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?

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

My God and My All Book Review

The Life of Saint Francis of Assisi

SUMMARY:  The ever-fascinating life of Saint Francis of Assisi, retold for today's readers by one of the great novelists of our time.
    Perhaps more than any other figure in Christian History, Saint Francis of Assisi has captured our imagination, for his is a story of extreme self-sacrifice, of love to God and humankind.  How could this wealthy, handsome youth cast away all the advantages that were his by birth and choose instead a life of poverty and humility?  How could he attract members of all strata of society to his mission?  And how, when his order became established throughout Europe, could he renounce great personal power and humbly continue his life's work?
     Here is Francis, from his twelfth-century boyhood to his life as a missionary roaming the very boundaries of the known world.  Here too are the colorful men and women who followed him, recreated by bestselling author Elizabeth Goudge against a rich medieval canvas.

REVIEW:  This book is not a quick or easy read.  It is more an academic-type biography in nature, which should be read slowly and thoughtfully to get the most out of the information.  I enjoyed reading Saint Francis' story, but have to admit, I did not finish the book.  It was so rich with information that I ran out of time before I could finish it.  Reading about his early life and how he gave it all up to follow God was facinating.  He felt God calling him to follow Christ's words in Matthew 10:9-14 that says:
“Do not get any gold or silver or copper to take with you in your belts—no bag for the journey or extra shirt or sandals or a staff, for the worker is worth his keep.  Whatever town or village you enter, search there for some worthy person and stay at their house until you leave.  As you enter the home, give it your greeting.  If the home is deserving, let your peace rest on it; if it is not, let your peace return to you.  If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, leave that home or town and shake the dust off your feet." Bible Gateway
     He and his followers would go out with nothing but the clothes on their backs to spread the gospel.  Sometimes the townspeople would provide food and shelter; others, they had to sleep outside in the dead of winter with nothing to cover them and nothing to eat.
     Anyone who wanted to follow him had to abide with absolutely no possessions at all.  Many followed, but some could not handle it.  Francis did not show them any animosity but love and grace.  He always thought of others before himself.  Even at the end of his life, he was thinking of those around him.
     This was a very interesting story and one I plan to finish one day very soon.  Anyone looking at church history and followers of Christ should read this book.

This book was provided by Handlebar for review without compensation.

Elizabeth Goudge (1900-1984) was one of the most popular British novelists of the twentieth century.  Her Green Dolphin Street, a #1 New York Times bestseller, was made into an Academy Award winning film.  She also wrote many acclaimed children's books - in 1946 she won the Carnegie Medal for The Little White Horse, which J.K. Rowling has said was her favorite book as a child.

The Prince Who Was Just Himself Book Review

SUMMARY:  It's a good thing everyone is different!
     The royal couple is looking forward to their third child.  "He looks a little different," muses the king at Prince Noah's arrival. "He is not like the others," agrees the queen.  Soon they notice what a very special person he is, even though he can't do everything his brothers can.
     When Prince Noah disarms the cruel knight Scarface with an act of compassion, everyone finally realizes how good it is that each person is unique.
     This delightfully illustrated fairy tale for children three years and older instills appreciation for children with Down syndrome and other developmental challenges, making it a valuable aid for teaching acceptance in the home or classroom.
     There are children who are slower, who can't run so well, who can say just a few words or none at all.  Each of them belongs in our world and enriches it.

REVIEW:  Even though my children are older, this book piqued my interest.  When we don't understand something or meet someone different from us, we try to put them in a box.  But, there are those who just knock out the sides of that box with their insight, love and compassion.  Prince Noah is one of those people.  Everything about him is different but different is good.  When the scary Scarface comes to take over the kingdom, Prince Noah uses the compassion given to him to change Scarface for the better.  I loved this book and hope to share it with everyone with little or big kids.  May we all be accepting and blessed by the Prince Noah's we meet.

