Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Charles E. Johns' No Small Change

Charles E. Johns' No Small Change introduces to the reader that God is not always reserved for the Hallelujah moments such as burning bushes, transcendent music, sunsets, etc.

According to the book blurb, the pages inside were tales of people, places, and things that could either pass unnoticed or could become moments that would change how we experience God. Each story within the book (56 separate accounts) were suppose to illustrate a way in which the ordinary could open a door to "an engagement with the Divine". What I found instead was 56 sermons or platitudes.

Instead of using actual instances or stories involving other people and their thoughts and/or experiences, the author takes one instance, one encounter and turns it into a sermon expounding his beliefs on the subject.

In "Wrong Number", he talks about missed chances and not answering the call. What I read, though, was his missed chance to help a hurting soul. Instead, he cast it off, hoped she dialed the right number so that she could receive some help (heat for her house or help to keep her family from freezing).

In "Hell", his arrogance is prevalent. He tells the story of  him visiting a distant church, a "stranger" at the place. Then how he forgives that the substitute preacher "does not appear to suffer from an abundance of preparation". After a while he recounts himself counting pipe organs and analyzing stain glass symbols. This portion of the book does not match the title of the section. Hell was not talked about, was not glossed over; in fact, it was not truly mentioned at all.

The author states in the section that he "...can still share the resources with which God has entrusted me among those who languish in their need: prayer, money, time, and a story." 

I feel as though the author, on numerous times after reading the book, passed up his opportunity to make a difference in the lives of others.

If a reader wants an intimate look inside the mind of a Methodist preacher, then this book is well recommended. If the reader wants an intimate look inside the minds of people about God (as the blurb insinuated), this is not the book to read.

 No Small Change is a positive read for anyone and one to share with others.

***I received this book from the publisher through BookCrash in exchange for an honest review***

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Shirley Corder's Strength Renewed

Shirley Corder's Strength Renewed: Mediations for Your Journey through Breast Cancer

Shirley Corder's Strength Renewed is not just for those who suffer or have suffered from breast cancer...it is also for those who suffer from depression, anxiety, lethargy, pain, and all other "cancers" in life.

From page one I found myself uplifted by Shirley's words. Although I have read the passages of Scripture before, I reread them with new understanding and new life. Just as her book provides new life to hope.

I am listing a few things at the beginning that captured me so thoroughly that I went back and reread that chapter of meditation:

" Jesus and his disciples came across a man who had been blind all his life. 'Who's to blame for this man's blindness?' the disciples asked Jesus. 'No one," Jesus replied. He explained that God's power would be revealed as a result of the man's disability....
...Cancer is finite. God is way bigger." (p.25)

"...Despite his difficult circumstances, Paul believed that Christ was in control. He believed God could use him even while under house arrest. Instead of lamenting his misfortunes, he continued to encourage others...'Is it possible that I am right where the Lord wants me to be? Does he want to use my circumstances to reach out to others?" (p.27)

"...Job went through far worse than I did...Throughout that dreadful time, Job saw no sign of God's love and compassion...The tortured man examined his life and searched for where he'd gone wrong...he'd been disobedient at time. He'd questioned God's wisdom and even cursed the day of his birth. Yet he'd attempted to live close to God. After all he went through, Job arrived at the conclusion:'God knows every step I take.' Job only had to believe." (p.38)

"I read of a family who had a time of prayer based on 2 Chronicles 20:6. One of them prayed, 'Are you not the God in heaven?' Another family member followed with, 'Are you not the God who sealed the mouths of lions and spared Daniel?' Then another added, 'Are you not the God who fed five thousand people with a few small fish and loaves?'" (p.40)

This one is my favorite for it shows the magnitude of who God is. Something that our puny brains will never truly grasp.

"...Stephen...walked into the ward...presented me with a small stuffed lion...No one else to comfort me, I pulled him close and tucked him under my cheek. That little lion...gave me something to hang on to." (p.48)

This last one is poignant. Is not Jesus the Lion of Judah? Is He not who we should hang on to?

Throughout this book I was met with new ideas, new wondering, and new hope. Shirley Corder was right. God put her where she was needed and used her for His Glory.

A highly recommended book, one that far surpasses all other meditation books I've encountered, this is something that no one should be without. Have it sit next to your Bible and refer back to it again and again...and have a highlighter and pen to make notes.

Neal Lozano's Unbound

Neal Lozano's Unbound: A Practical Guide to Deliverance from Evil Spirits

Recommended by Christian musician friend, Lance Edward of Angel Dean (hear a sample of his song in this book trailer:Mississippi Nights or as part of The Psalms Project: Psalms 1), this book will take you beyond a simple walk with Jesus and into a deeper relationship. Letting go of the past isn't as simple as some may think. The devil will still try to hold those bonds of servitude against you.

As you read, little by little, taking notes along the way, you will experience how to let go of the pain, of the shame, of the anger, etc. and how to keep it away forever. Many people may not want to talk about Hell and Satan; choosing, instead, to ignore that part of spirituality. If a person believes in the Almighty God and Jesus, then Satan is just as real and he doesn't want to lose a soul. A spiritual battle is waged every day, every hour. This book helps the reader in fighting this war, because in the end victory is determined by whom has that person's soul: Jesus or Satan?

Unbound will help you open doors that need to opened and to shut and nail the doors that need to be closed--paving the way to spiritual freedom.

This isn't a book to read in a day or even in five. Sit, read a little, and marinate in the words.

Truly, this book will change not only your life, but will change and strengthen your spiritual relationship with God, making it more intimate, and lift your heart.

Highly recommended for those who would like to sever the bonds of the past, rejection, abuse, fear, etc.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Ada Brownell's Confessions Of a Pentecostal

For many years, Pentecostals are one of the most misunderstood denominations in Christianity. They are different. They are vibrant. They are emotional believers.

Ada Brownell does an excellent job in showing the life of a Pentecostal, the ups and downs, the doubts, the fears, and the wisdom that life offers.

