Thursday, November 28, 2013

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Aloha Rose by Lisa Carter - REVIEWED

This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
Aloha Rose
Abingdon Press (November 19, 2013)
Lisa Carter


A word from the author:

I am a wife and mother. My husband and I have two daughters and make our home in the beautiful state of North Carolina.

I am a teacher. With a Master’s degree in history, I have taught at the university, high school and middle school levels. After years of church involvement as a soloist, choir member and worship leader, I also teach music.

I am a writer. Delighted by the rhythm and musicality of words, I have been writing since childhood. In 2001, I won the Mothers of Preschoolers (MOPS) Story Writing Contest that re-ignited a lifelong love of writing.

I am on a journey of faith. My ultimate desire through my life and my writing is to proclaim the truth of God’s Word, His redeeming love as seen in the life of Jesus Christ and to help others know for themselves this great, awesome God of all comfort and wisdom. He is enough for every need.


When Laney Carrigan sets out to find her birth family, her only clue is the Hawaiian quilt—a red rose snowflake appliquéd on a white background—in which she was found wrapped as an infant. Centering her search on the Big Island and battling fears of rejection, Laney begins a painstaking journey toward her true heritage. Kai Barnes, however, is determined to protect the people he’s come to regard as family. He thinks Laney is nothing more than a gold digger and blocks every move she makes toward her Hawaiian family. As their conflict escalates, it puts at risk the one thing that Kai and Laney both want most—a family.

My Thoughts:
I’m so tired of being everybody’s mistake,” she whispered."  (p. 128)

Even though Laney whispers these words, this statement serves as a pretty accurate description of how Kai feels about himself too.  Actually, this book sort of directs the reader one direction then another as each character faces their own struggles.  As each character finds a measure of healing, God uses them to share light with someone else who is struggling to find their way – even if they don’t realize the struggle.

Aloha Rose is a romance in the Quilts of Love series, and the relationships that develop encompass more than just romance.  There are familial ties made, bonds of friendship forged, and yes romance.  I’ll admit, I was put off by some of the rather cliché descriptions of Kai and his “blue orbs”.  Sorry, that was a bit much.  But, he IS supposed to be some dashing, hard-to-resist, cowboy-type, so I got past it.  And romance isn’t typically my choice of reading material right now anyway, but this series has been composed of some really stellar stories, so I didn’t want to miss this one. 

I wasn’t disappointed in the end.  The couple in this story has some pretty huge obstacles to overcome.  So please, pick up your copy today.  It will make a fabulous gift for the reader on your list, and will be perfect for a cozy afternoon by the fire. 

If you would like to read the first chapter of Aloha Rose, go HERE.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Dear Mr. Knightley by Katherine Reay - REVIEWED

About the Book:
Samantha Moore has always hidden behind the words of others—namely her favorite characters in literature. Now, she will learn to write her own story—by giving that story to a complete stranger.
Growing up orphaned and alone, Sam found her best friends in the works of Austen, Dickens, and the Brontë sisters. The problem is that she now relates to others more comfortably as Elizabeth Bennet and Jane Eyre than as herself.
Sometimes we lose ourselves in the things we care about most.
But life for this twenty-three-year-old is about to get stranger than fiction, when an anonymous benefactor (calling himself “Mr. Knightley”) offers to put Sam through the prestigious Medill School of Journalism. There is only one catch: Sam must write frequent letters to the mysterious donor, detailing her progress.
As Sam’s program and peers force her to confront her past, she finds safety in her increasingly personal letters to Mr. Knightley. And when Sam meets eligible, best-selling novelist Alex Powell, those letters unfold a story of love and literature that feels as if it’s pulled from her favorite books. But when secrets come to light, Sam is – once again – made painfully aware of how easily trust can be broken.  
Reay’s debut novel follows one young woman’s journey as she sheds her protective persona and embraces the person she was meant to become.
My Thoughts:
Changing, being real and becoming who you want to be is hard work.”  (p. 200)

Truer words were never spoken, dear reader!  And when you read Samantha Moore’s journey of becoming who she wants to be – who indeed God intended her to become – your heart will be touched very deeply.  You will begin to consider that fact that many people with whom you interact have worn or are still wearing a mask of protection around their hearts and lives.  Trust has been shattered, betrayal has robbed them of peace and wholeness, and they are struggling to find their way.

It isn’t until Samantha uncovers her past and becomes real to other that her own personal transformation begins.  Hers is not, sadly, and unusual story.  It is a heartbreaking and painful story. However, God’s mercy and grace are showered upon her through an anonymous benefactor, and she is given the opportunity to reach inside her heart and mind and discover her gift.  The words she has hid behind for so long become the very tool that is used to open the door of transformation in her life.
Sam learns that trust is still something fragile and something to be handled with care.  She learns that her trust in others can still be shattered.  But she also learns her own worth and strength and she continues to grow despite the temptation to once again hide behind the stories that sheltered her for so long.  This is a tender, honest story that will have a great impact on the hearts and lives of others.  What a FABULOUS debut!!  I anticipate great things from Katherine Reay!

About the Author:
Katherine Reay has enjoyed a life-long affair with the works of Jane Austen and her contemporaries. After earning degrees in history and marketing from Northwestern University, she worked as a marketer for Proctor & Gamble and Sears before returning to school to earn her MTS. Her works have been published in "Focus on the Family" and the "Upper Room." Katherine currently lives with her husband and three children in Seattle. "Dear Mr. Knightley" is her first novel.
Buy a your copy HERE today!

Friday, November 22, 2013

Critical Reaction by Todd M. Johnson - REVIEWED

This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
Critical Reaction
Bethany House Publishers (November 19, 2013)
Todd M. Johnson


Todd M. Johnson has practiced as an attorney for over 30 years, specializing as a trial lawyer. Todd's career experience blends with his passion for writing in his novels published through Bethany House.

A graduate of Princeton University and the University of Minnesota Law School, he also taught for two years as an adjunct professor of International Law, and served as a US diplomat in Hong Kong.

The Deposit Slip, Mr. Johnson's first novel, debuted in 2012. Todd's second novel, Critical Reaction, will be released in November 2013.

Todd lives outside Minneapolis, Minnesota, with his wife Cathy and children Ian and Libby.


After decades of turning out plutonium for the arms race, the Hanford Nuclear Facility has long been shuttered, though its deadly legacy cannot be fully contained. The men who guard the facility from sabotage or monitor its buildings for radiation leaks are told the risks are under control. They believe it, until the worst happens: a thunderous explosion in the dead of night.

Two workers, lifer Poppy Martin and new hire Kieran Mullaney, believe themselves lucky to survive the blast. But as the debris is cleared, they discover their safety is not assured. Dead ends and closed doors halt their efforts to discover what really happened--and what radiation may have poisoned them. When stalling and threats force them into the hands of experienced trial lawyer Ryan Hart, they learn that theirs is no ordinary lawsuit. There is something still hidden in the desert of eastern Washington, and someone is willing to go to extreme lengths to make sure it never sees the light of day.

