Category Archives: REVIEWS

I love reading GOOD Christian Fiction and Non-Fiction books.

For that reason I am thankful that Tyndale House Publishers and Bethany House Publishers have invited me to be a participant in their book review process.

C. S. Lewis said, “You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me.”

To that I say, “Amen!”

I hope my readers will find some GREAT reads with books that I have found. Books that build their foundations on The Book above all books.

Tolkien once wrote,

“Still round the corner there may wait
A new road or a secret gate
And though I oft have passed them by
A day will come at last when I
Shall take the hidden paths that run
West of the Moon, East of the Sun.”

Ah, me.

So many books.

So little time.

Real Short Book Review: Long Way Gone, by Charles Martin

Book of Year Winner 2017 Christy AwardI don’t just love Charles Martin’s stories—I LOVE his stories! Long Way Gone is one of his best.

As a once Prodigal I should know.

But I’ll let Charles tell you in his own words.

Here is his latest email from his website, charlesmartinbooks.com.


Halfway through the writing of “Long Way Gone,” I discovered I’d written myself into what looked like a dead end.  Or a black hole.  It’d happened years before so I tried to press in and listen for the story to bubble up.  Crickets.  I’ve heard it called writer’s block.  It’s the second time in my career I’d come to a stand-still with no way around. The first time ended badly.  That memory echoed.

In desperation, I got up out of my chair, grabbed my Bible and walked out onto the pool deck where I began circling, reading the Psalms out loud.  When I tired of this, I set down my Bible, raised my hands and continued circling.  Christy thought I was losing it.  “Honey do you have a plan B?”

No, I’ve never had a plan B.

Long Way Gone, Charles MartinI don’t know how many times I walked around our pool but the words I kept repeating were, “Lord, Your word is true.  More true than my circumstances.  My circumstances don’t dictate my reality or Yours.  Your Word reveals it.  Help…Please help.”

This continued everyday.  For three weeks.

On normal days, I write anywhere from 500-1000 words.  I used to set lofty goals of 2500 but discovered I prefer quality over quantity so while I can write more, I’d rather write less better.  Somewhere in my fourth week, with a worried wife inside, I had an idea.  Just a glimmer.  I thought, “What have I got to lose?” So, I walked inside sat down and started writing.

An hour in, I had to stop typing because I couldn’t see the screen. Tears make things blurry.  The solution, the work-around, had been there all along.  Hidden. It was as if The Lord had led me by the hand around a blind corner.  “See?”

Ten thousand words later, I closed my laptop.  It’s the most I’ve ever written in a single day.  My fingers sounded like hummingbird wings.

Readers say a lot of praise-worthy stuff when it comes to my stories and my abilities as a writer.  Truth is, I probably sweat and pray my stories more than anything else.  Somewhere in my many laps around the pool, I landed on Psalm 45.  It was true then. It’s true now.  I pray that my pen is used to tell His story and that I am somehow able to make His Great Name known to the nations — so that He might receive praise.

The Christy Awards graciously declared Long Way Gone their “2017 Book of the Year.” When my editor called with the news, I scratched my head and I thought, “Look what God did.”  I certainly did not.  I had nothing.  Saw no daylight.  But then He pulled back a curtain and shared with me the beauty of the love of the father for the son and how, no matter what any of us do, no matter what sin and shame we wrap ourselves in, there is no place on planet earth where the Blood of Jesus can’t reach us.  Nothing disqualifies us.  No gone is too far gone.  He’s still standing on the porch, eyes staring down the road.  All we need do is turn around.  Put one foot in front of the other.  He’s already made a way.  And when He sees us, He comes flying off the porch as if shot out of a canon and smothers our face in kisses.  That picture just shreds me.  Every time.  The God of the Universe kissing my face, the son of squalor, who betrayed Him, rejected Him and said, “You’re dead to me.”  When I see this in my mind’s eye, I come undone.

After the soul-deep pain and doubt I’d experienced in writing “Long Way Gone,” I took a short break and then set about writing a story I’d been thinking of for some time.  It’s the story of a Vietnam veteran with a 45-yr secret.  Circumstances surface which bring him out of hiding and force him to wrestle with whether or not to reveal the truth.  Problem is, if he does, somebody dies.  And if he doesn’t, somebody dies.  It’s a tough place.

I thought that writing it would be easier given the sweat-equity I’d earned in “Long Way Gone.”  That maybe I’d pushed through the blockage.  That the words would flow.

They did not.