Through her book daily life is broken down and bits and pieces of what makes a Pentecostal is laid bare. Unlike some of the prejudices directed at those of the Pentecostal faith and the untruths about who they are, Ms. Brownell shows how each of them are just as plain and just as flawed as the rest. The one difference is the enormity of their faith and their determination to abide by God's Word.

As I read through this book, despite the typos and grammatical errors that pop up from time to time, I was held in awe. Her faith started out as a babe, and then became nurtured, sometimes faltering. Many times, she was reminded of her sin or lack of faith, which only strengthened her belief in Jesus even more.

Confessions Of a Pentecostal is more than just a book or a story; it is an ultimate look inside another person's faith. Truly remarkable, a book that I will reread time and time again, I recommend this to anyone who ever wonders about who we are: who are the Pentecostals.

Friday, March 15, 2013

GIna Holmes' & Wings of Glass

Gina Holmes is the founder of Novel Rocket and a PR professional. Her bestselling novels Crossing Oceans and Dry as Rain were both Christy finalists and won various literary awards. Her latest novel, Wings of Glass, released February 2013 and has earned a starred review from Library Journal, a Romantic Times Top Pick and a Southern Indie Bookseller's Okra Pick. She holds degrees in science and nursing and currently resides with her family in southern Virginia. She works too hard, laughs too loud, and longs to see others heal from their past and discover their God-given purpose. To learn more about her, visit www.ginaholmes.com.

Your 3rd novel, Wings of Glass, has just released. Tell us a little about it.

I think this is my favorite book so far. Wings of Glass tells the story of Penny Taylor, a young wife who feels trapped and alone in a physically and emotionally abusive marriage. Besides her low self-esteem, she feels her Christian faith doesn’t allow for divorce. It’s not until she meets two women—one a southern socialite and the other a Sudanese cleaning woman—that her eyes are opened to the truth of her situation and she begins her journey to healing and redemption.

What made you take on the tough subject of domestic abuse?

As a little girl, I watched my mother being physically abused by her husband and then later, two of my sisters enter abusive relationship after abusive relationship and I thought that would never be me. . . until the day my boyfriend hit me for the first time and I began to make excuses for him. I know the mindset of someone who gets into and stays in an abusive relationship, because I’ve been there myself. It’s taken me years, and a lot of reading, praying, and talking to get to the heart of what brought me and kept me in toxic relationships and I want to pass on some of what I learned that helped me find boundaries and recovery from a codependent mindset and most of all healing.

What do you hope readers take away from this book?

It’s my hope and prayer that those who are in abusive relationships will begin to see that the problem lies with them as much as with the abuser. That’s something I railed against when friends suggested it. I wasn’t the one with the problem! I was no doormat who enabled abuse or addiction… or was I?

I also hope that those who have never understood the mindset of victims would better comprehend the intricacies of codependency and be better able to minister to these women and men. And of course I’d love it if young women would read this before they ever enter their first romantic relationship to have their eyes open to how abuse almost always progresses and be able to see the red flags early.

Which of the characters in the novel is most like you and why?

Each of the characters has a little of me in them or vice versa. I think years ago I was more like Penny, though tougher in many regards, at least I thought so. I’d like to think now I’m a little more Callie Mae. Because I’ve lived through what I have and have found healing, I can see in others the path that will lead to healing and the one that will lead to destruction. The difficult part once you’ve found healing is remembering that you can’t do it for others. You can offer advice, but you can’t make anyone take it. Each person has to learn in their own time, in their own way.

Who is your favorite character?

I absolutely love Fatimah. She had such a great sense of humor and didn’t care what anyone thought except those who really mattered. She was really quite self-actualized. She was so much fun to write and I actually find myself missing her presence.

What’s your favorite and least favorite part about being a writer?

Favorite: making my own schedule. I love when I’m feeling bad one day knowing that I don’t have to punch a clock. I can just take the day off and then work harder the next. Of course, there’s a lot of other things I love about writing, like allowing others to consider another point of view that may be far different from their own.

Least favorite: There’s a joke that when you work for yourself you at least get to pick which eighteen hours of the day you want. That’s true. Working from home means I’m always at work. I work from about 7:30 am until about eight at night most days. Under deadline, it’s worse. Truly understanding how much the success of a book rides on the shoulders of the author is a blessing and a curse. Because I get that no one is more invested in the success of my books than me, I put in a LOT of time on the publicity/marketing end of things. It’s tiring but an investment that I think pays off in the long run.

You had written four novels before your debut, Crossing Oceans was published. Do you think those books will ever get dusted off and reworked?

Never say never, but I doubt it. I had considered reworking some but having gone back and re-read them, I realized they weren’t published for good reason. They just didn’t work. Now, there is one story I’m resurrecting characters from for a story I should be writing next, but the plotline is completely different. I started out writing suspensel but as my reading tastes changed, so did my writing tastes. I don’t see myself doing suspense again any time soon.

You’re known for your quirky characters, what inspires you to write these types into each book?

Honestly, I’m a pretty quirky person. The older I get, the more I embrace those quirks. I think everyone is quirky really. As a student of human nature, I pick up on those and like to exaggerate them in my fiction. I also like to surround myself with quirky people. My husband is quirky, my kids are quirky and so are my friends. Often in life, especially when we’re young, we hate about ourselves what makes us different, when really those are the things we should be embracing. Different is interesting. Different is beautiful.

If you could write anything and genre, marketing and reader expectations didn’t matter, what would you write?

Speaking of quirky… I read a book a few years back that was so different that it made me want to try something like that. The book was a big-time bestseller, Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell. What turned me on about that book were the characters. They were quirky to an extreme. In contemporary women’s fiction, I can get away with a certain amount of quirk. but I’m always having to play it down because it’s so over the top. In a fantasy, you can be as over the top as you dare. I’d love to play around with something like that one day and just let my freak flag fly! Will I? Probably not unless I use a penname. I realize readers have certain expectations and I wouldn’t want anyone to feel mislead. We’ll see. There’s lots in life I want to do but since I only get a hundred or so years (if I’m lucky), time won’t allow for every rabbit hole.

What advice would you have for writers hoping to follow in your footsteps?