My Thoughts:
A nuclear explosion....a survivor seeking justice…a daughter and father brought together in the throes of loss to seek the truth…a corrupt soul attempting to hide his identity….all of this and more are captured in a most intriguing tale….Critical Reaction.  You heart and mind will react to this story on many levels, and I think you will be left changed in the aftermath of this explosive story.

Legal thriller, espionage, this story captures you in many different ways, so I think this is a story that will appeal to a broad and complex audience.  There are identities that stay hidden in shadow that make this story even more thrilling, and the level of danger increases exponentially as you near the end of the novel, so your heart takes a beating toward the end.  In short, this is a very well-written, well-paced novel that will create a hungry fan base!! I know I’m already waiting for more from this author!! This is what the journey is all about!!

If you would like to read the first chapter of Critical Reaction, go HERE.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

For Love or Loyalty Book 1, MacGregor Legacy by Jennifer Hudson Taylor

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!

Today's Wild Card author is:

and the book:

Abingdon Press (November 5, 2013)

***Special thanks to Jennifer Hudson Taylor for sending me a review copy.***


Jennifer Hudson Taylor is an award winning author of inspirational fiction set in historical Europe & the Carolinas. She provides keynotes and presentations on the publishing industry, the craft of writing building an author platform & social media marketing. Her debut novel, Highland Blessings, received a 4 1/2 star review from RT Book Reviews and won the Holt Medallion Award for Best First Book. Jennifer's work has appeared in national publications, such as Guideposts, Heritage Quest Magazine, RT Book Reviews, and The Military Trader. Jennifer graduated from Elon University with a B.A. in Communications/Journalism. When she isn't writing, Jennifer enjoys spending time with her family, traveling, visiting historical sites, parasailing, horseback riding, cycling, long walks, genealogy and reading.

Visit the author's website.


One conquest could destroy her, but avenge his family.

Scotland to Carolina, 1760

Malcolm MacGregor vows to free his family and exact revenge against Duncan Campbell. When the opportunity arises, Malcolm decides to use Duncan’s daughter as the bargaining price. Lauren Campbell is the perfect answer, until she begins chipping away at the bitterness in Malcolm’s heart and changing everything. Her bold faith and forgiveness ignites guilt he would rather avoid and a love he doesn't deserve.

Lauren Campbell never expected to discover such a caring and protective man behind the façade of Malcolm MacGregor’s fierce reputation. When they arrive in America, things turn against them, and Lauren finds herself in a fate worse than death. Now Malcolm has the dilemma of freeing the rest of his family or rescuing Lauren, but time is short and with little means, he needs a miracle

Product Details:
List Price: $14.99
Series: The Macgregor Legacy
Paperback: 352 pages
Publisher: Abingdon Press (November 5, 2013)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1426714696
ISBN-13: 978-1426714696


A feeling of foreboding crawled over Malcolm MacGregor like a colony of insects picking at his skin. He gripped the reins as he inhaled the crisp March air, but it burned his lungs with the residue of tainted fire. A cloud of dark smoke hovered over the wee village of Inverawe—home. Fear coiled inside Malcolm’s gut as he urged his mount forward.

 His brother kept pace beside him. At a score and four, Thomas was two years Malcolm’s junior. He favored Malcolm with the same stubborn chin and broad shoulders from hard work.

Distant moors lined the overcast sky. Morning fog hovered over the glen, blending with heavy smoke. As they drew near, their eyes stung and the burnt smell accosted them until they coughed. Keening scraped his ears like a tormented bagpipe.

They reached the stone huts, packed with dirt and straw roofs. At least the village homes weren’t on fire, as he originally feared. Piles of furniture and personal items burned in front of each hut. Sad faces and weeping echoed from every direction.

Malcolm’s throat constricted.His chest tightened in a mixture of compassion and fear for his family. He maneuvered his horse between the huts heading toward the center of the village, seeking the home where he had grown from a lad into a man. Engulfed in flames, itblazed to the sky.

“Mither an’ Carleen  . . .” The words fell from Malcolm’s swollen tongue, stalling in the air as his thoughts shifted to their youngest brother, Graham. At only twenty, the lad would have done aught to protect the women in their absence.

“Malcolm, ye’re back!” Heather strode toward him, her eyes red and swollen. Words stalled upon her tongue, increasing his anxiety as he waited for her to collect her emotions and continue.

“What happened?” Malcolm asked, pulling his horse to a stop and dismounting. It was an effort to keep his voice calm, but he tried for Heather’s sake, though his insides quaked.

“‘Tis the worst.” Heather succumbed to tears, shaking with grief.

“What is it, lass?” Malcom shook her hoping to force her out of her temporary stupor.

“Where’s Mither an’ Carleen?” Thomas strode toward them, his voice betraying his fears.

Heather sobbed, falling against Malcolm’s chest. On instinct, his arms slipped around her.He looked up, his eyes questioning the rest of the villagers approaching with sorrowful expressions.

“The Campbells were here.” Roy strode foward, his red eyes weary with similar grief—his right eye swollen and his lip cut. Even in his late fifties, Roy was healthy and robust. It would have taken several men to bring him low. “They took Iona an’ Carleen.”

“Took them?” Thomas gave the elder man a look of disbelief. “Where?”

“How long ago?” Malcolm pressed Heather into the arms of her mother who came up behind her. He turned back to his horse and prepared to mount.

“Nay! There’s too many o’ them. Sixty or more.” A strong hand grabbed his shoulder. “Listen to me, lad. Ye canna help yer mither an’ sister if ye’re dead.”

“I’ve time to catch them if I leave now.” Malcolm pulled away. More hands grabbed him. He didn’t want to fight his own kinsmen, but they wouldn’t deter him from his mission. He had to act now before it was too late.

“Let me go!” Thomas yelled, fighting a similar battle.

“I’ve got ’im, Da.” Strong arms belted around Malcolm’s neck and jerked him backward, cutting off his air. Malcolm coughed. He swung his elbow into Alan’s ribs.

“Argh!” Alan relaxed his hold, but didn’t let go.

“Listen to reason, lad. The rest o’ us are too auld an’ wounded to be fightin’ ye.” A fist from another angle slammed into his jaw. “But fight ye, we will, if it’s the only way to save yer life.” Roy’s voice echoed over the multiple hands and arms keeping him down.

Never had the villagers fought him like this. More dread pooled in the pit of his stomach as he realized there had to be a reason for their adamancy. What had they not yet told him? They were right. How could he and Thomas expect to best sixty or more Campbell men? This feat would require his wits, and he wasn’t thinking, only reacting.