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 in July, 2008 with Trisomy 21 (Down syndrome).  She writes, "At first when Noah was born, we were shocked and sad.  The catalyst for this book was witnessing the effect he had on many people, despite being categorized as disabled.  In fact, our little prince brings much love, joy and sunshine not only to us, but to all around him.  Children as a wonder, and we must see them with the eyes of our heart - each child just the way he or she is."

Heike Sistig studied 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 galleries.  She lives with her family in Cologne, Germany. 

The Mistress of Tall Acre Book Review

SUMMARY:  There can only be one mistress of Tall Acre.
     The American Revolution is finally over, and Sophie Menzies is starved for good news.  When her nearest neighbor, General Seamus Ogilvy, finally comes home to Tall Acre, she hopes it is a sign of better days to come.  But the general is now a widower with a small daughter in desperate need of a mother. Nearly destitute, Sophie agrees to marry Seamus and become the mistress of Tall Acre in what seems a safe, sensible arrangement. But when a woman from the general's past returns without warning, the ties that bind this fledgling family together will be strained to the utmost.  When all is said and done, who will be the rightful mistress of Tall Acre?
     Triumph and tragedy, loyalty and betrayal - you will find it all in the rich pages of this newest novel from the talented pen of Laura Frantz.

REVIEW:  Laura Frantz does a great job showing her readers what life after the American Revolution might have been like for those who served and for one who's loyalty to the cause is questioned due to familial choices.  Sophie was born in Scotland but raised in America, a land she loved.  But, because her father chose to side with the British and moved back to the familial lands in Scotland, Sophie is considered an outcast.
     I enjoyed reading how Seamus' daughter Lily Cate loved Sophie and was ready to accept her as her new mother.  I also liked how Sophie's faith played a big part in everything she did and how it affected those around her for the better.  The author threw a curve ball with the return of the woman from the general's past.  I was not expecting it and loved how everything worked out in the end.
     This is a great book.  Check it out!

This book was provided by Revell for review without compensation.

Laura Frantz is a Christy Award finalist and the author of several books, including The Frontiersman's Daughter, Courting Morrow Little, The Colonel's Lady, and the Ballantyne Legacy series.  She lives and writes in a log cabin in the heart of Kentucky.  Learn more at

Last Chance Hero Book Review

 A Place to Call Home Series
Book Four

SUMMARY:  What happens when your heart is intercepted before you even know it's in play?
     The folks in Last Chance, New Mexico, could not be more pleased.  Dr. Jessica MacLeod has opened an office right on Main Street, and Andy Ryan, the best athlete the little town ever produced, has come home from the NFL to coach the high school football team. Unfortunately, Dr. Jess immediately gets off on the wrong foot with this football-obsessed town when she admits that she's never seen a football game, isn't really interested in doing so, and in fact doesn't know a first down from a goalpost.
     Despite having little in common, Jess and Andy find themselves drawn to each other.  But when a disagreement over the future of an injured player puts them both on the defensive, it begins to look like this game it over . . .

REVIEW:  As with the other books in this series, this series is fun, full of laughter, and serious points, too.  The characters are ones you'd want to be friends with, in real life.  While the main focus is on Dr. Jess and Andy, I love how the characters you met in previous books are developed more and how more of their lives are revealed.  It would be nice, though, if a Cast of Characters was included to remind you who everyone is and how they are connected. 
     The town, while quick to accept Dr. Jess as a person, has a harder time accepting her as their doctor.  They are set in their ways and find it difficult to switch gears.  On the other hand, townsfolk are quick to support Andy in anything he does, as long as he accomplishes a winning football season. 
   While this is a great book, it ended way to quickly and left a LOT of unfinished business.  What happened at Homecoming?  Would Jess ever be able to understand and appreciate the game of football?  Did Emma and her family get the help they needed?  What did the college scout think of Zach and Gabe?  Also, the spiritual aspect was hardly mentioned.  Now, Elizabeth alluded to faith when talking to Jess and she attended church with the rest of the town, there was no personal relationship with Christ mentioned. 
     All in all, it's a good book but, like I mentioned earlier, a lot seemed to be left undone.