My advice would be not to follow too closely in anyone’s footsteps. Yes, there is a certain path all writers find themselves on. There are certain things that we must all do like learning to write well, figuring out platform, going to writers conferences to meet the gatekeepers and figure out the way things have to be formatted and submitted and all that sort of thing. But it’s okay to veer off the path too and forge your own. There are those who have self-published who have found great success.

There are those who have written about subjects that they were told no one wanted to read about and found success. It’s smart to figure out what others have done before you to make them successful, but alter the formula to suit your needs and passions. It’s okay to be different, in fact, I think great success and maybe even happiness depends upon it. And by all means, read Novel Rocket.com and leave comments. It helps not only encourage those authors who have taken the time out of their day to teach us, but it also connects you to the writing community. Community is important. 

From the best-selling author of Crossing Oceans comes a heartrending yet uplifting story of friendship and redemption. On the cusp of adulthood, eighteen-year-old Penny Carson is swept off her feet by a handsome farmhand with a confident swagger. Though Trent Taylor seems like Prince Charming and offers an escape from her one-stop-sign town, Penny's happily-ever-after lasts no longer than their breakneck courtship. Before the ink even dries on their marriage certificate, he hits her for the first time. It isn't the last, yet the bruises that can't be seen are the most painful of all.

When Trent is injured in a welding accident and his paycheck stops, he has no choice but to finally allow Penny to take a job cleaning houses. Here she meets two women from very different worlds who will teach her to live and laugh again, and lend her their backbones just long enough for her to find her own.

http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-92wvKyHnHEQ/USOr2QjuMYI/AAAAAAAAD6Q/pT2_ytkxfn4/s1600/ginacolortilt.jpg 4.bp.blogspot.com

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Simon Lang's Eisernon Series

All the Gods of Eisernon (1973), The Elluvon Gift (1975), The Trumpets of Tagan (1992), Timeslide (1993), Hopeship (1994)

Written under the pen name, Simon Lang, by Darlene Hartman, this series tells the story between Earth and the conquered world of Eisernon.

Like all worlds that are conquered, the ruling members are either killed or incorporated into society. But the story isn't about how the world was conquered, but how the world became to be Earth's greatest ally.

Through political mistakes, friendly fire, and misunderstandings many atrocities are committed. The ruling Han of Eisernon are no more and the only surviving heir, Marik Dao, becomes the second in command to the stellar starship of the Federation, USS Skipjack and under the command of Captain Paul Riker.

With the beginning of All the Gods of Eisernon, the reader witnesses the love-hate relationship between Marik and Riker, and learn of Marik's distrust of his new allies. As a top doctor, or Priyam, in the universe and the destruction of his credentials by his childhood friend, Marik must come to terms with his new status. Soon Marik's true self is revealed and he is labeled a half-caste. I love the explanation given: "I am one of you as well as one of us, Captain. I am the son of Moses, and of Isaac, and of Abraham, the brother of Christ and of Muhammed. Demosthenes was my teacher; I am the pupil of Aristole, the kinsman of Genghis Khan, the victim of Hitler, the follower of Sun-yat-Sen. I am a Han. My mother, Miluae, was the Emperor's only daughter." Between death, intrigue, mysteries, and several plots that tie up neatly in the end, Marik finds his reasoning for living and for serving.

The second book, The Elluvon Gift, picks up with a chance for Marik to redeem himself, not in the eyes of his fellow shipmates, but in his own eyes. After the death of his wife, Mishli, Marik must again prove himself. Riker on the other hand faces not only the very real threat of the Krail, a vicious and bigoted warrior race, but also the threat of internal turmoil within himself and his ship. Through out it all, Riker's and Marik's friendship solidifies.

With the next three books, The Trumpets of Tagan, Timeslide, and Hopeship, it becomes a whirlwind ride as Riker and Marik saves Marik's only child, Misi, the true last heir of the Hans; a battle is fought to preserve the time travel orders of the USS Skipjac; new friends are made, as well as new enemies; old enemies are defeated; and new life is found. Plots and subplots weave an intricate tale, each lending support to the main plot.

The reader will see small indications of a Star Trek influence, but it doesn't overpower. The religion for the Eisernon is Christianity, albeit in their form. The Einai are cat-like people, but their worship of the True One who died on the Pole is an allegory to Christ on the Cross.

This five book series is an epic journey. Character arcs and conflicts enhance the flavor of the read. Page after page brings forth discoveries which lead to more page turning.

These books are a coveted and out-of-print series, but if ever someone finds copies of the story, it is a definite must read. Books that makes a difference, not only to literature, but to the reader. You can't stay the same after reading the journeys of Marik and Riker.

Angela Hunt's Uncharted

Published by Thomas Nelson-2006

David Payne dies in a horrible wreck. Five friends from college decide to honor his memory and finish his charitable service project. Various reasons they give: out of guilt, for publicity, for an alibi.

Meet Karyn & Kevin. Divorced ten years ago, with a fifteen year old daughter. Karyn is an actress for a daytime soap opera. Kevin is a high paid executive for a candy company. Both are absorbed with their success.
Lisa is a woman, never married and secretly harboring an infatuation over an old friend, who runs a daycare and cares for her ailing parents. She obsesses over the rewards she receives from her church and being noticed.
Susan, an interior designer, is financially stable through the death of her older husband. She agonizes about her looks and her status.
Then there is Mark. An used car salesman, out to make a quick fortune, who hides a horrid secret.

On the way to the Marshall Islands, a storm capsizes the boat. The five friends find themselves washed ashore a desolate island with black volcanic sand that cuts their feet. The sun is hidden behind a stationary curtain of gray clouds. Hot air and hot winds assault them. No food. No freshwater. How can they survive?

Slowly, they discover that the skull shaped cave they find is a master of revealing secrets. Little by little, each are shown who they really are: a vicious gossiper who will do whatever it takes to get what she wants; a man who is selfish and controlling, thinking only of how he can manipulate the people around him; an adulteress who delights in her beauty and in her seduction of other women's husbands; a single woman who is two-faced, a wolf in sheep's clothing; a man who is a serial killer.

