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?

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Freedom's Stand Book Review

SUMMARY:  Find something to believe in...
     Jamil renounced a life of jihad when he encountered the life-changing message of Jesus Christ.  But his new mission as an itinerant health worker in the hills of Afghanistan is met with skepticism and even violence.
     Returning to Kabul, relief worker Amy Mallory is shocked by the changes in her organization - changes with dire implication for the women and children under her care.  And concern for her former assistant Jamil weighs heavily on her heart.
     Special Forces veteran Steve Wilson faces off against the riots and corruption of Afghanistan's upcoming election.  He's looking for something that will give his life purpose but is confident that he won't find it in Afghanistan.
     All three are searching for love and freedom.  But in a country where political and religious injustice runs rampant, the cost of either may be higher than they realize.

SUMMARY:  This was a hard book if you have a heart for the oppressed.  Even though the story is fiction, the author shows how hard and oppressing life is for the women in Afghanistan and the difficulties they face every day.  Not just the women, but those who profess to believe in Isa Masih, Jesus Christ.  The detail used to describe the people and their surroundings makes you feel like you are there in the midst.  Reading about Amy's struggles to help these women and their children and the frustrations that abound was hard but eye-opening.

I had difficulties reading the book.  The descriptions of life there were hard but what I found most difficult was figuring out what the different Afghani and Islamic words meant and keeping some of the characters straight.  It would have been extremely helpful to have had a glossary in the back of the book that explained what words like mullah, chowkidar, and mujahedeen mean.  It also would have helped to have a list of characters.  I kept getting confused as to who the different characters were and what they meant to the story.

This is the second in the series.  The first book is Veiled Freedom.  The story seems to stand okay on its own but situations covered in Veiled Freedom and touched on here and there in Freedom's Stand would be better understood if you had read the first book.

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

Award-winning author and journalist Jeanette Windle has more than fifteen books in print, including Veiled Freedom and Betrayed.  Her detailed research and writing is so realistic that is has prompted government agencies to question her to determine if she has received classified information.  Currently based in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, Jeanette has lived in six countries and traveled in more than thirty.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Not Listening

Ever had one of those days when EVERYTHING you did (or didn't do), touched or said went horribly wrong?  That was my day yesterday.

The kids were suppose to help me around the house with some chores (plus their everyday chores) AND get along with each other.  Their reward for doing it would be to see CARS 2.  Monday, I told my kids about it but wanted to wait until Nathan was here so he could go with us.  My bunch helped out and were relatively good Monday.

Tuesday was a completely different story.  No one wanted to listen.  The kids wanted to do their own thing and did not get along.  I was constantly having to get onto someone.  Like Monday, they had their everyday chores to complete (get dressed, brush their teeth, make their beds, put up their pajamas, and generally pick up any mess).  They also had to unload the dishwasher, reload the dishwasher, finish folding clothes and putting theirs up, pick up the living room and sweep the kitchen.  It should have taken them two hours max (and that was if they took lots of breaks).

The movie was going to start at 1 p.m.  At 12:30, I still had not gotten a shower (because I was busy being a referee), the dishes still hadn't been done, the clothes needed to be put up and the kids still needed to eat lunch.  I know I should have told them we weren't going but to be honest, I was looking forward to two hours of relative peace and quiet.  So, instead, I ignored God's promptings to stay home. We finally got out the door at 12:50 after I had a quick shower and only one child ate lunch.  The line for tickets was long so by the time we got to the front, the 1 o'clock showing was sold out.  The next showing was at 1:35 but was in 3-D.  The problem with that was I wasn't planning on spending the extra $15 for 3-D glasses.  I know I should have turned around and left and brought them back another day but I was being stubborn.  (The next 2-D showing was at 4 p.m. but we had plans last night.)  Instead of listening to God prompting me again to stay home, I paid the extra and went inside.  Snacks at the concession stand cost almost $29 for four kids combos and a pretzel and Coke for me.  The movie wasn't crowded and we were able to get some great seats towards the front.  The kids did great during the movie, but towards the end, each one had to go to the bathroom (one child had to go three times!).  When the credits started rolling, I wanted to wait around because Pixar usually has something extra at the end.  That's when the complaining started again.  And, wouldn't you know, Pixar didn't have anything extra!!  Bummer!!