“All right.” He clenched his teeth, willing his body to relax against their resistance. “Tell me why I shan’t go after them. It does not make sense to lose precious time.”

Following Malcolm’s example, Thomas also surrendered.

“Duncan Campbell came to collect the rents,” Roy said. “But he arrived with an army of warriors. He did not come hither on business as he claimsHis purpose was to cause trouble an’ he chose yer family to be the example.”

“They were not supposed to come for another fortnight.” Malcolm jerked away from Alan who sported a bloody lip, already swelling, and a long sword gash upon his arm. Malcolm frowned. Only the Campbells would have been carrying broadswords. Blood soaked Alan’s sleeve, probably more so from his skirmish with Malcolm. Guilt lacerated Malcolm’s emotionally scarred heart. How long must they go on living like peasant pawns for the Campbells’ entertainment?

“They did all this over unpaid rents?” Malcolm lifted his hands in disbelief. “We took the cattle to market an’ we now have the rent. ‘Tis all for naught!” His voice cracked as he ran a hand through his hair. A deep ache twisted his gut.

“Listen to Da.” Alan wiped the back of his hand across his lip. “We need a plan. The Campbells want us to come after them in a mad rage. They have the king’s favor an’ all the wealth they need. We canna fall into their trap again.”

“We can gather more MacGregors an’ break into Kilchurn Manor.” Thomas walked over. The others stepped aside to let him through. “We’ll get Mither an’ Carleen out.” “We canna abandon them.”

“‘Tisn’t that simple. I wish it were.” Roy rubbed a wrinkled hand over his weathered face with a broken sigh. “Even if we gather more MacGregors from other parts of Argyll, we may not be strong enough to break through Duncan Campbell’s forces. He has too many allies. If we succeed an’ bring them home, how will we stop them from coming again?”

Roy and Alan stood still, watching Malcolm and Thomas as though they would tackle them again if need be. More villagers crowded around. All of them looked like a sorry lot, the men having been beaten, the women wearing expressions of grief and sorrow. Soot layered their faces, arms, and clothing.

 ‘Tis possible they have taken them to a debtor’s prison,” Mary MacGregor maneuvered around her husband and son, “since yer mither did not have the rent money.”

“If that is the case,” Malcolm said. “They will have to release Mither an’ Carleen once I pay the rent.”

“Duncan raised the rents again, plus he’s charging interest,” Mary said. “He took our furniture an’ burned what he did not want.” Tears filled her eyes. “William an’ Graham are young an’ foolish to try to fight them. They killed William this day. How many more do ye think we can stand to lose?”

“An’ Graham?” Malcolm staggered at the news. He closed his eyes, rubbing his brows. William and Graham were inseparable. Had Graham suffered the same fate? Heather broke into more weeping and Malcolm’s chest tightened. The lass had been sweet on their youngest brother as soon as they could walk. Now he understood the extent of her grief. “Where is Graham? Did they take him, too?” Malcolm clenched his fists at his sides, attempting to calm the rising tide of anxiety. “Is he alive?”

“Aye, but barely,” Roy said. “I’m sorry, Malcolm. We tried to fight them, but there were too many . . .”

“Take us to ‘im,” Thomas said in a gruff voice, moving to stand beside Malcolm.

“Greg and Colin are tendin to ‘im. The Campbells beat him bad an’ hung ’im on a tree.” Roy’s voice faltered. “To make an example out o’ ‘im.”

“By the neck?” Malcolm followed Roy and Alan to their hut. Fear clawed at his heart and gripped his lungs, stealing the breath from him.

“Nay,” Alan said. “With his arms spread out. We think both shoulders are dislocated.”

They stopped before entering Roy’s hut. “They left us only one bed, so that is where we put ’im.” Roy held up a palm and shook his head. “Prepare yerself, lads.”

Malcolm bent through the threshold and blinked, allowing his eyes to adjust to the dim candlelight. Their small huts contained no windows for daylight to filter inside. He walked across the dirt floor to the tiny bed. Graham’s long legs hung over the side. His height matched Malcolm’s at six-four. Among the three brothers, Thomas was the shortest, shy of them by a couple of inches.

Colin looked up from where he hunched over stitching a wound in the lad’s side. Greg cleaned his bruised face from the other side. Neither of them spoke as they concentrated on their tasks.

Both Malcolm and Thomas dropped to their knees. Thomas groaned and gulped back a threatening cry. Malcolm searched for his voice, but it lodged in his throat as a sickening pain clutched his soul and wouldn’t let go. They stayed that way for several moments, trying to make sense of it all.

Colin cleared his throat. “The lad fought bravely, like a Highland warrior if ever I saw one.”

Graham disliked fighting. Unlike the rest of them, who thrived upon the sword, Graham had preferred his wits to outsmart the wretched Campbells. He held out in stubborn pride believing forgiveness and reason would bridge the great divide between the Campbells and MacGregors. Today, he had discovered the truth and his faith had almost cost him his life.

“Is he . . .” Still unable to say it, Malcolm laid a hand on Graham’s chest. A faint heartbeat pulsed beneath his palm. Malcolm closed his eyes in relief.

“He passed out from the pain when I reset his shoulders back into the sockets,” Greg said. “As soon as Colin stitches his side, we’ll bind his ribs.”

“At least he’s alive,” Thomas said, shaking his head in disbelief. “I always teased him about being the bonny son. Now look at ’im. I fear he won’t ever be the same again.”

“Graham was never vain.” Malcolm gripped Graham’s limp hand. “I worry ’bout the lad’s spirit an’ his broken ideals. He will blame himself for not saving Mither an’ Carleen. No doubt, he will feel naïve he ever thought reconciliation with the Campbells was possible.”

“Aye, ’twill take him a while to recover,” Thomas said with a sigh. “Did Mither an’ Carleen see what happened to ’im?”

“Nay,” Colin shook his head. “The Campbells split up. Scott Campbell took them away, while his father stayed behind to cause more damage.” Colin rubbed his eyebrows and sat back. “That one has the heart of the devil, he does.”

“I shall get revenge for our family an’ the whole MacGregor Clan. The Campbells have wronged us for two centuries. They have tried to wipe out the MacGregor Clan, an’ here we survive against all odds.” Malcolm raised a fist and growled. “This time, I care not what it takes.” Malcolm turned to Roy. “We shall send a scout to Kilchurn Manor to see if Mither an’ Carleen are being held thereand the nearest debtor’s prison. We will move our family to Glenstrae under the protection of the MacGregor Clan Chief.” He shoved a hand on his hip and rubbed his eyebrow, fighting the onslaught of a headache and too much regret. “Should have done it a long time ago after Da died.”

“Ye were but a wee lad.” Roy shook his head. “Do not do this to yerself. ’Tisn’t yer fault.”