As the island takes control of them, never to release them, can these five people ever hope to survive? No. No one escapes Hell.

These people discover that they gave up the One Perfect Gift for their own selfish desires, they realize that they will never die, because they are already dead and residing in Hades. They now live with endless parading of each others secret sins and utmost misery that comes from not accepting Christ.

Written with hints of Jesus' parables of the sower, the rich man in Hell, and the ten bridesmaids, this book will make you truly think and view your own soul.

The beauty of this story: Because none of us are worthy or righteous and all of us deserve to be on that desolate island of pain and thirst, of misery, it can be avoided through the acceptance of Jesus Christ.

Denise Hunter's Nantucket books

Surrender Bay: published 2007 by Thomas Nelson
Seaside Letters: published 2009 by Thomas Nelson

Are you in need of a wonderful love story? How about a love story of unconditional love and forgiveness?

Denise Hunter's Nantucket Love Stories do just that. In Surrender Bay, we find Samantha returning to Nantucket, a place she never planned to return. As a single mother, she inherits her stepfather's cottage and plans to sell the property. When she returns she never suspects that her childhood friend, Landon Reed, still lives two doors down. Their long-dormant romance begins to blossom again and Samantha has to face the fact that her secret of why she left can no longer remain hidden from him. Landon claims unconditional love for her, but will it survive the shattered trust Samantha reveals to him?

How about a story of not only unconditional love and forgiveness, but a dash of humor as well? In Seaside Letters, it is an online romance taking the wrong turn of mistaken identity, or is it? Sabrina has a past, one that Tucker is tied to, and she is hopeless in love with Tucker. Every morning she serves him coffee. Every morning he tries to muster up the nerve to talk to her. When he meets a woman online, he wants Sabrina to help him find this elusive love. Sabrina is now in a dilemma, because that woman is her but the picture she sent is her cousin's. Sabrina has had her heart broken before and had committed a great sin in response. Now she is afraid. Afraid that Tucker will find out about what she had done and her heart will be broken again. Can she truly believe that Tucker's love for her is unconditional? Is forgiveness really in her heart and in his?

Wonderfully told as a subtle parable to Jesus' love for us, Surrender Bay and Seaside Letters leave you teary-eyed and keep you dreaming of happily-ever-afters.

Jill Williamson & The Blood of Kings Trilogy

To Darkness Fled, By Darkness Hid, From Darkness Won

By Darkness Hid, To Darkness Fled, From Darkness Won: The Blood of Kings by Jill Williamson
Published by Marcher Lord Press- 2009, 2010, 2011

Jill Williamson may sit beside the authors Tad Williams with his Sword of Sorrow series and George R.R. Martin with his Game of Thrones series. She succeeds them with her Blood of Kings trilogy.

Follow the whirlwind journey of Achan, a young man whose status is lower than a slave, who not only discovers that he is the long lost heir to the throne, but also the one anointed by the One True God. Not a believer at first, Achan soon walks in fellowship with Arman.
Gifted with the legacy of bloodvoicing, Achan is the strongest one of all. He is befriended by Sir Gavin. Before long, Achan is thrust into a terrifying war to claim his birthright and destiny.
Knights, Giants, a boy who is really a girl, Duchesses, Dukes, and demons are only a few of the companions and foes. Temptations, daring rescues, torture and cruelty, and thieves bombard Achan and his knights.
This is a story about false idols, love, the One True God, and honor. Superbly written in a fast pace, it will honestly keep you up for hours until you turn the last page. Especially with the twists and turns thrown your way.

Williamson's books break the thin line between young adult and adult fantasy. Entertaining and thought provoking...

Steeple Hill Books

Love Inspired

Anna Meets Her Match by Arlene James (Deborah Rather) published by Steeple Hill 2009

     This romantic tale is lighthearted and fast paced. The conflict within the story is fairly simple: man vs. woman, man vs. himself, woman vs. herself. Anna, a lonely woman with eyes only for Reeves, is employed by Reeves' aunts, nosy, eccentric, and lovable triplets. Together they plot to bring these two together. Reeves, a man afraid to love again after his wife left him and his young daughter, never consider Anna as a love interest, but he finds himself growing ever increasingly closer to her.
     This is a great love story that shows how a thoughtless word in the past can be forgiven and how two people who wants to believe in the power of love are brought together; and, all because God uses honeybees.
     This storyline has no stagnant or slow pace and the reader is compelled to keep turning the pages. Not dredged down by unimportant descriptions, the storyline hops from one scene to the next in a smooth style. A highly enjoyable and recommended read.

His Uptown Girl by Gail Sattler published by Steeple Hill 2005

     Sometimes opposites are not really opposites at all. Georgette, the heroine, is wealthy, but she loves grease and cars instead of gossip and fancy dinners. She acquires a part time job at a local body shop, but she keeps the truth about who she is a secret. This is a job she loves and a job that her family will despise. Soon, though, she is found out.
     Either she marries a man she does not love, but whom her father approves, take her "rightful" place in society, and stops attending the local church or she leaves with nothing but what she owns, which is precious little. Georgette leaves. She gives up the rich life and follows the way of the Lord. Never regretting her decision, Georgette works at the shop, learns to cook, falls in love with Bob Delanio, and learns that no matter where you come from it is where you are going that is important, as long as you follow the Lord.
     This is the first romance I picked up in many years. The storytelling was superb. Flowing with ease and with a dash of humor, I find myself turning the pages of this book and losing myself into a romantic tale. It now rests beside many other books. A definite read for any romance lover.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Denise Hildreth Jones' THE FIRST GARDENER

 The First Gardener by Denise Hildreth Jones

 published by Tyndale House Publishers 2011

One couple...two tragedies.
If one death could steal your joy, then what would two deaths do, steal your soul?
Gray and Mackenzie are brought from joy to despair to hope and then thrown into the pit of hell.
A review will never capture the essence of what this story does. It shows that no matter how big the hurt, the pain, the hope, etc., nothing is too big for God.