What I experienced was twice as bad.  Twice as dark.  Twice as quiet.  I had no words.

To make matters worse, we had moved into a new house — with no pool.

Then The Lord led me to Psalm 84 and, “Blessed is the man who’s strength is in You, who’s heart is set on pilgrimage.”  So, I set down my computer and lifted my arms.  “Lord my circumstances don’t dictate You, Your reality or Your love for me.  Your Word reveals it.  But…I got nothing.  Help.  Please help.”

Time passed.

Then He pulled back the curtain and I cried like a baby.

“Send Down the Rain” releases May of 2018.  

Let me end with this — with pulling back my own curtain and allowing you to hear what really matters.  My conversations with the Lord:  Lord, God in Heaven, I don’t know what you’ll do with me or my stories, but I’m available.  Selfishly, I’d like to ask that the writing of the next not be as tough as the last two.  I could use a little boost.  Either way, I’ll still be here.  Longing for You.  Crying out to You.  From strength to strength — I will appear before You in Zion.  You tell us that if You are lifted up that You will draw all men to Yourself.  I pray my stories lift You up. I pray You increase and I decrease.  And I pray that somehow, through whatever way I am able to string words together, that I might make Your Great Name known to the nations — so that You alone might receive glory and honor.  I ask this in the matchless and undefeated name of Jesus.


A Dangerous Legacy: Empire State One, by Elizabeth Camden

A Dangerous LegacyA Dangerous Legacy is Elizabeth Camden’s first in her new historical romance series, The Empire State.

As historical romance’s go, this one starts out with all the usual suspects.

The poor and struggling heroine Lucy Drake and her brother are up to their ears in the alligators who are their rich and treacherous relatives. A multi-decade lawsuit has Lucy and her brother fighting to regain their half of the family legacy.

Now enter Lord Beckwith the also poor and struggling aristo from Merry Old England with the juicy title and no money. Lord Beckwith is looking for a rich American wife who has the loot, but no title, in hopes that he can persuade her to marry one and thereby save his crumbling estate back home.

Of course when Lucy and the Lord meet the romantic sparks fly and that only complicates things for Lucy has no legacy to offer up.

There are the upstate relatives with the greedy wife, the treacherous uncle and of course the evil and snotty cousin,  who are also in cahoots with an evil doctor who runs the neighborhood  insane asylum and seems to get off on mental and emotional torture.

That’s where the story kind of lost me. The creepy doctor definitely took the story down a dark and murky path.

All this happens with the telegraph and it’s history playing a staring role in the story.

A Dangerous Legacy holds few surprises, with heroes and villains aplenty, but things sort themselves out in the end.

Still, I liked the story, and gave it five stars on Goodreads for it’s smooth style and interesting historical facts.

My thanks to Bethany House Publishers for sending me this complimentary copy of the book in exchange for my review.

A Dangerous Legacy is available on Christian Book Distributors or at your other fine book retailers.

 

Hinds Feet On High Places ~ An Engaging Visual Journey

Tyndale House Publishers new release of Hannah Hurnard’s, Hinds Feet on High Places, An Engaging Visual Journey, is in a word—STUNNING!

Hinds Feet On High Places An Engaging Visual Journey

Jill DeHaan and Rachel McNaughton have taken this beautiful Christian allegory of  the journey of faith, and set it in the most exquisite settings of soft and muted watercolor illustrations.

The result, is indeed, a lovely and engaging visual journey that will find a welcome place of honor on anyone’s coffee table.

Invitation to the High PlacesAs I said in a previous post, Hinds Feet On High Places is a story of Little Miss Much-Afraid and her journey with the Chief Shepherd to the High Places where she hopes her disabling disfigurements will be transformed by healing streams.

Hinds Feet On High PlacesThis beautiful story is meant to portray both, the beauty and the harsh realities, that often accompany our journeys through this life.

Little Miss Much-Afraid is led to a barren desert, along the shores of loneliness, up the Precipice of Injury, as well as through the Forests of Danger and Tribulation and the Valley of Loss.

Hinds Feet on High PlacesThroughout the book are scriptures painted in bold and vivid colors marking Miss Much-Afraid’s journey, the way they so often mark out our own.

Bravo Tyndale House for bringing out this book NOW, just in time for Christmas!

Hinds Feet on High PlacesI’ll tell you the truth,  as I unwrapped this book from its shipping wrapper, I was delighted at what I saw! I thought, “With so many people going through their own difficult journey right now, I can’t think of a more welcome and fitting gift to give someone who is hurting this holiday season.”