“Aye, ’tis time. I’ve tarried long enough. I almost lost my family because of it.” Malcolm glanced down at Graham, fear spiking inside him. He hoped it wasn’t too late.

* * *

“Where ye going?”

Lauren Campbell jumped with a start, throwing a hand over her hammering chest. She placed a finger across her lips to shush her sister of ten and two. A quick glance around the busy kitchen assured her no one paid them any attention. Cook put away uneaten food, while the rest of the servants cleaned up where the Campbells had broken their morning fast.

“Do I have yer word to say naught?” Lauren peeked at her sister’s wide brown eyes, curious as Blair twisted her lips into a mischievous grin.

“If ye take me with ye.” Blair nodded, her sandy, brown hair slid over her face. She brushed the long strands out of her eyes with an impatient sigh.

“I canna.” Lauren shook her head, biting her lower lip as she placed biscuits in a basket. “’Tis dangerous where I’m going.”

“Where?” Blair sidled up to the counter beside Lauren, excitement building in her tone.

“I’m going to the ancient castle of Kilchurn.” Lauren’s heart swelled as her sister’s eyes widened in admiration.

“All alone? Ye know Da would not approve if he was home.” Blair lowered her voice to a whisper. “He will be angry if ye do not take cousin Keith.”

“Keith is studying to take orders next week and will give his first sermon.” Lauren whispered,  touching the tip of her sister’s nose and grabbing a block of cheese. “I canna interfere with the Lord’s work. Besides, Kilchurn Castle is part of our estate. ‘Tisn’t as if I’m leaving the grounds.”

“But ye’re leaving Kilchurn Manor,” Blair said.

“’Tis only a short ride.” Lauren covered the basket with a cloth and tucked in the edges. She paused, considering her sister’s hopeful expression.

“I want to go, please.” Blair linked her fingers as if she was about to pray. She wore the Campbell plaid over a dark blue dress and frowned with a sulky pout as she crossed her thin arms. “Lauren?”

“Run along and get ready. Meet me at the stables,” Lauren said. “I shall see that your horse is saddled and ready.”

Blair disappeared. Her footsteps pattered down the hall. Lauren chuckled and shook her head, knowing the child ran in haste. She hoped Blair would not tumble into one of the servants. With her basket of goods in tow, Lauren let herself out the side door and made her way to the stables.

It was a crisp morning, bright with sunshine and promise. Lauren loved the ancient relic of Kilchurn Castle now crumbling on the far side of Loch Awe. The short journey would take them less than an hour on horseback. On the days she walked the grounds, Lauren loved imagining what it must have been like centuries ago when the castle passed from the MagGregors to the Campbells through marriage.

Lauren entered the shaded stables. “Aidan?” Lauren called to the stable lad. “Are ye there? Blair are going for a ride.” No one answered. Strange. Lauren shrugged and stepped back, trampling on a pair of booted feet. A man’s hand clamped over her mouth, shoving a piece of cloth inside to silence her scream. Another hand pulled her by the hair and jerked her back against his hard body. Her basket of goods went flew over a nearby stall. The horse inside stomped and snorted.

“I took care o’ the lad,” said a gruff voice at her ear. “Just needed to get ’im out o’ the way. ’Tis Duncan Campbell’s daughter I want.”

Lauren’s heart pounded in her ears as she kicked behind her, but he slammed a fist against her temple. Pain sliced through her head. He wrapped an arm around her neck, cutting off her air, and dragged her into a dark corner.

“Lauren?” Blair called. Her footsteps came closer. “Are ye here?”

Closing her eyes, Lauren stopped struggling, praying God would spare her sister. The man breathed heavy at her ear, his grip intense. To Lauren’s relief, he appeared to be alone, and he did not go after Blair.

“Aidan?” Her sister sighed with frustration. “Where did everyone go?” She stomped out of the stables and back toward the manor.

As soon as Blair disappeared , the man slipped a knife to Lauren’s throat. “Go.” The blade nicked her skin as he pushed her forward, leading her out of the stables on the other side. The gag tied in her mouth made her jaw ache and dried her tongue. He  dragged her into the woods where a horse waited.

Lauren tripped over a fallen branch, but he caught her and shoved her against a tree. Her bruised hip stung as he pulled her arms behind her and bound her hands. The man slung her over his horse and mounted up behind her. Between a dizzy spell and a wave of nausea, she caught a glimpse of his MacGregor plaid.

They rode toward Inverawe where Lauren often visited the poor and brought them food. Iona and Carleen MacGregor always welcomed her and shared their faith. Iona’s sons were not quite as friendly, but Graham was open-minded and kind. As the youngest, Lauren supposed he wasn’t as set in his ways as the other two. He was closer to Lauren’s age at twenty.

When they arrived at the village, Lauren wasn’t prepared for the devastation she witnessed. Ashes simmered in gray piles. Grief-stricken faces glared at her with hatred. Several people spit at her and one threw a rotten onion at her. The putrid smell made her stomach roll.

They came to a pile of rubble that should have been Iona and Carleen’s hut. Hot smoke still pumped from the smoldering remains. Lauren’s stomach tightened as tears sprang to her eyes. Her father and brother were supposed to arrive here and collect the rents. Surely, they were not responsible? Her heart ached, fearing it was the truth she wanted to deny.

Her abductor stopped at one of the huts, pumping smoke through the chimney. He grabbed Lauren by the arm and yanked her down. She stumbled  to her feet, finding it hard to regain her balance. He pushed her toward the door as others surrounded them.

“Why did ye bring a Campbell ’ere?” a woman asked. “Do ye not think they have caused enough trouble?”

“Aye,” a man said. “The whole lot o’ them will come looking for ’er.”

“Malcolm! Thomas!” Lauren’s captor ignored them and banged on the worn wooden door. “Open up. I have Lauren Campbell.”

The door swung open and Malcolm’s tall form ducked under the threshold. He crossed his arms with a menacing scowl. “Colin, ye were supposed to  find my mither an’ sister, not bring back a hostage.”

“Iona an’ Carleen were not at Kilchurn.” Colin’s words came out in a rush, as he tightened his grip on her. “But she was.”

“What are we supposed to do with her?” Malcolm pointed at Lauren, venom coating his tone. “This was not the plan.”

“We have no plan since they were not at Kilchurn,” Thomas said, coming to stand behind Malcolm. “Mayhap, she can be the plan. Who else is goin’ to be as important to Duncan?”

“She canna stay here,” another man said. “Her father will destroy the whole village lookin’ for her.”

“Aye, but she’s here now Mary MacGregorsaid. “The damage is done. Ye should best make the best o’ her situation. Could we exchange her for Iona or Carleen?”

