Thursday, June 30, 2011

False Witness

False Witness

by Randy Singer

Professor Wang Dagan has created the abacus algorithm, a mathematical formula that has the power to cripple the internet. The Chinese mafia gets wind of its existence, and will do anything to get ahold of it. They kidnap Jessica Shealy, wife of bounty hunter Clark Shealy, in order to force Clark to track down Dagan and the algorithm. The Shealys are able to escape, but are forced to go into witness protection. Enter Jamie Brock, Isaiah Haywood, and Wellington Farnsworth, all law students working at a legal aid clinic. The Shealys approach them with an interesting request. What will happen to the Shealys and the algorithm? What happens to Wang Dagan? I can’t go into a lot of detail on this book, because too much of the plot would be given away.

I did struggle with the intense violence in the beginning of the book. A less sensitive person may not be bothered by it, but I had a hard time not squirming in my seat at certain parts. However, I was intrigued by the age old struggle between good and evil that was represented in this book. I found myself asking myself how far I would go to protect someone I loved. Would I inflict violence on someone else? How much worth can you place on each life – is it okay to torture and kill someone in order to save another? The author did not create a Christian character in Clark Shealy. His character did have some morals, because he did experience some hesitation before the violence. But it made me wonder how differently the story would have turned out had Shealy been a Christian.

I highly recommend this book that I could barely put down!

**After note: I wrote this review, then went to post it on Amazon. Curious about what others had to say, I read through some of the reviews and was confused when I saw some reviews that talked about the book’s treatment of the Indian Dalit Untouchables. It made me wonder if I had read the same book as them. Then I discovered that the new Tyndale edition had been revised. Professor Dagan was now Professor Kumari, and the Chinese Underground Church was now the Dalits, the lowest caste in Indian society. It doesn’t appear that the storyline was changed any more than that. I do wish that I had known of these changes before I read the original, though.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Journey to Riverbend

Journey to Riverbend

by Henry McLaughlin

Some books take me a bit of time to get into. This book is one of them. But once I was interested, I was hooked, and could hardly put it down. The book opens with an introduction to Michael Archer and Ben Carstairs. Michael works as a jail chaplain, and Ben is about to be hung for a crime he didn't commit. Right before he dies, Ben asks Michael to make amends with his father, Sam Carstairs, for him. Michael arrives in Riverbend, Sam's hometown, and discovers that Sam is out of town on business. He soon meets Rachel Stone, a beautiful girl with a less than reputable past, who lives with the preacher and his wife. Michael is able to relate to her because he has some things in his past that he would like to hide. 

Sam Carstairs is a ruthless businessman who will do whatever it takes to get ahead. His past shady business dealings come to haunt him, and he starts receiving notes from someone who wants him to pay for what he has done. He is kidnapped on the stagecoach on his way home, and the news gets to Riverbend. They put a posse together to find him, and Michael decides to join. 

I'm not going to give any more of the story away, but I can assure you this book will have you turning page after page. It's a very good story set in the old west. I really liked how the author painted Michael Archer as a strong man of God who is able to influence the men around him. I highly recommend this book.

About the author:

Henry McLaughlin is the 2009 winner of the Jerry B. Jenkins Christian Writers Guild Operation First Novel Contest. He has a master's degree in social work and spent many years working in the public child welfare system. It was in this role that he first honed his writing skills in preparing concise and accurate court reports and petitions. He retired from that career in 1999 to work with Kenneth Copeland Ministries. Henry and his wife, Linda, have been married for over forty years and live in Saginaw, Texas. They have five children, the oldest of whom is in heaven, and one grandchild. Visit his website at

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Enemies of the Heart

Enemies of the Heart

by Andy Stanley

I have heard Andy Stanley speak in person 3 times. All of those times I found him to be a very engaging speaker. Until reading this one, I had never read any of his books. I was very happy to discover that his writing style is just as engaging. 