Hinds Feet on High Places, An Engaging Visual Journey is available now on Christian Book Distributors or at any of your other fine retailers.

My thanks to Tyndale House Publishers for sending me this complimentary copy in exchange for my review.



A Cup of Hope: Resting in the Promise of God’s Faithfulness

A Cup of Hope Emilie BarnesA Cup of Hope by Emilie Barnes is just one of those books you stumble upon, and you suddenly know, “This one is going to change everything!”

I blog about hope.

I can’t breathe in this busted broken world a single moment without it—but sometimes—the candle of hope in me burns low. And, when it does I beg the LORD for a fresh infusion; a fresh outpouring from His Spirit to mine.

Thanks Emilie, for being His conduit.

I’ll let Emilie speak for herself for the rest of this post. Her words shine still in this dark world. They come to us straight from the shores of heaven, to all of us here today, to light our way.

~  FAITH FOR THE CLIMB  ~

You just can’t see as much when you’re climbing the mountain as you can from the top.

I guess that’s obvious if you’re hiking in the Rockies or the Smokies or the Himalayas. But it’s not always so evident when you’re just trying to get through life.

Sometimes it’s hard to tell which of the two tempting directions is the best to take. Is it better to take the meandering trail or the steep climb over the rocks? Should you push on harder to reach the top? Should you rest and take your time and risk bad weather later on?

A Cup of HopeAnd sometimes you get so confused and discouraged and downright weary, you’re tempted to just give up hope altogether.

But it helps to keep in mind exactly what’s going on.

You’re climbing a mountain, remember, and one day you’ll reach the top. One day you’ll be able to stand and look out over all the valleys—even look back at the winding path that brought you to the top—and it will all become clear.

I try to think of that on the days when I’m fatigued or in pain or just discouraged, when I’m confused and worried about what will happen next.

I’m still on the mountain, so I’ve got to remember that my perspective is faulty. I just don’t have the whole picture the way God does, the way I will have it someday.

Oh, I have some pretty good hints. I have instructions from the One who created the mountain. I have stories from climbers who have gone on the path before me and companions who are climbing with me. (How I depend on their help and encouragement!) And of course I have those moments along the way when wonderful vistas suddenly unfold before me, when I round a corner to see the checkered valleys spread out below and the summit shining whitely up above.

A Cup of HopeI have all that to enable me as I climb up this mountain called Life. You do, too. I really believe that the God who created us and redeemed us has equipped us with what we need to make it to the top.

Still, we have to face the fact that some of the time, maybe most of the time, we won’t be able to see exactly where we’re going.

But that’s where faith comes in. Faith always travels hand in hand with hope—it’s what enables us to keep our hopes up when the way becomes rockier and more obscure. Faith is what we need to keep moving on, moving up, trusting our Guide, trusting it will all be worth it.

Trusting that if we continue on, we’ll make it to the top and everything will all be clear.

And yes, I know that’s hard to remember when you’re stuck on the mountainside. But it might help to follow this brief checklist for keeping your hopes while you’re climbing hard or when you think you might be lost:

  • Trust the climbing map—God’s word—and pay attention to your Guide. You’re not expected to make this climb without help.
  • Pace yourself—you don’t have to make it all in one day. Without adequate rest you’ll never make it to the summit.
  • Remember where you are and where you’re going—but try to accept that your perspective is limited. (That’s why you have the map and the Guide!)
  • Refresh yourself by remembering the goal—and those moments when it was all clear to you.
  • Look back to where you’ve been and be grateful for your progress.
  • Help and enjoy your fellow climbers.
  • Take care of your equipment—your body, mind, and spirit. They’ve been issued to you by God , and they’ll help carry you to where you need to be.

A Cup of Hope Emilie BarnesA Cup of Hope is out of print but used copies are still available on Amazon at the link below:

https://www.amazon.com/Cup-Hope-Resting-Promise-Faithfulness/dp/0736907726

A Cup of Hope Emilie Barnes

Russia Rising: Headlines and History Collide With Prophecy

Mark Hitchcock’s new book, RUSSIA RISING: Tracking The Bear In Bible Prophecy is a book you should read. In it’s pages you will get an up close and eerie look at what the headlines are pointing us to—the new Russian Czar.

RUSSIA RISING, Mark HitchcockHitchcock goes on to say, “Forbes has named Vladimir Putin the world’s most powerful person four years in a row… In 2014 Vladimir Putin was chosen as Russia’s “Man of the Year…” and “Putin is the leading candidate for Time magazines ‘Person of the Year’ in 2017.”