Shock vibrated through Lauren. What had her father done? While the MacGregors had never been cruel to her, most were wary and reluctant to befriend her except Iona and Carleen. Now that the villagers had good reason to be seething in anger and resentment, she had no idea how far they would go in using her. She wondered if anyone at home had discovered her disappearance.

“What if he comes back an’ burns the rest o’ our homes?” a woman asked.

“Heather, he owns all these huts. If he burns them all, he canna rent them out.” Malcolm scratched his temple and glanced at Lauren. “Remove her gag. She may know something.”

“How ye plan to get ‘er to talk?” Colin asked, jerking at her bindings. The cloth fell from around her head, and Lauren spit out the other piece.

“Speak up, lass.” Malcolm stepped toward her, his height more like a tower than a mere man. “Where did yer da take my mither an’ sister? The sooner we find out, the sooner negotiations can begin an’ ye can go home.”

“All I know is that he intended to collect the rents and go to the harbor.”

“The harbor?” Thomas joined his brother, his palm up against the side of his head, pondering the possibilities. “Why would he do that?”

“Only one explanation,” an older man said, lifting a finger. All eyes turned to him. “To sell them. What else?”

The women gasped, some wept, while the men groaned and complained in outrage. Colin jerked Lauren by the arm and shoved her to the center. “We have one of their own!” She stumbled and fell to her knees. He pulled her hair. Fire burned her scalp. She prayed her neck wouldn’t break from the pressure. Tears stung her eyes. Lord, I thank you for sparing Blair.

“What would Duncan do to save this bonny face?” An elderly woman bent to squeeze Lauren’s cheeks. The others came at her all at once with raised hands. Lauren closed her eyes, expecting a beating.

“Stop!” Malcolm’s firm voice sliced through the mob like a king. With the MacGregors scattered throughout Campbell lands that used to belong to the MacGregors, none of them had a clan chief.The exception was Glenstrae farther north in the heart of the Scottish highlands. Yet, no one laid a hand on her. They obeyed Malcolm out of respect.

“Let us think about our actions an’ how the Campbells might retaliate.” Malcolm lifted his hands and pointed in the direction of Kilchurn Manor. “As long as the lass lives an’ remains unharmed, we have something to bargain. None o’ us wanna worry ’bout being murdered in our beds at night or forced to flee to the hills again.”

Eyes widened, mouths dropped open, and heads shook back and forth in slow motion. Some of the villagers’ skin turned paler. They backed away from her.

“Duncan an’ Scott Campbell have a good head start. At this point, we would be guessing which harbor they went to an’ taking the lass at her word,” Malcolm said.

“Taynuilt Harbor is the closest,” Roy said. Lauren had heard one of the others call him by name. He was a middle-aged man who looked at her with so much malice her skin itched and burned. “’Tis on Loch Etive an’ leads out to sea.”

“Aye.” Malcolm nodded, rubbing the back of his neck. “First, I want to ensure Graham’s safety ’til he heals, as well as the villagers. I shall find her wretched father.” His boiling gaze landed on Lauren and their eyes met. If the good Lord hadn’t been holding her together, she might have crumbled in fear, but Lauren not only found the courage she needed, but managed to lift her chin and kept her peace. Later in solitude she would  bear her burdensome fear to the Lord.

“Let us bring her inside while we tend to Graham an’ make our plans,” Malcolm said, turning to the others.

Colin shoved her. Lauren stumbled into Malcolm. He reached out a steady hand and gripped her arm. She assumed the action was only out of instinct, not for her welfare.

“What happened to Graham?” The words tumbled through her lips. Of all the MacGregor men, he had always been kind to her.

Malcolm paused, his lips twisting in anger. “Yer da ordered him beaten. They tied him to a tree, pulled an’ tortured him ’til his shoulders snapped out o’ the sockets. They murdered his best friend, William.”

Lauren cringed as her mouth drained dry and her stomach twirled. The temptation to deny his words frayed at the edge of her mind, as she followed him inside.

Malcolm directed her over to a large figure lying motionless on a small bed. A candle burned on a makeshift table beside him. She took small steps, her heart pounding into her throat.

“Graham?” Lauren leaned over him, taking in the sight of his bruised and disfigured face. The memory of his handsome features were like a vision. Graham didn’t respond. Deep sorrow filled her soul as she imagined what agony he must be enduring. “My . . .  da . . . did this?”

“Aye,.” Malcolm’s tone dripped with bitterness. “I was not here, but they tell me he tried to protect my mither an’ sister—yer friends.” He emphasized the last words as if she had betrayed them herself.

“They are my friends,” she whispered, unable to wipe at her tears with her hands bound behind her. Bile rose to the back of Lauren’s throat, threatening to overcome her. Graham’s wounds would be branded in her brain forever. What would become of Iona and Carleen? She slid to her knees as grief wracked her body.  Lauren had never been able to deny the emotional tug of compassion. While she wondered what was to become of her, Graham’s grave condition weighed upon her heart along with the spiritual state of the souls within her father and brother.

Lauren turned and tried to wipe her cheek on her shoulder. Malcolm strode toward her, his mouth set in a grim expression. She resisted the desire to cower and forced her muscles to remain still.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013


NASHVILLE, Tenn. (November 19, 2013) -  Theologian, author and singer/songwriter Michael Milton releases a new single today, an Americana-tinged song written while Milton was in the throes of an illness he contracted during a ministry trip to Africa in 2010The single, "How A Wounded Bird Flies," is being released on the Bethesda label and is available on iTunes, Amazon, eMusic and other online retailers.
"Though I am much better now, I wanted to record the song while still sick in order to better reach out to others in the dark night of the soul," Milton says. "The goal was not simply to record this period of my life, but to release what I prayed would be an authentic voice of suffering that, hopefully, could better identify with those who also suffer and offer the Light of hope in the midst of the darkness of despair. The realization of that vision for this song will, thus, be known only to God and the person it may minister to. I entrust the song to His purposes with the earnest prayer that Christ will be magnified and 'wounded birds' will fly once more." 
Cindy Gibbs, Milton's long-time vocal accompanist, joins him on the song.         
For more information about Milton, visit
About Dr. Michael Milton:
Dr. Michael Milton is the founder and current President and CEO of Faith for Living, Inc. and the teaching pastor of the Truth That Transforms with Dr. Michael Milton TV program on the NRB Network. He also recently has been named President and Senior Fellow of the newly founded D. James Kennedy Institute for Christ and Culture (DJK Institute). Formerly the Chancellor and CEO of Reformed Theological Seminary (RTS), Milton is an ordained Presbyterian (PCA) pastor as well as a professor. Milton earned his Ph.D. in theology from The University of Wales and holds multiple degrees from such respected institutions as Knox Theological Seminary and MidAmerica Nazarene University, and is a graduate of historic national defense institutions such as the Eisenhower Command and General Staff College and the Defense Language Institute.  Milton's unique, and yet pastoral, insights and commentaries on faith and culture have been warmly received, and his columns have appeared in newspapers and publications across the nation and around the world. 
The multi-talented pastor, author and musician has received rave reviews for his current CD,Through the Open Door., who has compared Milton to Neil Young, Steve Curtis Chapman and Dan Fogelberg, calls the music, "musically opulent and emotionally stirring."  
Milton has released four CDs, 16 books and writes for numerous popular and scholarly periodicals. He is a faculty member of the Intercollegiate Studies Institute and a contributing writer for The Center for Vision and Values. He was appointed to the College of Military Preachers, serves as a Chaplain in the U.S. Army Reserve and is an instructor at the Armed Forces Chaplain School. But anyone who has listened to his music can attest that "stuffy" is not a word that is found in his vocabulary. Much like his friend and sometimes musical collaborator, legendary Christian singer/songwriter Michael Card ("El Shaddai"), Milton has an uncanny ability to unpack complex theological concepts into everyday language that makes them both memorable and accessible. 
Milton's current book releases include Silent No More from Tanglewood Publishing in the U.S. and Evangelical Press in the U.K., Songs in the Night: How God Transforms Our Pain to Praise from P&R Publishing Co., and the third edition of What God Starts, God Completes: Help and Hope for Hurting People from Christian Focus Publications.  
Milton's upcoming book, Sounding the Depths: When Jesus Prays For His People, isscheduled for a December 10 release from EP Books in the U.K., U.S., Canada, Australia and New Zealand. 