We exit the theater and start out towards the van.  Next thing I know, Hannah and Nathan take off in a dead run across the parking lot for the van!  Will and Andrew take off after them before I could stop them.  Once we get home, the fighting starts again.  But this time, I had more than my fill of it and did something really stupid.  Instead of listening to God to separate the kids and put them all in timeout, I started yelling.  I also started arguing with my mom over it.  By the time Mike got home and Mel came to get Nathan, I had reached the knot at the end of my rope and was hanging on for dear life.

All throughout the day, God spoke to me in His still, quiet voice.  Instead of stopping what I was doing and listening to what He had to say, I kept on barreling through my day making an absolute mess of it.  God let me finish doing all the damage I could do, then helped by picking me up and holding me tight.  Listening to God is hard to do but I hope I can become better at it.  My life would be so much more peaceful!!

The Constantine Codex Book Review

SUMMARY:  For centuries, scholars have speculated about a lost book of the bible.  No one has ever found it - until now.
     A few pieces of centuries-old parchment tucked inside a tattered book lead famed archaeologist Jonathan Weber and his wife Shannon to what could possibly be the greatest find in church history - a discarded biblical manuscript whose ancient pages reveal a secret that will change the way the world views Scripture.
     Is it one of fifty copies commissioned by Constantine the Great and lost for centuries?  Or the most sophisticated forgery of all time?
     When the manuscript is stolen, Jon is swept into a deadly race to find it and prove its authenticity before it's lost forever.  Everything hangs in the balance - his career, his reputation, even his life - but he's willing to risk it all in one final daring attempt to determine the truth.

REVIEW:  This is a wonderful book!!  The author kept my attention from the very beginning and held it to the very end.  The work Jon and Shannon do seems like a modern day Indiana Jones.  The concept of finding a second book of Acts written by Luke and the ending of the gospel of Mark peaked my interest.  The possibility of finding them, and possibly other letters written to the early church, in the libraries of ancient churches around the world makes me wish I could read ancient Greek, Hebrew and Aramaic and go look myself.  Even if you aren't a bible scholar, I think you will enjoy this book and be able to follow along fairly easily. 
     Dr. Maier has written two other books using the characters Jon and Shannon Weber but each one is independent and stands well on it's own (think Tom Clancy's character Jack Ryan).  After reading this book, I think I'm going to go by the library to see if I can find the other two.

This book was provided by Glass Road Public Relations for review without compensation.

Dr. Paul L. Maier is the professor of ancient history at Western Michigan University and a much-published author.  His novels include the bestselling thriller A Skeleton in God's Closet and its sequel, More Than A Skeleton.  Over five million books are now in print in twenty languages, as well as over 250 scholarly articles and reviews in professional journals.  Visit his website at

Monday, June 27, 2011

Forever After Book Review

SUMMARY:  A fire killed his best friend and his lifelong dream of being a firefighter.  The same fire killed her husband and hopes for a family.  Can new dreams replace old?
    Lucas Vermontez was a proud firefighter like his father.  Now, not only has he lost his father and his best friend, Zach, in the fire at the Grove Street homeless shelter, but the devoted rookie can no longer do the work he loves after being crippled in the tragic event.  When friendship with his buddy's beautiful widow turns into more, he wonders, what could he possibly offer Jenna?
     Jenna Morgan is trying to grieve her husband's death like a proper widow, but the truth is, she never really loved Zach.  His death feels more like a relief to her.  But that relief is short-lived when she loses her home and the financial support of her in-laws.  Now the secrets of her past threaten to destroy her future.
     Can the two forget the painful past and discover new reasons to live and love?

REVIEW:  Forever After is the second novel in the Hanover Falls series.  It took me a bit to realize it was part of a series because it stands so well on its own.  Mrs. Raney does a great job with her characters, making them seem real.  The hardships both Lucas and Jenna face helps them grow in ways they never thought they could.  As their friendship develops, Jenna's relationship with God develops too.  This is a great book.  I would love to find the first novel, Almost Forever, and read the third when it is released.  I think anyone who reads it will not be disappointed.