The chapters intermingled with Jeremiah's POV give a true Southern taste and how deep our roots go when it come to leaning and trusting our Lord. This story had me laughing and a lot of times--crying (and that is hard to do). Riveting at its best, and poignant at its worst, I have never read such a story with such heartfelt sincerity and bold honesty.

As Jeremiah says: "When God call you to sump'n big, ever'thing in your life gon' be big. Your mountains and your valleys--they all goin' be big. And this here valley, it be as big as any I ever see..."

Denise Hildreth Jones walks the reader through a life of happiness and pain, but more importantly--growth. It's a big story showing growth in oneself, growth in marriage, growth in friendship, growth in spirit, and most importantly growth in knowledge. God owes us nothing, but He gives us everything.

Marc Schooley's KONIG'S FIRE

Konig's Fire by Marc Schooley
published by Marcher Lord Press 2010

(blog was written March 1, 2011)

Reading the blurb for this book does not prepare the reader. Written in first person, you quickly lose yourself in the story. You are becoming Sascha Konig. Set in the time of WWII at the height of the Third Reich, a young man, a  Christian hidden under the teachings of Hilter's Youth, must battle the evilness of the Nachthaus, a secret underground cave that houses torture chambers and the oven, dubbed Dante's Inferno by Konig. Earning the name of Nebuchadnezzar, Konig strokes the fire seven times hotter than it had ever burned before.

It isn't the evil of Nachthaus that Konig, and his two fellow Christians-in-hiding, must contend with, but the evil that resides in the heart of all men. For all are sinful and all can fall, but only those who face the time of the final testing and overcomes (so says the philosopher-face) will see the result of what grace has bought for us.

This story will keep you turning pages, have you questioning ideas and beliefs, dare you to look at your own soul and inside your heart, and leave you believing in promised Grace. As Konig learns, "dreaming is seeing the world as it is not". And our dreams can lead us "through fire seven time hotter" and into the arms "of one like a son of man" who can carry us through the flames.

Because no words or review can do justice to this story...because it will speak differently to each reader...highly recommended.


Shawn Grady

Through the Fire  published by Bethany House 2009

Aidan O'Neill, a fireman with an innate ability to read fire, knowing when and how it will burn, becomes overconfident in his gift and it leaves him with the guilt of another fireman's tragic accident.

It is a blow to his pride and to his faith. Told with a great deal of knowledge, not only in a fireman's line of work, but also in a man's struggle to cope with a loss and with guilt. This isn't a carefully weaved tale of salvation, but one of redemption.

Even though he encounters betrayal through the hands of family, Aidan finds love through the hands of another.

Shawn Grady writes a great tale. It causes you to turn page after page until you suddenly find yourself at the end and wishing for another book of his. The only downside: using first person POV is tricky and there are a few paragraphs that are repetitiously beginning every sentence with "I". Other than that, this book does not dwell on descriptions or scenes. It tells the story through imagery and dialogue. It has nothing that slows the pace or hampers the reader.

Tomorrow We Die  published by Bethany House 2010

We already met one character from this book. He was introduced in Through the Fire. Now Bones is back with his partner Jonathan Trestle.

When Jonathan Trestle saves a man's life, he is given a note, a cryptic clue. Of course he is drawn to finding out who might be this "Martin" the man talked about, but when Jonathan arrives at the hospital to check on the man,  Jonathan finds him gone-only to be found by later at a motel and quite obviously dead. The grim reaper is striking with force.

Hounded by the detective investigating the case, helped by a beautiful woman, and driven with a need to find the truth, Jonathan finds himself thrust headlong into danger. This danger leads him to betrayal and murder; and nothing, short of a prayer, will help him survive.

Not extremely predictable-you find yourself wondering if you are right about the "bad guy"-, this story captures you right away and forces you to turn the pages until the very end. The first person POV hampers the reading somewhat with the brusque way of writing, but the overall action story more than makes up for a slight hitch in the writing.

Falls Like Lightning  published by Bethany House 2011

A raging forest fire, a reunited love, and a murderous crew--smokejumper Silas Kent learns the meaning of survival and endurance.

This third book written by Shawn Grady exceeds expectations. From the first page to the last, the reader finds himself thrust into a fast moving, action-packed story. You will forget that this story only covers the span of a few days.

Surprisingly, Shawn Grady has superbly written from many point-of-views without weakening the storyline. The reader will see through the eyes of the protagonists and the antagonists, delving deep into their thoughts and actions. Very rare do you see this level of writing.
I look forward to many more books by Shawn Grady....
Once again, another book will have a permanent spot on my shelf because Shawn Grady

Angela Elwell Hunt's THE SLEEPING ROSE

The Sleeping Rose by Angela Elwell Hunt 

(This blog was written December 23, 2011)
Have you ever loved something so much that it became more important than anything else in your life?

This unique tale of a beautiful white rose that is requested by the King and Queen prove that sometimes the most beautiful thing can be found in the most surprising place.

Baldrik spends his entire time caring for the most perfect rose plant during winter. Its one and only bloom opens on the first day of May. So famous is the rose, that the King and Queen invites Baldrik to their castle. Soon Baldrik's hobby becomes an obsession since his dream has always been to be a master gardener for the royal gardens.

Through his concern for the rose his pride rises and he forgets about his compassion for those around him. Then the unthinkable happens, and the rose refuses to bloom, but it is the love and thankfulness of a beggar that shows Baldrik that the most important thing in life is love and compassion for others.

This is just a short, little story, but it wallops an impact on the heart. The art is astounding in its detail. I pulled this book off the shelf, having forgotten that I owned it. I curled up on my bed and read it, enjoyed the artwork, and pondered the story and the meaning behind the words. Especially during this Christmas season.

"You have chosen the right thing," the stranger said, a smile lighting his eyes. "People matter more than praise. Know this, Baldrik Macklin--anytime you offer help to a needy soul, you have offered it to me."

With great and gentle dignity the man turned and walked away. As the crowd buzzed with the sound of people exclaiming over the beauty of the radiant rose, Baldrik marveled over the stranger's parting words...and the tender touch of the man's nail-scarred hands.
~~ The Sleeping Rose by Angela Elwell Hunt published 1998 by Tommy Nelson, division of Thomas Nelson, Inc.