For more information on Michael Milton, visit

Monday, November 18, 2013

Ephesians: Discovering You Identity and Purpose in Christ by Sue Edwards - REVIEWED

About the Study:
Women need Bible study to keep balanced, focused and Christ-centered in their busy worlds. However, many find it difficult to set aside the time and discipline needed for an in-depth study. The Discover Together studies offer tiered questions to allow readers to choose a depth of study that fits with their individual lifestyles or schedules, even if they vary by the week, month or season
This insightful Bible study uses the example of Paul’s church in Ephesus to show readers how they can be victorious Christians, living in God’s Word, and free from sin. Part of the discovery series, the Ephesians edition includes tips for either individual or group use, inspirational sidebars and short, 3-5 minute teaching videos. Scan the video QR code in the book with a smart phone or visit the series website to watch Sue provide historical and cultural background, teach important truths found in each week’s lesson, or ask thoughtful questions to encourage deeper discussion.
Women crave Bible studies that challenge them to grow in their faith. But after balancing carpools, sports schedules, or work deadlines, you may not be able to commit to another evening out of the house. Now you don’t have to.
Whether studying with a small group or by yourself, you know can join popular Bible teacher Sue Edwards on the Year of Discovery. Sue will be leading women through her studies with online chats and discussions on her Facebook page. All year long. Every week. Any time of day. From the comfort of home. Make-up and hair-do optional. Come as you are!
Each week you will find quotes, links to articles and other resources, and videos to help you as you study. Complete the lessons at your convenience. Then visit any time of day to comment or ask questions. Sue will be there frequently to respond, encourage, and equip!
My Thoughts:
Okay dear readers, whether you want to study God’s word alone in your personal prayer time, or whether the Lord has set you in a group of believers who hunger and thirst after God, Sue Edwards’ Bible Study in Ephesians is fantastic!!  She leads you through Ephesians verse by verse with very thought provoking, personal questions that allow you to prayerfully consider what God’s Word has spoken to your heart.  She has provided historical background information, tons of interesting quotes and further reading suggestions that enhance her thoughtful questions and lead you to understand Scripture in a more personal way…I’m telling you folks, this is a RICH Bible Study guide!

I like to respond in my own words to the types of questions Sue Edwards asks, and the format of the book allows ample space to answer the questions. So, if you are like me, you appreciate not having to carry an additional notebook when you enter Bible Study – it is a self-contained book.    Like I mentioned earlier, Edwards shares multiple additional resources in her study, so you can really go deep into the more theological issues and gain greater understanding of Paul’s message.
I can’t recommend this study highly enough!  Please take the time to get to know Sue Edwards and the work she has been led by God to do so that others might have their understanding opened to the truth of God’s Word!  Thank you SO MUCH!!

About the Author:
Sue Edwards (MA, Dallas Theological Seminary; D.Min., Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary) teaches full-time in the Christian Education Department at Dallas Theological Seminary. She has more than twenty-five years of experience teaching, pastoring, and directing women’s ministries. In addition, Sue speaks at retreats, conferences, and seminars across the country. She is the coauthor of Women’s Retreats and New Doors in Ministry to Women, and the author of the new Sue Edwards Inductive Bible Study series.
Find out more about Sue at

Friday, November 15, 2013

A Million Little Ways by Emily P. Freeman - REVIEWED

About the Book:
Do you desperately fear you have nothing to offer the world but secretly hope you're wrong? 

You were born to make art. You were made to live art. You might not see yourself as an artist, but you are--in so many unexpected ways. In what you create, whether poetry or pie, sculpture or sand castle, calligraphy or conversation. It's time to uncover the shape of your soul, turn down the voice of the inner critic, and move into the world with the courage to be who you most deeply are. 

Creating a life of meaning is not about finding that one great thing you were made to do, it's about knowing the one great God you were made to glorify--in a million little ways.

My Thoughts:
There is only one way, one truth, and one life.  One way for the many of us.  One divine nature reflected through the lives of millions of image bearer’s.

God comes down to come in.  And then?   He comes out in a million little ways.”  (p. 77)

This is the most encouraging book I’ve read it quite some time!  This is not a “feel good” book, but an honest evaluation of God’s presence in your life and the way He creates His children to reflect His love and glory for which they were created.  This book will encourage readers to look for God’s fingerprint on their lives, despite life circumstance, and begin to follow His unique plan for their lives.

This is not a “how-to” book.  This is not a theological study.  This is an honest, open-faced look into God’s design for a full-filling life.  The author talks about the doubts and insecurities that are often used as an excuse not to fulfill the purpose that God has designed us for…and she also reminds readers not to place a time limit on God’s purposes.  There is SO MUCH that goes into our artful design!  God uses everything for our good and His glory…and the end result is SO WORTH it!

Please, read this book.  Share this book.  Re-read this book and praise GOD for His grace and mercy! This is a fabulous book!  A book to be read with a highlighter in hand!  This was a true God appointment for me!

About the Author:
Emily Freeman is the author of Grace for the Good Girl and Graceful. Whether writing or speaking, Emily's words create space for souls to breathe, offering fresh perspective on the gracefulness of the everyday and the sacredness of our inner lives. She and her husband John live in North Carolina with their three children. Connect with Emily online at where you'll find her blog, Chatting at the Sky.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

To Know You by Shannon Ethridge and Kathryn Mackel - REVIEWED

About the Book:
Julia Whittaker's rocky past yielded two daughters, both given up for adoption as infants. Now she must find them to try to save her son.