In Enemies of the Heart, previously published under the title It Came From Within, Andy Stanley talks about the four emotions that control us: Guilt, Anger, Greed, and Jealousy. He says that for every evil deed that is done, the motive stems from one of these. As I thought about it, I had to agree. He explains that guilt is the belief that "I owe you"; anger is the belief that "you owe me"; greed is the belief that "I owe me"; and jealousy is the belief that "God owes me." For each of these, Stanley offers solutions for ridding ourselves of the negative emotions. Before the skeptics step in and say that it can never be that easy to rid ourselves of negative behaviors, Stanley talks about how our humanity wants to dredge up the emotions long after incidents are over, but God can free us. 

I would recommend this book to anyone who is interested in learning more about the emotions that control our hearts. I would actually recommend that everyone read this book, for the reason that Andy Stanley has a way of making God's Word relevant and applicable to life. When I first picked up the book, I wasn't sure what God was going to teach me. But I found myself searching my heart to see if any of the negative emotions controlled me. It is not easy to find the darkness that lurks in the heart, but it is always encouraging to know that God is a forgiving God, and if we allow Him to change us, He will. 

Please click here to rank my review.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Waterbrook Multnomah. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Sunday, June 19, 2011

A Reluctant Queen

A Reluctant Queen

by Joan Wolf

I have always been fascinated by the story of Esther in the Bible - from the unknown Jewish woman who becomes Queen of Persia, to the way she saves her people from annihilation - what a story! I was somewhat hesitant to read this rendering, simply because I don't always like the artistic liberties some authors take with Bible stories. I have to admit I had a hard time getting into it. The beginning felt a bit forced - mostly from the dialogue. But then I just decided to forget the little details and enjoy the story as a whole. In the Author's Note, she admits to taking some liberties with the story. I am not enough of a biblical scholar to know which historical details were embellished. What I did enjoy was the way the author made the characters seem human - as she explains at the end, she had to give them motives to do what they did - Haman's hatred for Mordecai, Esther's love for her people and King Ahasuerus. 

This book intrigued me enough that I think I am going to read Esther in the Bible this week. Maybe I will even do a study on it. 

Q & A with Author Joan Wolf
A Reluctant Queen, Thomas Nelson, June 2011

What draws you to historical/biblical fiction?
I have always adored history, a love I inherited from my father. He used to discuss people from history as if they were people in the current newspapers. I think almost 90% of my books must have an historical setting.

You’ve had a successful career writing for the ABA, why start writing for the CBA now?
A few years ago I had an extraordinary experience where God touched my life. This encounter stirred my interest in writing about other people who had experienced the presence of God in their lives and the CBA seemed to be the best place for me to do that.

What is it about the historical account of Esther that led you to write a romance story about her?
When I was a girl Esther fascinated me. It seemed wonderful that God had chosen a woman to be the person who would save His people. And, since I am a romantic soul, I also thought that there must have been a great love between her and the king for him to have done as she asked.

Why did you move away from the traditional interpretation of King Ahasuerus’ conduct?
I always thought that Ahasuerus must have loved Esther deeply because he listened to her and revoked the edict that Haman had sent out. A king who not only allows his wife to break into his religious feast without punishment, but also comes to have dinner with her the following day, must care for her very much indeed. And such a man must be a much nicer person than the king traditionally portrayed by Xerses/ Ahasuerus.

You love animals. Do you ever incorporate them into your books?
Do I not ever incorporate animals into my books? I am famous for my horses, but dogs play their part as well. Unfortunately, I couldn’t put Esther on a horse, but I did make Ahasuerus a fanatical horseman.

What is your favorite historical era to write about?
I love to go way back in time, to periods where the records are mostly archeological. I actually did three books set in the Upper Paleolithic, the period of the last ice age. My next book is about Rahab, and I’m having such fun reading about pottery and stone remains from the late Bronze Age.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from LitFuse Publicity Group.