This is one more book that will forever sit on my shelf....


The Wonder of Your Love by Beth Wiseman

by Beth Wiseman
published by Thomas Nelson 2011
(this blog was written on January 27, 2012)

I picked this book to read to do research on the top ten sellers in Christian fiction. What made them the books that people went to over and over? What formula was used?

Imagine my surprise as I started reading, I became engrossed by the story. Even though I started reading it quite a few days ago when time permitted, I finally sat down and finished the last 200+ pages of the story. I did not want to put this down.

Romance is not my typical genre. The Wonder of Your Love is the first Amish romance I have ever read.

Stereotypical Amish romances, from reviews and perusing of some books, are usually cookie-cutter type books of fluffy happiness and goody-two shoes characters. Not this book.

Each character had flaws. Secondary characters strengthen the story and foreshadowed upcoming titles. The juxtaposition of the characters Katie Ann and Martha offer a true picture of friends from different worlds/ways of life, which is the beauty of Christ.

Some may be surprise that the characters are middle-aged, which I really hate that word and the stereotypes that come with it, but why be surprised? Even older people like a lot of the same things that younger people do. Even older people long for the same things that younger people do. And as someone in her late thirties, older people can be just as rebellious. A little of this is seen in Beth Wiseman's book and it deepens the personalities of her characters.

Truly this is a book I will always keep and I highly recommend it.

A passage from the book stands out from all others: To hear Him, To know Him, and to understand the wonder of His love--one must trust Him completely.

This story gives hope to those of us who wonder...

Elizabeth Maddrey's Wisdom to Know

published by Hope Springs Books 2013

Sometimes I find myself looking forward to reading a book by an author who writes about one of today's social issues. Wisdom to Know was no exception. I found that Elizabeth Maddrey portrayed a true and accurate account of one of today's main hot topics. Even though she did not shy from writing about the consequences of this sin and how grace saves us, the book's topic alone was not enough to warrant more than an "okay".

I felt as though the author needed to show how the decision to abort the baby came about. Lydia had no argument, no self-doubt. One sentence and the decision was done. Afterwards, two paragraphs were all that showed of her regrets. What was needed was for the reader to see the character arguments, her despair, her feeling of hopelessness, then her fall from faith and into the dark world of drugs and prostitution. Instead, the reader is left with a "this is it just accept what I tell you" type of story. This caused the book to flow in a jarring and disjointed manner.

How did Lydia truly feel? How did she decide to make those decisions? There were no connections with this character at all.

As for Kevin...this character was slotted into the "prefect man" category. The only flaw with him was his inability to accept the reality of what Lydia had done. While perfectly normal, his character still came across as two-dimensional.

As for secondary characters, they detracted from the story more than added.

There were also a few writing flaws, i.e., what the writing world would call "disembodied body parts" and "head hopping".

Wisdom to Know could have used a few more critiques and edits to strengthen the story into a dynamic book. If Elizabeth Maddrey had created three-dimensional characters that drew the reader into the story, that caused the reader to feel exactly how the characters felt, and to show the horror of the sin and the joy of forgiveness, then this book would have been exceptional. Instead, it seemed as though the author shied from delving too deep into the sin of abortion.

The book did well in telling about aborting and the subsequent downfall. It did well in telling about the heartache and eventual forgiveness of those affected. What the book needed, though, was to show this. I would recommend this book for teenagers; but, not for serious and dedicated readers.

***I received this book from BookCrash and the publisher in exchange for an honest and fair review*** 

 Betty Sue Tutor's review of Wisdom to Know (posted on Facebook and copied with her permission):

"Wisdom to Know by Elizabeth Maddrey: Could'nt put it down. Would recommend to everyone aged 15 and above. Even you never had an abortion or don't know anyone who did, it gives insight to the anger, guilt, and turmoil that follows especially if that person is a Christian, teenager, or somewhere between. It shows those of us who never experienced this dark side how to understand those who have so we can help them get past the guilt, anger, hurt, depression,etc., and repair their relationship with Christ."

Terri Blackstock's PREDATOR

Terri Blackstock: Golden Rose Spotlight

I welcome Terri Blackstock, a NY Times bestselling author, and a remarkable lady. It is my honor and privilege to have interviewed her.

Short blurb for Predator: The murder of Krista Carmichael's fourteen-year-old sister by an online predator has shaken her faith and made her question God's justice and protection. Desperate to find the killer, she creates an online persona to bait the predator. But when the stalker turns his sights on her, will Krista be able to control the outcome?
Ryan Adkins started the social network GrapeVyne in his college dorm and has grown it into a billion-dollar corporation. But he never expected it to become a stalking ground for online predators. One of them lives in his town and has killed two girls and attacked a third. When Ryan meets Krista, the murders become more than a news story to him, and everything is on the line.
Joining forces, Ryan and Krista set out to stop the killer. But when hunters pursue a hunter, the tables can easily turn. Only God can protect them now.

Predator will definitely have you turning the pages, not just out of the desire to see what happens next, but to also see if you are correct in the whodunit. Red herrings keep you fishing for answers, curveballs keep you guessing, and the action keeps you reading. Read below on more information about Predator and Terri Blackstock.

1) How did the idea and/or inspiration of writing about an online predator come about?

A couple of years ago when I was encouraged to start using Facebook, I was shocked by some of the things people posted. Because I’m a suspense writer, I realized that this would be a playground for a predator. Think about it. If you were a predator, what better way to stalk your victims and find out about their habits, their schedules, their likes/dislikes, and sometimes even their addresses and phone numbers? I decided that I had to write a book about that.

In Predator, Krista Carmichael’s fourteen year old sister is found murdered, and it quickly becomes clear how easy she made it for her killer to stalk her until he had the opportunity to abduct her. Krista decides to use GrapeVyne, my fictitious social network, to create a fake profile. She makes herself bait for the killer, hoping to find him and bring him to justice. But when she manages to get his attention, Krista finds it impossible to control the outcome.

