Psalm 27:1

The Lord is my light and my salvation—
whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold of my life—
of whom shall I be afraid?

www.biblegateway.com


Friday, September 23, 2016

Fraying at the Edge Book Review

The Amish of Summer Grove Series
Book Two

SUMMARY:  Family, community, faith, and love.  These "quilt blocks" sewn together made Ariana's beautiful life.  When they are pulled to pieces, will anything familiar remain?
     The Old Order Amish life Ariana Brenneman loved vanished virtually overnight with the discovery that she was switched at birth twenty years ago.  Now she's immersed in the Englisher world, getting to know her mother and under the authority of her biological father, an atheist intellectual with resolute plans to expand Ariana's worldview.  Only Quill Schlabach, a childhood friend living English, can steady the tilting ground between Ariana's two worlds, but can she trust him after so many betrayals?
     At the same time, Skylar Nash is forced to choose rehab or spending several months with her true relatives, the large Brenneman family and their seemingly backward life - no electricity, no technology, no fun.  What the young woman can't leave behind is her addition to illegal prescription drugs and a deep emptiness from the belief that she doesn't belong in either family.
     New ties are binding Ariana and Skylar to the lives they were meant to have.  Can they find the wisdom and strength they'll need to follow God's threads into unexpected futures?
     Fraying at the Edge is the second novel in the Amish of Summer Grove series.

REVIEW:  This book picks up where the first, Ties that Bind, ends.  The chaos Ariana is thrown into felt very real: parents arguing, strange technology like using an electric stove and disarming an alarm system, driving, and a father demanding she change her worldview 180 degrees almost immediately.  I like how Brandi, her biological mother, tries to gently help Ariana adjust and doesn't make any demands on her.  I like how Ariana finally stands up to Nicholas, her biological dad, and how he finally backs off some, but still pushing Ariana way beyond her comfort zone.  This "pushing" starts her seeing the world not as only black and white, but with a lot of greys in between.
     Skylar irritated me some.  She doesn't want to even try to help out or get to know her biological family.  The Brennemans are very patient with Skylar, trying to love her from afar, even though their efforts are often rebuffed.  I like how she finally finds her niche at the coffee shop.  I would have liked to have seen more happen with Skylar in regards to changes and her time with them, but I was pleased with how the character has developed.
     The ending was a bit of a surprise, setting up the third book in this series.  I can't wait to see the journey Skylar and Ariana take and where God (and the author) leads them.
     This is a wonderful book and series.  You must read Ties that Bind first as it sets the foundation and first floor for the second book.

This book was provided by Waterbrook Multnomah and Blogging for Books
for review without compensation.
 
Cindy Woodsmall is the New York Times and CBA best-selling author of eighteen works of fiction and nonfiction with more than a million copies sold.  Her connection with the Amish community has been featured in national media outlets such as ABC's Nightline, the Wall Street Journal, and a National Geographic documentary on Amish life.  Cindy and her husband reside near the foothills of the North Georgia mountains.  She can be found online at cindywoodsmall.com.

Prince Noah and the School Pirates Book Review


SUMMARY:  Prince Noah may be a little slower than others, but he has no less joy in living and learning.
     It's time for young Prince Noah to go to school.  In his kingdom, children go to school on sailing ships.  There is a ship for girls and one for boys, one for children with an eye patch and one for children with one leg, and one for children who don't learn as fast.  No one knows why there are so many different ships, but it has always been that way.
     Then a terrible storm drives the ships into the hands of pirates.  The boys and girls realize that they will only escape if everyone does what he or she does best.
     This delightful fairy tale instills appreciation for children with developmental challenges.

REVIEW:  This is a sweet children's book.  No one is alike; we all are different.  Some of those differences are just more noticeable than others.  In this book, Prince Noah shows the other kids that everyone has a place and to use what we know to benefits those around us.  By working together, all of the children make a difference and change the perceptions of "this is how it's always been done" to "let's start something new." This book is geared towards children but I think even adults can take away something positive and uplifting.

This book was provided by Handlebar and Plough Publishing House 
for review without compensation.

Silke Schnee is a journalist and works as a television producer for a public broadcaster in Cologne, Germany.  She is married and has three sons.  Her youngest son Noah was born with Trisomy 21 (Downs syndrome).

Heike Sistig studies special education and art and is a trained art therapist.  She works as an editor for children's television programming.  She has illustrated several children's books, and has exhibited her collages in several art galleries.  She lives with her family in Cologne, Germany. 

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

The Temple and the Tabernacle Book Review

A Study of God's Dwelling Places 
from Genesis to Revelation

SUMMARY:  Grasp the Majesty, Beauty, and Significance of God's Dwelling Places
At various points in Israel's history, God dwelt in specific, significant places, most notably in the tabernacle and the temple. These structures, meticulously planned, extravagantly furnished, and regularly frequented by the devout, were more than just places of worship and sacrifice. They were pictures of God's relationship with his chosen people and of the atoning work that would be done by the Messiah. To understand the tabernacle and the temple, then, is to understand how we are brought into God's family through the sacrifice of his only Son, Jesus.