Julia and Matt Whittaker's son has beaten the odds for thirteen years only to have the odds---and his liver---crash precipitously. The only hope for his survival is a "living liver" transplant, but the transplant list is long and Dillon's time is short. His two older half-sisters, born eighteen months apart to two different fathers, offer his only hope for survival.

But can Julia ask a young woman---someone she surrendered to strangers long ago and has never spoken with---to make such a sacrifice to save a brother she's never known? Can she muster the courage to journey back into a shame-filled season of her life, face her choices and their consequences, and find any hope of healing?
And what if she discovers in her own daughters' lives that a history of foolish choices threatens to repeat itself? Julia knows she's probably embarking on a fool's errand---searching for the daughters she abandoned only now that she needs something from them. But love compels Julia to take this journey. Can grace and forgiveness compel her daughters to join her?

In To Know You, Shannon Ethridge and Kathryn Mackel explore how the past creates the present . . . and how even the most shattered lives can be redeemed.

Buy your copy HERE!!

My Thoughts:
I’ve messed up enough to learn that God redeems our post when we trust Him with our future.”  (Julia to Destiny)

The words Julia spoke to Destiny that day are pretty “prophetic” when you consider the many twists and turns that rip through the lives of the characters in Shannon Ethridge and Kathryn Mackel’s novel To Know You.  Choices have consequences and each and every character in this novel  experiences the direct result of someone else’s choices – good and bad.  The ONLY place that our choices can be redeemed is through the precious blood of Jesus. 

Julia knows this, Destiny denies it, Luke is discovering it, Chloe knows it minimally, and EVERYONE in the story must come face to face with this truth in one way or another.  Their journey is one that will take you on such unexpected, sometimes unpleasant, always amazing twists and turns your heart will be a bit exhausted by the time you reach the final pages.  Yes, it is a story filled with drama – LOTS of drama – but it is real drama.  By real, I mean it is familiar and something you have either experienced or know about indirectly.  

You will know beyond a doubt the effect choices have in a wide circle of life, and that God’s grace and mercy gives you the strength to go forward and walk out redemption no matter the consequences.  Not easy. Not always pleasant, but ALWAYS worth it!

I HIGHLY recommend this book!  It contains profound truth that everyone needs to grasp.  

About the Authors:
Shannon Ethridge is a best-selling author, speaker, and certified life coach with a master's degree in counseling/human relations from Liberty University. She has spoken to college students and adults since 1989 and is the author of 21 books, including the million-copy best-selling Every Woman's Battle series. She is a frequent guest on TV and radio programs and mentors aspiring writers and speakers through her BLAST Program (Building Leaders, Authors, Speakers & Teachers.)

Learn more about Shannon HERE.

Kathryn Mackel is a best-selling author and acclaimed screenwriter for Disney and Fox. She was on the screenwriting team for Left Behind: The Movie, and Frank Peretti's Hangman's Curse. She is the acclaimed author of "The Surrogate", "The Departed", and "The Hidden" and resides in Boston, Massachusetts, with her husband.

Learn more about Kathryn HERE.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Derailed by Dave and Neta Jackson - REVIEWED

This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
Worthy Publishing (October 8, 2013)
Dave and Neta Jackson


As a husband/wife writing team, we are enthusiastic about books, kids, walking with God, gospel music, and each other! Together we are the authors or coauthors of over 120 books. (You can see our Publication Record by clicking HERE.) In addition to writing several books about Christian community, we have been privileged to coauthor numerous books with expert resource people on a variety of topics from racial reconciliation to medical ethics to ministry to kids in gangs.

But over the years the we have especially enjoyed writing for children and young people! This includes our award-winning TRAILBLAZER series, historical fiction about great Christian heroes and heroines for young people ages 8-12, and the four-volume HERO TALES: A Family Treasury of True Stories from the Lives of Great Christians, and the companion book, Heroes in Black History.

Somewhere along the way, our own children grew up! Son Julian is Director of Experience Design for the Alder Planetarium in Chicago where he “provides the experience of exploring space” for visitors. He has two sons, Liam Isaac and Elijah David. Daughter Rachel graduated from Eastern Mennonite University and after working in the field of rape-crisis prevention went on to earn a Masters Degree in counseling from the University of Illinois. She is now a counselor at “Uni High School” in Champaign, Illinois. She is the loving mother of Havah Noelle (our first grandchild!) and Noah Zion, our youngest grandchild. The Jackson family also includes a Cambodian foster daughter, Samen Sang, who has four children.

We live in Evanston, Illinois, where for twenty-seven years we were part of Reba Place Church, a Christian church community. We are now members of a multi-racial congregation in the Chicago area.


Forced to give up his hard-earned retirement, Harry Bentley goes back to work as a detective. Receiving a bizarre undercover assignment that sends him across the country by train. Things suddenly go awry when it appears one of his new neighbors may be part of a smuggling ring and suspicion rises about his own son’s involvement in a major drug cartel. The second in the Windy City Neighbors series, Derailed is a contemporary, and often humorous, tale in an urban setting, featuring ordinary people wrestling with the spiritual and practical issues of real life. Intersecting with Grounded (book one), the Jacksons employ their innovative storytelling technique of “parallel novels.” Though each book follows its own drama and story arc, the characters’ lives become intertwined and affect one another. Derailed transports you to Beecham Street—a typical, isolated American neighborhood . . . until hope moves in.

My Thoughts:
Lately, I’d been blaming God for derailing all my plans.  But Estelle’s prayer reminded me that it wasn’t all about me.” (p. 226)

I love Harry Bentley!  And his precious wife Estelle is a prayer warrior like few I’ve ever met in my lifetime!  I know, these are fictional characters, but Dave and Neta Jackson have made them transparently REAL as believers, and their journey is one that everyone who has known the Lord any length of time will relate to.  Sometimes it seems like every part of our lives is derailed into one monstrous train wreck, and try though we might, there seems to be no way to untangle the mess or heal the damage.  But GOD….

He alone IS the master of life and all of its derailments.  His ways are higher than ours, and we must learn, step by step to trust and obey Him through all of the unexpected change of plans.  Harry and Estelle face a host of these derailments in this Windy City novel, and each time they lift it to the Lord and receive his answer – no matter the way it comes to them.  I LOVE to hear Estelle pray!!  Almost as much as Harry does, I think!  DaShawn and Rodney also take their place in my heart as they must re-forge their relationship.  I love the way Harry re-enters his role with the police force and the satisfying results in his heart and life on so many different levels. 