This book was provided by Glass Road Publicity Group for review without compensation.

Deborah Raney's first novel, A Vow to Cherish, was awarded a Silver Angel from Excellence in Media and inspired the acclaimed World Wide Pictures film of the same title.  Since then her books have won the RITA Award, the HOLT Medallion, and the National Readers' Choice Award; Raney was also a finalist for the Christy Award.  She has also written Beneath A Southern Sky.  She and her husband, artist Ken Raney, make their home in their native Kansas.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Plain Wisdom Book Review

An Invitation into an Amish Home and the Hearts of Two Women

SUMMARY:  Two friends from different worlds - one Old Order Amish, one Englischer - share the truths that bring them together.
     Best-selling novelist Cindy Woodsmall might seem to have little in common with Miriam Flaud, a woman immersed in the culture of Old Order Amish.  But with nine children and almost sixty years of marriage between them, Cindy and Miriam both have found the secrets to facing life with strength and grace.  Whether enduring financial setbacks, celebrating new babies and times of prosperity, grieving the crushing losses in the deaths of family and friends, or facing disappointments with their respective communities - through it all they find guidance for each day by looking to God.
     With poignant recollections, unexpected insights, and humorous tales, the two women welcome you into their unique friendship.  Youll also gain a rare glimpse into the traditions and ways of the Amish as iriam recalls special occasions and shares family recipes throughout the book.
     Plain Wisdom is a heartwarming celebration of God, womanhood, and the search for beauty that unites us all.  So grab a warm drink and your quilt and settle in for a soul-comforting read with Plain Wisdom.

REVIEW:  When I first saw this book, I wondered what it would be like since the authors are from two completely different backgrounds - what they would have to share that would be of interest to me.  What I found was two friends sharing their lives, backgrounds, family stories and, most importantly, God's love.  I felt like these women had become friends of mine as they shared their hurts, heartaches, concerns for their families along with the joy they found with their families, friends, celebrations, and the day in and day out things like cooking, laundry, and living.  God and His work in their lives is very evident throughout the book as they share how God has touched them, guided them when they needed direction and stood beside them in difficult times.  This book is a great read with short chapters.  It also includes some of Miriam's recipes that sound delicious.  I have marked a few to try later, especially when my zucchini comes in.  :-)

This book was provided by Waterbrook Multnomah for review without compensation.

Cindy Woodsmall is a New York Times best-selling author of several novels whose connection with the Amish community has been featured on ABC Nightline and on the front page of the Wall Street Journal.

Miriam Flaud is an Old Order Amish woman who has lived within one of the most structures societies in the United States.  She's experienced the abundant joys of that lifestyle as well as troubled times.  She and her husband have six children and several grandchildren.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Spring for Susannah Book Review

SUMMARY:  Hundreds of miles from home, Susannah faces an uncertain future as a mail-order bride on the untamed Dakota prairie.
     When her parents die suddenly, and no suitors call, Susannah resigns herself to the only option available:  becoming a mail-order bride.  Agreeing to marry her pastor's brother, Jesse, Susannah leaves the only home she's ever known for the untamed frontier of the Dakota Territory.
     Her new husband is more loving and patient with her than she believes she deserves.  Still, there is also a wildness to him that mirrors the wilderness surrounding them.  And Susannah finds herself constantly on edge.  But Jesse's confidence in her - and his faith in God's perfect plan - slowly begin to chip away at the wall she hides behind.
     When she miscarries in the brutal Dakota winder, Susannah's fledgling faith in herself and in God begins to crumble.  Still, Jesse's love is unwavering.  Just when it seems like winter will never end, Susannah finally sees the first tentative evidence of spring.  And with it, the realization that more than the landscape has changed.
     She looks to the future with a renewed heart.  Yet, in her wildest dreams, she couldn't predict all that awaits her.