Visually stunning and theologically rich, this full-color resource brings together the latest scholarship and archeological discoveries to bring God's dwelling places alive for modern believers. It places these important structures in their historical and theological contexts, connects them with the overall biblical story, and shows how they bring meaning and depth to the faith of Christians today.
 
REVIEW:  This book is a wonderful reference book focusing on the tabernacle constructed by Moses, the first temple built by Solomon, the reconstructed temple after the Israelites returned from Babylonian captivity, the expanded temple built by Herod and the temple in heaven mentioned in Revelation.  The author does an excellent job explaining each detail and comparing the temples to the tabernacle.  There were things I had never considered or even thought about such as the different building materials used, the men in charge of each building projects and the events surrounding each one.  Sometimes the author was repetitive but it helped keep me from forgetting facts and information mentioned earlier.  The drawings and pictures included were very helpful in getting a visual of what each item and structure looked like and where they were placed.
     If you are interested in learning more about God's tabernacle and temples, or just getting a better understanding of the meaning behind them, this book would be a tremendous asset.  It was very easy to understand, written for the common man not just biblical scholars.
     I really enjoyed this book and plan to keep it in my library.

This book was provided by Baker Books for review without compensation.
 
J. Daniel Hays  (PhD, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary) is dean of the School of Christian Studies and professor of biblical studies at Ouachita Baptist University in Arkadelphia, Arkansas. He is the author or coauthor of many articles and books, including Grasping God's Word and The Baker Illustrated Bible Handbook.

Monday, August 29, 2016

There Will Be Stars Book Review


SUMMARY:  "In a life full of lies, he finally settled for the truth."

     No one in Mattingly ever believed Bobby Barnes would live to see old age.  Drink would either rot Bobby from the inside out or dull his senses just enough to send his truck off the mountain on one of his nightly rides.  Although Bobby believes such an end possible - and even likely - it doesn't stop him from taking his twin sons Matthew and Mark into the mountains one Saturday night.  A sharp curve, blinding headlights, metal on metal, his sons' screams.  Bobby's final thought as he sinks into blackness is a curious one - There will be stars.
     Yet it is not death that greets him beyond the veil.  Instead, he returns to the day he has just lived and finds he is not alone in this strange new world.  Six others are trapped with him.
     Bobby soon discovers that this supposed place of peace is actually a place of secrets and hidden dangers.  Along with three others, he seeks to escape, even as the world around him begins to crumble.  The escape will lead some to greater life, others to endless death . . . and Bobby Barnes to understand the deepest nature of love.

REVIEW:  It's not often I don't finish a book or like one.  Usually, even if I don't like the story, I will finish it just to see if it gets any better.  No matter how many times I picked this novel up, I just couldn't finish it.  There were so many things I did not agree with in the author's writings that it just made it impossible to get very far.
     In There Will Be Stars, Bobby Barnes gets drunk, takes his sons with him on a midnight drive on a curvy mountain road looking for more alcohol when he crashes and dies.  But, instead of passing into either heaven or hell, he is in a purgatory of sorts where he relives his last day on earth, over and over again.  In this time in purgatory (or before the Turn), he gets the chance to make changes in his life, and possibly accepting Jesus as his Savior before his time there is over.  Hebrews 9:27 says "And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment" (ESV).  As this verse states, we don't get a do-over.  Once we die, we face our judgment, whether in heaven or in hell.  Also, in the Gospel of Luke, Jesus tells a parable about Lazarus the beggar and the rich man.  The beggar had nothing and begged for crumbs off the rich man's table, getting none, while the rich man had everything he ever wanted.  When he talks about their deaths, Jesus says the beggar is carried by angels to Abraham's bosom and the rich man goes to hell, each getting what they deserve.  There is no time to change your mind after you die.  The choices you make here on earth will determine your lot in the hereafter.  Jesus, Paul, Peter and other New Testament authors pleads with their readers to accept Jesus as Lord and Savior before it is too late.  None of them ever talk about getting a second chance after death.
     As much as I wanted to finish this book, this idea of a do-over after death just bothered me so much it was all I could see.

This book was provided by Fiction Guild and Thomas Nelson Publishers 
for review without compensation.

Billy Coffey's critically acclaimed books combine rural Southern charm wiht a vision far beyond the ordinary.  He is a regular contributor to several publications, where he writes about faith and life.  Billy lives with his wife and two children in Virginia's Blue Ridge Mountains.  Visit him at www.billycoffey.com, on Facebook at billycoffeywriter, or on Twitter at @billycoffey.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Sister Eve and the Blue Nun Book Review

 
Divine Private Detective Agency 
Mystery Series
Book Three

SUMMARY:  After a murder at the monastery, Sister Eve may need a miracle if she is to prove a dear friend isn't a cold-blooded killer.
     Sister Eve, a motorcycle-riding nun with a natural (or is it supernatural?) gift for solving murders returns to teh enclave she once called home and quickly finds herself confronting yet another mysterious death.
     Someone has poisoned Dr. Kelly Middlesworth - a researcher on the life and ministry of 17th-century's revered "Blue Nun" - and a set of irreplaceable historic documents have disappeared before they could even be examined. 
     When all evidence seems to point to the victim's brother, Sister Eve sets out to expose the killer and learn the explosive truth those missing manuscripts might contain.
     Chasing a killer is dangerous work, and as her two worlds collide, Sister Eve may need some heavenly help simply to survive.