To celebrate
Joan Wolf’s debut Christian Fiction title, A Reluctant Queen, Joan and her publisher, Thomas Nelson, have teamed up to give away A Reluctant Queen prize package worth over $150!

One grand prize winner will receive:

* A brand new Latest Generation KINDLE with Wi-Fi and Pearl Screen

A Reluctant Queen by Joan Wolf (for KINDLE)

To enter, just click one of the icons below. But, hurry, the contest ends on June 20th. Winner will be announced on June 21st during Joan’s
A Reluctant Queen Book Club Party on Facebook (details below)! Hope to see you there – bring your friends!

Enter via E-mail Enter via FacebookEnter via Twitter

Join the fun on June 21st! 

Joan will be wrapping up the
blog tour and Kindle giveaway promotion during her A Reluctant Queen FACEBOOK party on her FB author page. During the party she'll announce the winner of the Kindle, host a book chat discussion, test your trivia skills (Is Esther's story in A Reluctant Queen fact or fiction?), and more. Don't miss this chance to meet the author and make some new friends!

I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Her Daughter's Dream

Her Daughter's Dream

by Francine Rivers

I started Her Daughter's Dream almost immediately after finishing Her Mother's Hope. The first book ends with Marta, "Oma," going to her daughter Hildemara's house to take care of Carolyn, her granddaughter, while Hildemara recovered from tuberculosis. This serves to further drive a wedge in Hildemara and Marta's relationship, as jealousy crops up over who will care for Carolyn.

I was quickly swept up into the book as Carolyn's story started to unfold. One tragedy after another seems to define her life, and she runs away to the counter-culture of San Francisco in the 1960s. When she returns home, she finds out she is expecting a baby, who she names May Flower Dawn.

I think I liked this book even more than the first. I loved reading about how God redeemed the lives of the characters, and "restored the years that the locust had eaten." My favorite books always have a theme of redemption, and Francine Rivers never fails to disappoint. I especially enjoyed reading the afterword, where Francine talked a little bit about her family's history, and how it correllated with the story in this series.

I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys reading about God's redeeming mercy in the lives of characters that seem like they could live next door.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Spring for Susannah: My Review & a Chance to Win a Kindle!

Spring for Susannah

by Catherine Richmond

I usually enjoy a good Christian historical romance, but I have mixed feelings about this one. The novel starts out with Susannah Underhill getting off a train in the Dakota Territory as a mail order bride for Jesse Mason, her minister's brother. Due to her rigid upbringing and a terrifying experience a few weeks earlier, Susannah is quite skittish and living up to the title of "a woman of few words." Try as he might, Jesse has a difficult time drawing her out of her shell and getting her to trust him.

By the end of the book, Susannah discovers that her real issue is her lack of trust in God. The harsh prairie conditions force her to recommit her faith in God. I liked the way the author painted Susannah's faith journey. However, I am hesitant to recommend this book because of the overly graphic (for my taste) sensual descriptions. It seemed sort of odd to me. I am glad they were descriptions of a married couple, but I think a lot of the detail could have been scaled back.

Overall, I did find the book interesting. I always enjoy learning about history through the medium of fiction.

About the author, Catherine Richmond:

Catherine Richmond was focused on her career as an occupational therapist till 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 Novelist critique group and lives in Nebraska with her husband. For more about Catherine, please visit her website here.

To celebrate her debut novel, Catherine and her publisher, Thomas Nelson, have teamed up to give away a Spring For Susannah Prize Package worth over $150!

One grand prize winner will receive:

* A brand new Latest Generation KINDLE with Wi-Fi and Pearl Screen

* Spring for Susannah by Catherine Richmond (for KINDLE)

To enter just click one of the icons below and then tell your friends! But hurry, giveaway ends on June 27th. Winner will be announced on Tuesday, June 28th at 5 PM (6PM MST, 7PM CST, & 8PM EST) during Catherine's Spring for Susannah Book Club Party on Facebook! Catherine is rustling up some fun for the party - she'll be chatting about the story behind her novel, hosting a book club chat, testing your mail-order bride trivia skills, and giving away some GREAT prizes! Don't miss the fun and tell your friends!