 2) For years documentaries were produced and TV shows used characters who used false profiles to lure unsuspecting people, because this is so real and an increasing problem, what were your hopes and/or agenda in writing Predator?

I hoped that it would open people’s eyes (scare them to death) and influence them into changing their online habits. But the book is also about loss and that Christian mask we put on. Krista works in a ministry that helps teen girls in a low income/high crime area. When her sister is murdered, she sort of puts on a mask so the girls will see her as this strong, unwavering Christian. She doesn’t want them to know that she has these questions, and that she’s angry at God for allowing her sister to be murdered. So she has this internal struggle between what she really feels and what she wants people to think she feels. She begins to question whether she belongs in ministry at all. But the fact is, her suffering and her honest questions qualify her even more for ministry, because she can now relate to the girls on a level she couldn’t have imagined before.

3) Do you believe teenagers or adults are more vulnerable online? Which group seems more apt to accept someone as a friend?

I think teens are, because they are too trusting. They think that everyone is who they say they are. But how hard is it to use a fake picture, pretend you’re a nineteen year old boy who’s interested in them, and lure them into a trap? But adults are being equally foolish. They forget how much they’re sharing with people they’ve never met.

4) Predator shows the many facets of tragedy. The sister's and father's anger are handled in opposite ends of the spectrum. Writing in such a deep POV where the father contemplates murder, how did you "flip that switch" to be able to write from that point of view, because the emotions of the father's are so raw?

That’s what writers do. We “put on” our characters and think like they think. I think one of the gifts of a good writer is empathy. Writers have empathy for each of the characters they write—even the evil ones—and can feel their feelings and articulate their thoughts. We cry when our characters cry, and mope when they mope, and celebrate when they have victories. That’s part of the job.

5) Writing from the online predator's point of view, the reader is literally inside his head. How did you prepare yourself to write from the POV of such an evil person?

I just tried to imagine how a predator might think, what might motivate him, what his traps might be. Sometimes I scared myself. But in order to write a compelling suspense novel, sometimes I have to think like a villain. This isn’t that hard for me because I have a suspicious nature and my mind tends to go automatically to the worst possible scenario.

6) Since the publication of Predator, you have written a new series. Please tell your readers a little more about these books and what inspired you to write them.

The Intervention Series was inspired by my experiences with my daughter who had severe drug addictions. It’s not straight out of our lives—we didn’t have a murder, of course—but the emotions that I poured into Barbara (the mother) were just like mine. In the first book, Intervention, Barbara hires an interventionist to help her daughter. On the way to treatment, the interventionist is murdered and the daughter (Emily) vanishes. In the second book, Vicious Cycle, Emily is getting out of treatment and she and her brother get pulled into the drama of a crystal meth addict who needs rescuing. In the final book, Downfall, Emily is in recovery, but her past begins to catch up with her. A conversation she had with two men, an Alfred Hitchcock movie, and a plan for a double-murder all conspire for one explosive ride … and Emily is the only one who can identify the killer and save the life of the next potential victim. But will the stress of it all be her downfall?

Thank you, Terri!
You may contact Terri Blackstock at the following:


Laurie Alice Eakes' CHOICES OF THE HEART

Laurie Alice Eakes & Her book Choices of the Heart

Laurie Alice Eakes brings forth three charming tales with her Midwives series. Historically accurate, lovingly crafted, and beautifully told, each book immerses the reader into a lesser known community of Colonial times. Her books Lady in the Mist, Heart's Safe Passage, and Choices of the Heart deal with healing, love, heartache, strength, but above all faith. Laurie Alice is skilled in bringing the characters to life, even the secondary characters, and never shying from the harsh ways of life during those early times in America. The romance is beautifully written, not only the romance between characters, but the romance between a character and God. Her books will strike a chord within every heart, plunging the reader into a melody of history and time. Highly recommended, Laurie Alice Eakes' Midwives series is a definite read, a book to keep forever on the shelves and to read over and over again.

Read below for more on Laurie Alice Eakes, why she wrote her series, and what other books are next:

 "                                                          My Fascination with Midwives

As a lifelong history geek, I have always been fascinated with the work women have carried out through the existence of mankind. For example, Lydia, a seller of Purple, stirred my imagination as a child reading Acts for the first time. A lady merchant in biblical times?

So when I ran across a copy of Laurel Ulrich’s A Midwife’s Tale, I bought it, read it, and plunged into a whole world of not just a work, but the women who became midwives themselves.

So when I went to grad school for history in the late ‘90s and had to focus on a research project, I chose to delve into the lives of midwives more deeply. With a university library and Interlibrary Loan at my fingertips, I read newspaper accounts from the eighteenth century, books written by and for midwives from the seventeenth century, and laws governing midwives from the sixteenth century. The more I read, the more I realized these were women of power, unique power in  Early Modern history.

Midwives didn’t just deliver babies. They were healers and confidantes, teachers and, sometimes, witnesses for the prosecution. They enjoyed freedoms other women did not, and they were highly respected. They were even feared. After all, they knew a lot of secrets.

About halfway through my project, I fell ill and spent three days in bed. Bored with lying around, but too achy to concentrate on schoolwork, I began to write some notes on ideas flowing through my feverish brain. These weren’t more than images, but I wrote them down longhand and stuffed them in a drawer. One day, I declared, I would write a novel about a midwife.

I wrote three. It took me another ten years of a lot of changes and chaos in my life. Those early notes disappeared along the way, but I never forgot those images. And finally the time was right. I reviewed my notes from my paper, “Women of Power, Midwives in Early Modern Europe and North America” and wrote a proposal. On April 1, 2009, I sent that proposal to my agent. On April 21, an editor said she was taking it to committee. On May 12, I sold what became Lady in the Mist.

These are not books about midwifery; they are books about the midwives themselves, how their profession, their calling, effects their lives takes them into danger, and shapes them as women of God. And, because it’s me, they are romances with a bit of suspense thrown in.

I am an author who says, “I write Christian historical romances,” when asked what I do. It’s my calling, and I wouldn’t deny that any more than I would deny working in any other profession.