This book was provided by Revell for review without compensation.

Cathleen Armstrong lives in Orange County, California with her husband, Ed, and their corgi.  Though she has been in California for many years now, her roots remain deep in New Mexico.  Her debut novel Welcome to Last Chance won the American Christian Fiction Writers Genesis Award for Women's Fiction.  She is also the author of One More Last Chance and At Home in Last Chance.  Learn more at

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

The Memory Weaver Book Review

SUMMARY:  Eliza Spalding Warren was just a child when she was taken hostage by the Cayuse Indians during a massacre in 1847.  Now a mother of two, Eliza faces a new kind of dislocation: her impulsive husband wants to make a new start in another territory, which will mean leaving her beloved home and her mother's grave - and returning to the land of her captivity.
     Haunted by memories and hounded by struggle, Eliza longs to know how her mother dealt with the trauma of their ordeal.  As she searches the pages of her mother's diary, Eliza is stunned to find that her own recollections tell only part of the story.
     Based on true events, The Memory Weaver is New York Times bestselling author Jane Kirkpatrick's latest literary journey into the past, where threads of western landscapes, family, and faith weave a tapestry of hope inside every pioneering woman's heart.  Get swept up in this emotional story of the memories that entangle us and the healing that awaits us when we bravely unravel the threads of the past.

REVIEW:  Since I was not familiar with the story of the actual events, I had a difficult time fully understanding everything going on in the book.  The relationship between Eliza and her dad was a strange one.  After the death of Mrs. Spalding, Mr. Spalding treated Eliza almost like his wife - even though she was only 14 year old, putting her in charge of keeping house, taking care of her siblings, cooking for everyone and sewing and mending their clothes - but hardly communicated with her.  He would take Eliza, and sometime her brother, on preaching trips for weeks, leaving Mrs. Spalding behind.  When she eloped with her husband, her father basically disowned her and wouldn't talk to her for years. 
     The flashbacks of the hostage situation that Eliza had were difficult to follow because they happened at odd times and seemed really random.  Towards the end of the book, as Eliza confronts her fears and returns to the area where her captivity occurred, she is given her mother's diaries which, along with a few other things, helps clarify what actually transpired. 
     Even though the ending wrapped up some questions and confusion I had, this is still a novel that I might have trouble recommending.

This book was provided by Revell for review without compensation.

Jane Kirkpatrick is the New York Times and CBA bestselling author of twenty-seven books, including A Light in the Wilderness and A Sweetness to the Soul, which won the coveted Wrangler Award from the Western Heritage Center.  Her books have been awarded the WILLA Literary Award and Carol Award for Historical Fiction and have been finalists for many others.  Jane lives in Central Oregon with her husband, Jerry.  Learn more at

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Israel's Mission DVD and Discovery Guide Review

Becoming a Kingdom of Priests
in a Prodigal World

SUMMARY:  WHAT'S YOUR MISSION?  God gave an assignment to His people thousands of years ago:  Bring "lost sheep" back into the love and safety of His kingdom.  It's still our task today.  In this 13th volume of That the World May Know, you'll glimpse the urgency and rewards of welcoming the strangers and prodigals the Lord longs to embrace.  Discover the mission that can give your life - and the lives of those around you - greater meaning that you ever imagined.

Five Episodes filmed on location in the Middle East
  1. Abraham and Sarah and Three Strangers (Negev, Israel)
  2. Israel at Sinai: The First Great Commission (Timnah, Israel)
  3. Jesus Renews His Mission:  Seeking the Lost (Qatzrin, Israel)
  4. The Lost Son:  In a Far Country (Jerash, Jordan)
  5. The Seeking Father:  The Lost Son Returns (Qatzrin, Israel)
      This Discovery Guide will take you on an interactive journey.  Each session . . . 
  • Focuses on passages of Scripture explored in the film.
  • Includes sidebars, maps, photos and other study tools.
  • Features questions that facilitate discussion and inspire personal reflection.
That the World May Know
     Join renowned teacher and historian Ray Vander Laan as he guides you through the land of the Bible.  In each lesson, Vander Laan illuminates the historical, geographical and cultural context of the sacred Scriptures.  Filmed on location in the Middle East and elsewhere, the That the World May Know film series will transform your understanding of God and challenge you to be a true follower of Jesus.