Headline in the Atlantic: It’s Putin’s World.

Garry Kasparov in his book, Winter Is Coming says, “Putin’s Russia is clearly the biggest and most dangerous threat facing the world today.”

MAN WITH A PLAN.

Vladimir Putin is many things—KGB officer, master politician, multibillionaire, ruthless autocrat—but above all, Vladimir Putin is a man with a plan. His plan is to unmake the world order that has stood since the end of the Cold War, especially in Europe, and replace it with one where Russia has the power, influence, and military strength to get its way on any issue. So says, Douglas Schoen author of Putin’s Master Plan.

An exhaustive study of Ezekiel 38-39.

Hitchcock presents us with an elaborate picture that blends Russian history, with Bible prophecies and today’s headlines. He takes us step-by-step, verse-by-verse, making his case. If you are a student of Bible prophecy and looking for “the next big thing” to manifest, then you absolutely need to read RUSSIA RISING, because this book takes us right up to the threshold of what may be the looming Gog-Magog war in Ezekiel.

RUSSIA RISING is available now on Amazon.

And at all other fine book retailers. Be sure to check out Mark Hitchcock’s author page on Goodreads.

My continued thanks to Tyndale House Publishers who sent me this book in exchange for my review.

Freedom’s Ring

Freedom's RingHeidi Chiavaroli’s new book FREEDOM’S RING is one of those novels you will want to read in one sitting.

Alright, I confess, it took me two days to finish it but it’s hard to say what I liked best about this book.

That’s because Freedom’s Ring takes so many of my favorite story elements, then serves them up in a fabulous feast of history, mystery, and romance, with a healthy dollop of family strife and conflict thrown in for good measure.

I truly enjoyed Heidi’s  easy and comfortable way of telling a story.

She draws the reader in right from the very start and although she bounces from past to present with each new chapter, (something I usually dislike) she has intertwined  her characters from the Revolutionary War and her contemporary heroes from the Boston Marathon Bombing, in such a skillful way, that I really didn’t mind the back and forth all that much.

Her fictional story is actually believable!

This tale of terror and war, love and heartbreak, unfolds in such an honest and down-to-earth way that it made me believe Heidi might be sharing some of her own family history with me.

Our story opens with Annie David, a victim of the Boston Marathon Bombing, trying desperately in her own strength to overcome her PTSD, and by doing so, put her fractured family life back together again.

Now, enter Brad Kilroy, her knight in tarnished armor, who “rescued her” on the day of the bombing, but Brad comes with a boatload of his own baggage from his traumatic days of serving overseas in Iraq.

Nevertheless, our emotionally wounded hero and heroine decide to join forces, put their heads together, and go in search of answers pertaining to a mysterious family heirloom that Brad has given to Annie. Their search introduces them to Liberty Caldwell, a young patriot from the Revolutionary War. Who was she, and how does Liberty’s story from centuries past, connect to Annie and Brad?

I love the way the author has used flawed and broken people to share the timeless truths of the Gospel message, and demonstrate for all of us once again, how the principles it contains are the real glue that holds our lives together—whether the year is 1775 or 2015!

Personally, I gave this book five stars, and it is now on my “Favorite Books” shelf on my Goodreads profile!

FREEDOM’S RING is available now, on Amazon, or at your other fine book retailers.


YOU CAN MEET HEIDI HERE: and  please be sure to check out Heidi Chiavaroli’s author page on Goodreads, as well as her book’s promotional page.

My thanks again to Tyndale House Publishers for sending me a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for my review.

 

Dark Deception: Leave The Lights On!

Dark Deception by Nancy MehlDARK DECEPTION had me jumping at shadows & sleeping with the lights on, yikes! Grabbing me at page one, it whisked me off to the murky world of psychotic serial killers and their equally creepy groupies.

We follow our heroine Kate O’Brien to the small-town of Shelter Cove, Arkansas, where she is endeavoring to rebuild her life after four years in the witness protection program. Kate still battles with PTSD and survivor’s guilt long after the brutal attack that stole her identity, and  snuffed out the life of her beloved twin sister.

Now new evidence comes to light and seems to suggest that the man convicted as the brutal B. E. K. murderer wasn’t the killer after all!