“Besides writing, I like going for long walks with my husband, whether on city streets or a quiet beach, and I like exploring new places. We recently moved to Houston, TX, but still miss living in Washington, DC, but not for the politics. It’s closer to family and mountains. I would really like to live in the country and rescue homeless cats, but I can’t drive, so that isn’t very practical. Here in the city, I settle for the quadrupeds I have.

At present, I am just finishing up my First Regency historical romance for Zondervan, out next year, and am about to plunge into writing the third book in a series with three other authors coming out from Harlequin Heartsong later this year. Also later this year, I have my third Regency releasing from Baker/Revell, and a novella from Revell coming out in early spring in a collection with three authors who positively dwarf me.  after all that, I have two more books under contract with Zondervan, and a lot of plans up my sleeve."


Amanda Cabot & Waiting for Spring

Amanda Cabot has a way with words that leaves the reader spellbound. This delightful romantic read brought forth an accurate portrayal of a widow and her son set in the late 1800's. Page after page left me reading and longing for more of the story until the final page was turned, and still I wished for more. Heartfelt, beautiful, and truly a wonderful read, Amanda Cabot captures the beauty of a timeless age and of the Wyoming frontier. Above all, the spiritual lesson within the story was subtle at best and uplifting, hope given to all who have suffered and long to be healed and long for that second chance at life. This read was a breath of fresh air and a burst of new life.

Read below for more about Amanda Cabot and her thoughts on why she wrote Waiting for Spring; plus find out what else is in the works...

"Thanks so much for inviting me to be part of your blog.  I’m delighted to be here today, talking with you and your followers about Waiting for Spring and myself.

Let’s get the least interesting part of this done first: a bit about me.  For almost as long as I can remember, books have been a major part of my life.  I love the fact that in addition to teaching me things, they can transport me to a different time and place.  As a child, I decided that the most wonderful thing in the world would be to be a writer and give others the pleasure that I found in books.  Of course, even then I somehow knew that it would be a difficult way to earn a living, so I took a “real” job, and writing became my second job.  I used to describe it as a case of “for love or money.”  Writing was what I did for love; the day job helped pay the mortgage.  Now I’m fortunate enough to be a fulltime writer.

Now, on to the book.  I could talk for hours about that, but I’ll try not to be too long-winded.  After all, I wouldn’t want you to start yawning.  One of the questions I’m often asked is why I wrote a particular book.  In the case of Waiting for Spring, I had two goals.  The first – and most important – was to answer the question of, “What lengths would you go to to protect your child?”  Charlotte’s a young widow with what we would now call a special needs child in an era when parents were advised to put those children into an institution.  That would have been enough of a challenge for her, but her life is further complicated by the fact that her husband was murdered, and the killer is after her.  What can she do?  And, as if that weren’t enough, she begins to fall in love with a man who’s practically engaged to one of her best friends.  Poor Charlotte!  It took a lot of pages to unravel all that.
My second goal for this book was to introduce readers to my adopted hometown of Cheyenne.  Did you know that in 1883, Cheyenne was the wealthiest city per capita in the world?  Furthermore, the city had the only opera house west of the Mississippi, and its InterOcean hotel was the first hotel anywhere to have electric lights in its guest rooms.  Add to that the incredibly wealthy cattle barons, one of whom just happens to be the hero of my story, and a brutal winter that changed their lives in ways they could not have expected, and you have the background for my story. 
Weaving those details into the love stories (yes, there’s more than one romance in Waiting for Spring) was a lot of fun, but it also created one of my biggest fears, what I refer to as nasty-grams from readers.  I love hearing from readers, since they truly are the reason I write, and I pray that my stories will touch their hearts and deepen their faith.  But writers being the insecure creatures that we are, I always worry that I’ll disappoint someone.  Those worries increase exponentially when I write about a real location, because now there’s the possibility that I got a fact wrong and that some eagle-eyed reader will be upset about it.  I take research very seriously and read countless books to get everything about Cheyenne just right, but there’s still that niggling fear that I missed something.  That’s why the Texas Dreams books took place in a fictional location and why my next series will also feature a fictional town.
Speaking of the future, I’m currently working on my 2014 releases.  I’m waiting for copy edits and cover art for With Autumn’s Return, the third of the Westward Winds trilogy.  That’ll be a January 2014 book.  In addition, I’m excited to announce that I’ll have a novella in Revell’s first novella collection.  The release date hasn’t been finalized yet, but it will be during the first half of 2014.  Each of the four stories in the collection is written by a different author, and each features a woman whose life is changed when she receives a letter.  Having read that, you probably won’t be surprised to know the title of the book will be Sincerely Yours
My heroine is an heiress who needs to marry a man of her own social standing within two months or she’ll forfeit her inheritance.  The special letter she receives leads her to a handsome carousel carver – obviously not the man her parents had in mind for her.  But the carver has a secret.  As a side note, I developed an incurable case of carousel fever in early 2000, so when I started thinking about this story, I knew my hero would be one of those talented men who turned chunks of wood into fabulous painted ponies.
And, if that wasn’t enough for 2014, I’ll also have the first book of a new series out in the fall.  The title and date haven’t been finalized, so I can’t tell you too much about it other than that it takes place in a fictional town in the Texas Hill Country.  If you want to know more, I hope you’ll sign up for my online newsletter.  All it takes is an email.  My email address and lots of other information are available on my web site, www.amandacabot.com.  You might also enjoy my blog with the popular Wednesday in Wyoming posts.  My blog URL is http://amandajoycabot.blogspot.com/.
And now it’s time to say farewell.  I’ve enjoyed our time together and wish you a year filled with many, many wonderful books to read."

From the time that she was seven, Amanda Cabot dreamed of becoming a published author, but it was only when she set herself the goal of selling a book by her thirtieth birthday that the dream came true.  A former director of Information Technology, Amanda has written everything from technical books and articles for IT professionals to mysteries for teenagers and romances for all ages.  She’s delighted to now be a fulltime writer of Christian historical romances.  Her Texas Dreams trilogy received critical acclaim, and Waiting for Spring, the second in her Westward Winds series, was released in January.