REVIEW:  Having seen some of Ray Vander Laan's  That the World May Know videos in the past, I was excited to see this opportunity come across my desk.  The author and teacher of this video series gives you details based on cultural views, historical context and geography that has gotten lost in our modern day Western culture to help you understand what the biblical writers meant in a deeper, most eye-opening way.  In this series, Mr. Vander Laan focuses on our mission - bringing others back into the family fold - and how this assignment was given to the Israelites in the desert and again to the followers of Jesus.  The details given about how the patriarchal society the Hebrews were familiar with is a representation of the family of God.  The parables of the Lost Sheep, the Lost Coin and the Prodigal Son are seen in a different light when you look at the context of the patriarchal family - the beth ab - and shows us just how God keeps pursuing us, even when we don't want to be found.  The Discovery Guide gives you more details and focuses on other stories in the bible in greater detail that also support this idea of redemption.  Maps, side bar notes and "Did You Know" sections help bring the reader to a deeper understanding of the passages covered.
     This is a wonderful series and lives up to the memory of the ones I've seen previously.  This series is great for a small group, Sunday school class, Bible Study group or even an individual who wants to dig deeper into the bible.  You will not be disappointed.

This DVD and Discovery Guide was provided by Litfuse Publicity Group and Zondervan 
for review without compensation.

Ray Vander Laan is the founder of That the World May Know Ministries and creator of the That the World May Know video series with Focus on the Family.  An ordained minister, he holds the chair of biblical cultural studies as a religion instructor at Holland Christian Schools in Holland, Michigan.  He and his wife, Esther, have four children and 16 grandchildren.

Steven and Amanda Sorenson are founders of Sorenson Communications and have cowritten many small group curriculum guidebooks, including the entire That the World May Know film series.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

The Plain Choice Book Review

A True Story of Choosing 
to Live an Amish Life

SUMMARY:  Sometimes Faith Is the Greatest Surprise of All
     As a young adult, Sherry Gore dreamed of a radio career, but instead, a series of terrible mistakes left her wrecked and alone.  Then one morning she walked into a church and the truth of Jesus' forgiving love shattered her world - and put it back together again.  She began to rid her life of anything that might keep her from God, but still she wanted a deeper faith.  Something more.
     Soon the life Sherry remade for herself and her children featured head coverings, simple dress, and a focus on Jesus Christ.  Only then did she realize that there were others like her:  the Amish/

She Left Everything to Find All She Needed
     The Plain Choice is the fascinating story of one woman's journey toward God through the Amish community.  After making the rare transition into Amish life, Sherry learned how to live off the land and make it, grow it, or do without it.  She learned the adventure of the horse-and-buggy life and began to thrive on faith, family and pie.  And when her teenage daughter was diagnosed with a devastating illness, she learned again how bright God's light can shine when everything else seems dark.
     This unusual memoir offers a riveting look at the choices we make toward or away from God - and how God pursues us in the most unexpected ways.

REVIEW:  For the past few years, I've been following Sherry Gore on Facebook.  I'm not sure how I found her but love her insights, humor and pictures of the pies she makes.  Her autobiography is just an extension of her FB page, just more in depth and personal.  Sherry did not grow up Amish but, after her conversion to Christianity, found their lifestyle was more like the life she felt she needed to live.  Details of her growing up in the 70s, 80s and 90s were raw but real.  She does not hold back any punches but shows her readers where she came from and where God has her now.  Sherry's life has not been easy but God has walked with her every step of the way.  After she decided to become Amish, Sherry's relationship with God grew stronger and helped prepare her for the difficult road her family would face after her daughter's devastating diagnosis.  This book is a wonderful story of God's pursuit and how He prepares His children for life on this earth and, eventually, heaven.  This book is difficult but awe-inspiring.  Check it out, then follow her on Facebook.