Kate’s recovery is suddenly turned upside down as she is subpoenaed to testify in a new trial, but she is afraid to go back into that other life, a world that nearly destroyed her. She will only return if Tony DeLuca, the deputy Marshal who protected her during the original trial will escort her.

Tony readily takes on the assignment; Kate’s beauty and inner strength made more of an impression on him than he expected. But when Kate’s safety is threatened, and people close to Kate start dying, Tony must race against the clock to keep her alive and put this ugly case to rest before anyone else gets killed.

Leave The Lights On!

If you enjoy a great whodunit then you’ll want to get your own copy. This thriller is one wild ride! The story is constantly twisting and turning, keeps the reader guessing, and all while they keep checking over their shoulder and keeping the lights on.

DARK DECEPTION is now available on Amazon or at your other fine book retailers.  It is Book Two in Nancy Mehl’s Defenders of Justice series.

I want to thank Bethany House Publishers for sending me this complimentary book in exchange for my review.

Women Who Move Mountains: Not The Status Quo!

Women Who Move Mountains kind of blew my doors off. I mean, if you’re looking for the status quo in books on prayer, this is NOT it.

Women Who Move Mountains

Sue Detweiler has written a book with a fresh new approach to an old problem in the church—namely our prayerlessness!

When I read a book on prayer, frankly I am expecting a whole wheelbarrow of “should” and “ought” with a healthy sprinkling of “guilt” thrown in for good measure.

Instead, Women Who Move Mountains takes us on a journey to inner healing and wholeness that comes out into “a wide and spacious place” of new and fresh intimacy with God.

Wow! This is definitely not where I thought this book would lead me. Yet, Mrs. Detweiler seems to believe that it is our unhealed insecurities, wounds, and life-baggage that keep us following God at a distance—and thereby increases our reluctance to pray.

When you think about it this makes total sense to me.

I especially appreciated this book’s down-to-earth, heart-to-heart, “let’s ALL get REAL” approach. She uses simple and honest stories to illustrate clearly why she believes most of us avoid prayer. There are three bonus sections in the back of the book: 21 Days To Spiritual Breakthrough, Guidelines For Taking A Spiritual Retreat, and Guidelines For Fasting.

I think that this is possibly the most “common sense” book on prayer, and learning to pray with power, that I have ever read.

I also liked the fact that Women Who Move Mountains is tailored for group study, but the author’s website also offers a free downloadable journal so the reader can do this book solo if they desire.

SueDetweiler.com

You may get your copy of the book from Amazon or at any other fine book retailer.

I want to thank Bethany House Publishers for sending me this complimentary copy of the book in exchange for my review.

North Vietnam: Under The Cover of Light

Under The Cover of Light was a difficult book for me to read. I mean, Vietnam was my war. Guys from my graduating class of 1969 were signing-up for military service before they finished their senior year!

And yes, I will never forget the funerals that took place in our little town.

Vietnam War POW

Vietnam was up close and personal for me.

Yet as tough a “read” as this story was for me, I am so glad I read this book. There are eternal lessons for all of us in Jerry Curtis’s seven and a half years of horror as a POW in North Vietnam.

The book has lots of military jargon and that really slowed me down, but once I got past all of that, I began to identify with the timeless truths woven throughout this story. The transformation that our prayers bring. The unity forged in the fires of shared suffering.  The inability of anyone or anything to keep us separate from the keeping power of Christ’s love—even in a pit from hell dubbed—Briarpatch.

Jerry Curtis asked all the questions any of us ask when we find ourselves in circumstances beyond our control.

But, in one of his darkest moments a fellow POW reaches out to him and he realizes,

“…the sacrament through the walls led Jerry to understand that wrapped up in any explanation as to why believers might experience horrific circumstances in their lives was OPPORTUNITY—opportunity to fulfill a God-glorifying task, heightened by or as a direct result of the horrific event itself. The tragedy either brought others across a believer’s path who needed to receive God’s light FROM the believer or who needed to see God’s light THROUGH the believer. Then, once engaged, that person perhaps would become a light bearer too.

Jerry realized he had been a conduit for God’s glory to an unknown and unseen prisoner, and an eternal truth surfaced in his mind: the deeper the darkness, the more brilliant the light.”

I am so glad I read this heroic story. We need to be reminded that there are still heroes in this world.

Honestly, the accounts of torture are tough to get through, but the spiritual message from this man’s experience is one we can all grow and benefit from.

My thanks to Tyndale House Publishers for sending this complimentary copy in exchange for my review.

Under The Cover of Light is available on Amazon or at your other fine book retailers.