I don’t want to spoil a moment of this precious novel, but I must say that the Jacksons have once again created a host of characters that you will be drawn to, and will come to love and care for.  Truly, this is a rare and precious gift.  If you want to “see” a real, raw and vibrant relationship with Christ walked out through a host of unexpected derailments, get on board and hang on for the ride of your life! I strongly recommend Derailed – the second installment of the Windy City Neighbors!

If you would like to read the first chapter of Derailed, go HERE.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Christopher Duffley Eyes of My Heart - Reviewed!!

Alright, folks, let's worship the LORD!!!  I'll never forget the first time I heard Cristopher Duffley sing...such a pure gift of God!  And now, this precious child is walking out his faith in a life altering way...Eyes of My Heart is a FABULOUS CD that showcases his fabulous voice and leads listeners to the throne of God in holy worship!

At first, I wanted to say Eyes of My Heart was my favorite, but now, I can't choose!  I can't get past the powerful message of Give Me Jesus, and my heart just soars when I hear I Can Only Imagine.  Truly, this young man is showcasing God's glory in a way few are able.  Yes, his beginning was really tough, and he will face physical challenges all the days of his life, but that does not keep him from singing praises to His Creator and touching lives, and that challenges me in a profound way!!

You DON'T WANT TO MISS THIS project!! It is truly fabulous!!  Praise the Lord in a fresh new way with Christopher Duffley!!


Twelve-year-old YouTube sensation Christopher Duffley, who is blind and has autism, has released his debut CD, Eyes of My Heart
The CD of patriotic and spiritual songs is the next chapter in a story that has garnered attention throughout the U.S. because of Christopher's remarkable talent, in addition to the challenges with which he lives. 
 When a video of the then 10-year-old Christopher singing "Open The Eyes of My Heart" at the Capitol Center for the Performing Arts in New Hampshire went viral, garnering more than 3.9 million views on YouTube, news of his remarkable talent spread like wildfire, culminating in Christopher singing the national anthem for the Boston Red Sox baseball team at Fenway Park. 
Demand for Christopher to release a CD swelled, propelling the young singer and his family to travel to Nashville to work with 9-time Dove Award-winning producer/songwriter/arranger Steven V. Taylor (Kirk Franklin, Michael W. Smith, Natalie Grant).  
The result is an 11-song compilation of inspirational, patriotic and sacred songs, titled Eyes Of My Heart, that reach deep into listeners' hearts and encourage them to see with new eyes.  
"We chose the title from the song 'Open the Eyes of My Heart' because of its meaning in our lives," says Christine Duffley, Christopher's mother. "It was the first real song Christopher sang when he was three years old. He sang it during a mission trip and people broke down in tears. When Christopher sings, 'Open The Eyes Of My Heart,' I remember not to only see with my physical eyes, but to see as God sees--through my heart." 
The song from which the title was taken serves as the lead-off track to the project. Embellished by understated piano and mellow guitar, Christopher's pristine vocals take center stage on the Paul Baloche-penned classic. Christopher shifts into a more militant stance on his rendition of Chris Tomlin's powerful declaration song, "Whom Shall I Fear (Angel Armies)." The recurring theme of encouragement runs strongly throughout the project, and is evident in Christopher's interpretation of the Bill Withers' radio standard, "Lean On Me," which takes on an early Jackson 5 vibe. 
The project segues effortlessly into the simple yet majestic strains of the beloved hymn, "Crown Him (Majesty)," then slips into the acoustic, peace-evoking Jeremy Camp-penned hit, "Give Me Jesus," with its lush cello underpinnings. 

While Christopher's pitch perfect vocals might make you forget he hasn't even reached his teenage years yet, his whimsical take on the kid-friendly "If I Was Jesus" proves he's still grounded in his own generation. A highlight of the CD is Christopher's moving performance of the Lee Greenwood favorite, "God Bless the U.S.A."
Christopher moves effortlessly between contemporary Christian music and sacred hymns of the church. His blindness adds a new level of meaning into the lyrics "I can only imagine what my eyes will see, when your face is before me" ("I Can Only Imagine"), and "I once was lost but now I'm found, was blind but now I see" ("Amazing Grace"). He turns up the tempo for the rock-inflected "Your Grace Is Enough," and closes the project with a celebratory worship medley that combines "Bless The Lord" with "Lift The Name." 
An in-demand performer at events across the country, Christopher uses his remarkable gifts to support a variety of causes, including autism awareness and research. He recently sang the National Anthem at the 37,000-seat Fenway Park before a historic Major League Baseball game between the Boston Red Sox and the Detroit Tigers on behalf of "Autism Speaks Night at Fenway Park." 
"Christopher brought chills throughout the ballpark with his performance at Fenway Park," says Russ Ken, New England Executive Director for Autism Speaks. "His positive vibe and infectious charisma is unique and refreshing. As often happens in his presence, Christopher's impact was felt long after the last note was sung."  
For more information about Eyes Of My Heart and Christopher,

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Catie's Secret by Laura Allen Nonemaker - REVIEWED

About the book:
Catie Caterpillar looks different from any bug Herbie and Bella have ever seen. When Herbie makes fun of Catie, Mayor Benny shows him why he should not judge anyone by how they look. In the end, Catie reveals a secret and the bunnies learn the joy of forgiveness.

Catie's Secret is the second book in Laura Allen Nonemaker's children's series, God's Secret Garden Adventures. Like the previous book,Benny's Angel, Catie's Secret invites young readers to join an exciting adventure while it teaches a valuable lesson.

Purchase a copy HERE!

About the author: Laura began writing as a child in Bermuda when a favorite teacher had one of her essays published in a local newspaper. She is a contributing writer for Kentucky Monthly Magazine and her first children's book, Benny's Angel, was published in 2011. She is on the planning team for Artful Missions, which produces juried art shows and donates most of the proceeds to ministries that help women and children escape human trafficking. When Laura is not dreaming up her next God's Garden adventure, she enjoys spending time with her large family.

Connect with Laura at:

My Thoughts:
The dictionary defines the word secret as:  something that is kept or meant to be kept unknown or unseen by others.”  And oddly enough, that word pretty much ruined this book for me.  I think perhaps mystery might have been a better choice for the concept that was presented.  I perceived that that author wants children to realize the potential that God has placed within us to add beauty and purpose to the world around us.  I realize the author was also addressing the fact that children shouldn’t tease others because of things that they might not understand….and that concept was well presented.  The concept of forgiveness was also well presented.

The character of Mayor Benny was a little awkward to me too.  Was he supposed to represent the Holy Spirit or the conviction that follows a wrong act?  Wasn’t sure about his role and how he magically heard such a brief encounter.  Maybe it’s a really small garden.  I don’t know.

I guess I shouldn’t be so hung up on the word “secret”, but its negative connotation and definition is inconsistent with the message of the book.