REVIEW:  This story was an intriguing one.  The murder of a professor about to show the world some missing manuscripts that could help "The Blue Nun" finally achieve sainthood was a new one for me.  When the evidence seems to point to the victim's brother, a monk who lives at the enclave, I like how Sister Eve does what she can to help clear his name.  I like how she was determined to find the real murder by risking her own life.  Sometimes the story seemed to drag and at others, repeat the same information. The discovery of the actual murderer seemed a bit of a stretch but, I like how the author tied in the stories of the Blue Nun with Sister Eve and the end of the story.
     This is the third novel about Sister Eve.  It does okay standing alone but sometimes I wondered if reading the other books would help fill in some of the gaps of her personal backstory.

This book was provided by Fiction Guild and Thomas Nelson Publishers
for review without compensation.
 
Lynne Hinton is the New York Times bestselling author of Friendship Cake and The Art of Arranging Flowers, along with sixteen other books.  She holds a Master of Divinity degree from Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley, California.  She has served as hospice chaplain, church pastor, and retreat leader.  Lynne is a regular columnist with The Charlotte Observer.  A native of North Carolina, she lives with her husband and dog in Albuquerque, New Mexico.  Visit Lynne's website at www.lynnehinton.com or on Facebook at Lynne-Hinton-Books.

Without Warning Book Review

Elite Guardians Series
Book Two

SUMMARY:  Intensity.  Skill.  Tenacity.  The bodyguards of Elite Guardians Agency have it all.
     Katie Singleton, a partner with the Elite Guardians Protection Agency, stumbles upon her next assignment quite by accident.  Spotting blue lights at a familiar restaurant, she stops to investigate, only to discover that owner Daniel Matthews has become the target of someone who will go to any lengths to put him out of business.
     Daniel might be concerned, but he's not convinced that a bodyguard - and a female one at that - is necessary.  A new attack and his niece's urgings are enough to make him reconsider.  He and Katie must figure out who's behind the intimidation and threats - before a would-be killer strikes again.

REVIEW:  Lynette Eason keeps up her winning streak with the second book in the Elite Guardians series.  This book starts off with a bang and keeps running until the end.  There is a lot of back and forth action that you can't just skim over.  You must take your time reading or you will miss something needed to solve the puzzles.  I like how both Katie and Daniel face their PTSD triggers and are able to work through the incidences where they occur.  The ending of this book was a surprise.  I thought I had the culprit figured out but was not expecting the final conclusion. 
     This is a fabulous book.  It is a great story that can stand alone.  Reading the first one in this series will help you understand this protection agency and some of the relationships better, though, it is not necessary.

This book was provided by Revell for review without compensation.

Lynette Eason is the bestselling author of the Women of Justice series, the Deadly Reunions series, and the Hidden Identity series, as well as Always Watching in the Elite Guardians series.  She is the winner of an ACFW Carol Award, the Selah Award, and the Inspirational Readers' Choice Award.  She lives in South Carolina.  Learn more at www.lynetteeason.com.

Deadly Encounter Book Review

FBI Task Force Series
Book One

SUMMARY:  Is it mere coincidence, or part of a carefully orchestrated plan?
     Airport ranger volunteer Stacy Broussard expected a peaceful Saturday morning ride around the perimeter of Houston's airport.  What she encounters instead is a brutal homicide and a baffling mystery.  Next to the body is an injured dog, the dead man's motorcycle, and a drone armed with a laser capable to taking down a 747.
     Though FBI Specialist Alex LeBlanc sees a clear-cut case of terrorism, his past has taught him to be suspicious of everyone, even witnesses.  Even bleeding-heart veterinarians like Stacy.  But when her gruesome discovery is only the first thing in a string of incidents that throw her life into a tailspin, Alex begins to wonder if Stacy was targeted.  As a health emergency endangers Stacy's community and the task force pulls in leads from all directions, Alex and Stacy must work together to prevent another deadly encounter.

REVIEW:  This story kept me on my toes.  Trying to figure out how all the parts fit together to form an answer to the many problems was thought provoking and stimulating.  There were a few times I had to reread sections to remember what had happened, who was involved and why.  It was fascinating reading all the different ways the antagonist(s) plotted and schemed to get the results they wanted.
     Stacy's love for Whitt, her neglected and abused neighbor, was admirable.  She did what she could to show him not all adults were horrible people. I also like how she pursued trying to become his foster mom, and hopefully mom, and encouraged him to not let the past dictate his future.
     This was a marvelous story that kept me turning pages right to the end.

This book was provided by Tyndale House for review without compensation.

DiAnn Mills is a bestselling author whose novels have appeared on the CBA and ECPA bestseller lists; won two Christy Awards, and been finalists for the RITA, Daphne du Maurier, and Carol Award contests.  When she's not writing, DiAnn is buy teaching and doing research through the FBI Citizens Academy.  She and her husband live in Houston, Texas.  Visit her online at www.diannmills.com.