Enter via E-mail Enter via FacebookEnter via Twitter

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from LitFuse Publicity Group. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Her Mother's Hope

Her Mother's Hope

by Francine Rivers

Marta Schneider's father is determined that she won't be smarter than her brother, so he takes her out of school when she's 12 years old and sends her out to work to help support the family. Marta finds the work a relief to get away from her abusive father, and learns valuable skills in the process. She eventually opens her own boarding house in France, and meets her husband, Niclas Waltert. The two move to Canada and experience the struggles of farming. Soon they have 4 children, one of whom is Hildemara Rose, who becomes the main character in the middle of the book. Hildemara feels she can never do enough to please her mother, while Marta only wants her to be able to stand on her own two feet. Will Marta's and Hildemara's relationship eventually change? Will Hildemara be able to spread her wings and prove her strength?

I really enjoyed this book. Starting in turn of the century Switzerland and ending in post-World War II California, I had a hard time putting it down. I have to admit I struggled with Marta's character. I was sympathetic towards her in the beginning as she was escaping her father's abuse and forging her own way, but I had a difficult time sympathizing when she fought with her husband for dominance of the household, and treated Hildemara so cruelly. By the end of the book I understood her a bit more, but I am looking forward to reading the second and concluding book, Her Daughter's Dream, to find out if the two can repair their relationship.

I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys good historical fiction with a bit of romance.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Growing Up Amish

Growing Up Amish

by Ira Wagler

I can't say I had ever read a memoir from someone who had been a "real" Amish person, before I read this book. I was intrigued to find out from someone on the inside, what really goes on in the Amish community. 

Ira Wagler grew up in an Amish community in Aylmer, Ontario. The 8th of 10 children, he witnessed several of his older siblings walk away from the Amish faith, but he also watched as one of his brothers became a preacher, and other siblings thrive in their Amish identities. Around the time he hit 15, Ira realized a restless spirit, an emptiness inside that spurred him on to wild behavior and leaving the Amish community 3 times. I won't give anything away, but by the end of the book, Ira has finally settled in his spirit, in his final decision of whether to stay or leave.

I liked this book. It was different from anything I have ever read. My only criticism is that it seems to drag a bit, as he's going back and forth with leaving his family and returning. I also think I would have liked to see a little more dialogue included. Much of the book is in narrative format - the author is telling the story without much dialogue. 

I would recommend this book to anyone who is interested in learning more about the Amish community - especially from someone on the inside.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Tyndale House Publishers. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Thursday, June 2, 2011

So Long, Insecurity

So Long, Insecurity

by Beth Moore

Insecurity. The very word itself makes one insecure. No one really wants to admit it, but everyone experiences insecurity at some point of his/her life. Written primarily for women (though men could probably benefit, especially in understanding the women in their lives), So Long, Insecurity touches on a subject that is not often discussed. Beth Moore tends to do that.

I read this book last year, during a time in my life that I needed it most. God reached through the pages of this book and touched my heart, changed me. With each page I turned, each chapter that went by, it seemed that Beth was speaking directly to me. There were times when I wanted to hide, and times I wanted to rejoice. Shortly after finishing the book I attended Beth's conference by the same title at church. It too was amazing, but I found myself wishing that more of the book could have been covered in the conference.

I think what affected me most about the book was the way Beth admitted to her own insecurities. It made her seem down to earth, as if I could sit down and chat with her, and she would understand what I was going through.

I would recommend this book to anyone who isn't afraid of baring all before a God who sees all. I don't think anyone can read this book and walk away unchanged. I certainly didn't. I grew a closer walk with God, and as I look back a year after reading this book, I see all that God did in my life as a result of listening to Him. Beth Moore's book was merely an instrument - but one that deeply changed me.