill in the missing pieces: Marguerite DuFrane’s written confession, penned shortly before her death. Uncovering the treachery and deceit that changed the course of countless lives—most of all, their own—the two women find more than they ever dreamed of.

My Review:

I have mixed feelings about the book overall. I thought the story and characters were well written although an odd topic. There was not enough of a faith aspect for me. Marguerite DuFrane is easy to dislike. Dana I felt bad for from the beginning. Celeste gives off the roaring twenties air that makes it hard to really like her even though she really is innocent in the whole mess. She is as much a victim of Marguerite's deceptions as Dana. There is plenty of drama and kept my attention. It is told from Celeste, Marguerite, and Dana's point of views. It cuts from present time to Dana's time in prison to Marguerite's journal to Celeste growing up which can be confusing at times. I like the ending and thought it was satisfying.

 As far as I know, I have always been a writer. Before I could put words to page, I would dictate stories to my mother. I have always lulled myself to sleep by crafting stories--a new chapter each night. When God called me to write, I was thrilled to answer His prompting. And so it was, after a long conversation with my husband, I left a 20-year teaching career to pursue a new direction. It called for a HUGE step of faith, but God has kept me and our family safe.

I count every single one of my readers as one of God's blessings in my life, and I like to think of my stories as being the first step in a conversation. Please visit my website, and send me an email. It is one of my greatest joys to hear from you.

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

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

A Life of Miracles by Don Schulze (Review)

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Tyndale Momentum (April 18, 2014)
  • ISBN-13: 978-1414383217

At first, Don Schulze wasn’t sure he was really hearing from God . . . because what he was hearing didn’t make sense. Could God really be calling him to leave a good career and a stable life to take his family on a journey of ministry across the country and around the world? And could Don trust God to take care of his loved ones on that journey? Would they trust and understand God’s call as well?

With a deep breath and a lot of faith, Don and his family took the leap and said yes—stepping forward into what would become a lifelong quest to follow God’s calling. In A Life of Miracles, you’ll travel with this ordinary family across the years as you witness inspiring encounters with God—dramatic rescues, just-in-time provisions, amazing miracles of healing, and God’s surprising answers to “everyday” prayers. As you read, you’ll see evidence of just how closely God sticks by us, even in our most uncomfortable moments.

This modern-day spiritual odyssey takes you on a heartwarming, soul-stirring exploration of faith. Join Don and his family on their unexpected adventures . . . and discover how your own daily walk with God can add up to a life of miracles.

My Review:

 I really enjoyed reading this book. I am from a very conservative religion so the laying hands on and healing people was new to me. The book was divided into years of his life starting with before his conversion to recent years. Well written and easy to read it flew by. It was cool to see all the miracles of healing and provision over the course of his career and life. I believe God can still work miracles. Don and his wife Leia come to know Jesus on the same day. They surrender their lives to God and the journey begins. They are super broke for periods of time but God always takes care of them. They minister at home and overseas. It was inspiring and it boasted my faith in miracles. Recommended.

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

Classics Club Spin 18

My Classics Club Spin List for August This is a hodgepodge of books left on my list I made in 2017 for the Classics Club. Tomorrow the clu...