REVIEW:  I love how Susannah becomes a stronger person as she learns to trust Jesse and God more.  Having learned veterinary skills from her father, she is a big help to Jesse and the people in their small community when problems arise with their livestock which, in turn, helps her confidence build.  When Jesse leaves to find work after they lose their crop to grasshoppers, Susannah is again forced to stand on her own, trust God with her future and husband, and exert herself when forced to make some difficult decisions.  This is an awesome book!!

This book was provided by Litfuse Publicity Group for review without compensation.

Catherine Richmond was focused on her career as an occupational therapist until a special song planted a story idea in her mind.  That idea would ultimately become Spring for Susannah, her first novel.  She is also a founder and moderator of Nebraska Novelists critique group and lives in Nebraska with her husband.  This book is her literary debut.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

A Reluctant Queen - The Love Story of Esther - Book Review

SUMMARY:  You've read it as a biblical tale of courage.  Experience it anew as a heart-stirring love story.

She was a simple girl faced with an impossible choice.
He was a magnificent king with a lonely heart.
Their love was the divine surprise that changed the course of history.

     The beloved story of Esther springs to fresh life in this inspired novel that vibrates with mystery, intrigue and romance.

REVIEW:  This is not your typical story of Esther.  The author is writing this strictly as a love story and does not stay true to all the information found in the bible.  She takes liberty with history also (she says historically, there was no kind called Ahasuerus.  Xerxes took the Persian throne after Darius, which is about the time the original story was written.)  While it can be distracting, especially if you are as familiar with this story and have studied it as often as I had, it does what it is meant to do:  tell a story of love between two people and how God works through human beings to accomplish His will.
      This was a good book.  I enjoyed the change with the story and loved how the two main characters fall in love, in spite of all their differences.  The author weaves a wonderful tale and doesn't forget what God can accomplish through us if we are willing.

This book was provided by Litfuse Publicity Group for review without compensation.

Joan Wolf was born in New York City but has lived most of her adult life in Connecticut with her husband, two children, and numerous pets.  She's the author of The Road to Avalon lauded as "historical fiction at its finest" by Publishers Weekly.

The Fine Art of Insincerity Book Review

SUMMARY:  Three Southern sisters with nine marriages among them - and more looming on the horizon - travel to St. Simons Island to empty their late grandmother's house.  Ginger, the eldest, wonders if she's the only one who hasn't inherited what their family calls "the Grandma Gene" - the tendency to enjoy the casualness of courtship more than the intimacy of marriage.  Could it be that her sisters are fated to serially marry, just like their seven-times-wed grandmother, Lillian Irene Harper Winslow Goldstein Carey James Bobrinski Gordon George?
     Marital frustrations collide with poignant memories when the sisters gather to close up Grandma's treasured beach house for the last time.  One sister faces her husband's infidelity, one plots the end of her life in pursuit of love, and one toys with the idea of leaving her loving but dull husband as the task at hand reminds them of their grandmother's love and life lessons.  This "girls only" weekend forced them to finally unpack their family baggage, examine their relationship DNA, and discover the true legacy their much-marrying grandmother left behind.

REVIEW:  This story was written in all three sisters' points of view.  It was very well written and not at all confusing.  I love being able to "see inside" each of the main characters and understand what they are thinking and why they say and do what they do.  While the sisters work together to clean out their grandmother's house, they come across items left behind that speak to each of them.  These things help the sisters work on solving their problems in their relationships with their husbands, themselves and each other.  This was a great book and was very hard to put down.

This book was provided by Glass Road Public Relations for review without compensation.

With nearly 4 million copies of her books sold worldwide, ANGELA ELWELL HUNT is the bestselling author of more than one hundred books, including The Tale of Three Trees, Don't Bet Against Me!, The Note, and The Nativity Story.  Hunt is one of the most sought-after collaborators in the publishing industry.  Her nonfiction book Don't Bet Against Me!, written with Deanna Favre, spent several weeks on the New York Times bestseller list.  Angela's novel The Note was filmed as a Hallmark Channel's Christmas movie for 2007 and proved to be the highest rated television movie in the channel's history.  She often travels to teach writing workshops at schools and writer's conferences.  She and her husband make their home in Florida.