This book was provided by BookLook Bloggers and Zondervan 
for review without compensation.

Sherry Gore is the author of two cookbooks, Simply Delicious Amish Cooking and Me, Myself, and Pie, and co-author of the novel Made with Love.  She is also a weekly scribe for the national edition of the Amish newspaper, The Budget, established in 1890.  The National Geographic Channel featured Sherry prominently in their documentary series, Amish: Out of Order.  Sherry's culinary adventures have been seen on NBC Daytime, The Today Show, Mr. Food Test Kitchen, and more.  Sherry is a year-round resident of beautiful, sun-kissed Sarasota, Florida, the vacation paradise of the Plain People.  She has three children and is a member of a Beachy Amish Mennonite church.  When not spending time with her family, writing, or eating, Sherry is a cooking-show host and an official pie-contest judge. 

Friday, September 11, 2015

Luther and Katharina Book Review

A Novel of Love and Rebellion

SUMMARY:  She was a nun of noble birth.  He, a heretic, a reformer . . . an outlaw of the Holy Roman Empire.
     In the sixteen century, nun Katharina von Bora's fate fell no further than the Abbey.  Until she read the writings of Martin Luther.
     His sweeping Catholic church reformation - condemning a cloistered life and promoting the goodness of marriage - awakened her desire for everything she'd been forbidden.
     Including Martin Luther himself.
     Despite the fact that the attraction and tension between them is undeniable, Luther holds fast to his convictions and remains isolated, refusing to risk anyone's life but his own.  Katharina longs for love, but is strong-willed.  She clings proudly to her class distinction, pining for nobility over the heart of a reformer.
     They couldn't be more different.
     But as the world comes tumbling down around them, and with the threat on Luther's life a constant strain, these unlikely allies forge an unexpected bond of understanding, support, and love.
     Together, they will alter the religious landscape forever.

REVIEW:  Having read many of Jody Hedlund's previous novels, my curiosity was peaked when I saw this one.  Martin Luther is someone I've only heard about in small instances so I was curious about he and his wife and how this author would interpret their relationship.  I really enjoyed it immensely!!!  The characters and dialogue are well-written and the story keeps the reader turning pages.  
     The struggle Martin Luther and his followers faced is described, showing just how difficult it was to shake off the bond of Roman Catholicism and, basically, the rule of the land.  As a nun who was brought to the abbey at age 5, Katharina struggles with living outside the abbey walls, the frustrations of not having a marketable skill and the hardships that come with leaving everything you ever knew.  
      While Luther is surrounded with people who support him and are concerned for him, he struggles with major health issues.  He also gives everything he has to anyone in need, often leaving himself in want of food and money.  Probably Luther's biggest concern, though, is getting the princes in power around Germany and the peasants to fully understand that they are to love one another and not persecute each other for their beliefs.
     Ms. Hedlund does not mince words when it comes to the cruelty of those who are against change, whether for Catholicism or Reformation, but she also doesn't go into too much graphic detail, only what is necessary.  The author does take some liberties with added characters and circumstances, but they are things that very well could have happened to Luther and company.
     This is a wonderful novel about the "founders" of Protestantism and the Reformation and the love they shared.  

This Advanced Reader Copy was provided by 
Waterbrook Multnomah/Blogging for Books 
for review without compensation.
Jody Hedlund is a CBA best-selling author of nearly a dozen books.  Her novel, A Noble Groom, has won the Carol Award and the INSPYs.  Hedlund revels in bringing forgotten historic women to life and can usually be found with a book, a cup of coffee, and a piece of chocolate.  She lives in Midland, Michigan, with her husband and children.