Friday, June 28, 2013

Paige Torn by Erynn Mangum - REVIEWED

This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
Paige Torn
Think (May 1, 2013)
Erynn Mangum


A few things about her: So, if we were having this conversation in person, we would probably be hanging out at Starbucks or one of the cute coffeehouses in town. I’m nuts about all things coffee, I’m crazy about all things pink and girly, and I love, love, love the Food Network! I’m married to my best friend and the most amazing guy ever, Jon. He is amiable toward coffee, does not like anything pink or girly and tolerates the Food Network. So, we make a good match! In July 2010, we became parents to one of the funniest, cutest, sweetest little guys in the whole world (and nope, we aren’t biased at all!), our Nater-Tot, who is legally known as Nathan. Most days, I’m cleaning up messes, making goofy faces, trying to fit some writing in, and just LOVING the life that God has given me!


Everyone knows they can count on Paige Alder. But between volunteering at church, putting in overtime at work, and helping her best friend plan an anniversary party, she's lucky to grab a cheese stick for dinner. Paige can't even remember the last time she had a few minutes to relax or dig into God's Word. Then she meets laid-back Tyler, an attractive, Jesus-loving guy. Will he be able to help Paige get her priorities on track?

My Thoughts:
What if service for God isn’t the same thing as time with Him?”  (p. 239)

I think this question has been the underlying drive of Paige Alder’s life, and it has taken the sudden upheaval of a couple of major life events to bring her to the answer she has been seeking.  Paige lives life at a frantic pace – working every hour of every day either at her job or helping friends.  Sometimes she has to pull an all-nighter just to get her laundry done because she doesn’t make time for everyday chores!  When a marriage and anniversary need to be planned, and the young girl’s Sunday School class explodes in activity, and job duties escalate….there is not much left of Paige.  Saying no is not her strong suit!

God has a way of putting the brakes on when our lives begin a hundred-mile-an-hour race toward an ever changing finish line!  Paige has a handsome youth leader that serves as one of her more pleasant cause to pause!  It’s really kind of funny that so many different people begin to give Paige “permission” to slow down.  The circumstances that bring her to the point of understanding are pretty easily recognizable at any age and stage of life.  I know I recognized myself in more than one of Paige’s life-choices, and I left my twenty’s behind twenty years ago!  I also recognizes God’s tender hand guiding her circumstances and bringing her to a place of greater understanding about her faith and her need to live at such a frantic pace.

I think people will enjoy getting to know Paige Alder and her friends and family.  You will take quite an entertaining and thought-provoking journey with this young gal!  Come along for the ride! You won’t regret it! 

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

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Pieces of the Heart by Bonnie Calhoun - REVIEWED

This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
Pieces of the Heart
Abingdon Press (June 1, 2013)
Bonnie S. Calhoun


Bonnie S. Calhoun is Owner/Director of Christian Fiction Blog Alliance, owner/publisher of Christian Fiction Online Magazine, Northeast Zone Director for American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW), the ACFW ‘2011 Mentor of the Year,” President of (CAN) Christian Authors Network, and Appointment Coordinator for both the Colorado Christian Writers Conference (CCWC) and the Greater Philadelphia Christian Writers Conference(GPCWC).

For the last six years she has taught workshops in Facebook, Twitter, Blogging, and creating Social Media promotions at both CCWC, and GPCWC, and in 2011 at the Montrose, Pa Christian Writers Conference. She also taught a Facebook workshop at the 2012 ACFW conference.

Bonnie and her husband live in a log cabin in upstate area of New York with a dog and cat who think she’s wait-staff.

Her sites are:

My Thoughts:
“Not every prayer is going to get the answer you want, in the way you want.  Remember , the Lord has a much bigger plan than our little mind could ever understand.”  (p. 154)

Pieces of the Heart tells a life story of a young couple, Cordelia Grace and Bernard Howard, that is as colorful and intricately designed as a Pine Cone Quilt.  This story spans every life event from dealing with childhood bullies to the nightmares left behind in the wake of a World War.  Sounds like a pretty daunting task to get through that length of time in the span of a 250 pages, doesn’t it?  Bonnie Calhoun does it seamlessly and with tender, spiritual insight that will feel as comforting as the life quilt Cordelia constructs during the story.

At first, I thought that I would be reading a coming of age story.  When I realized that the time line would be far more in depth, I began to think that I would feel rushed and disappointed by a quickly constructed ending.  What I discovered instead was a tender story of families – very broken and lost at times – that were shown God’s grace time and time again.  Cordelia’s grandmother passed on a legacy of prayer through her granddaughter that proved both life-saving and transforming.  The transformation began in Cordelia’s heart and wound up touching many other lives.  Thier trials were real and painful, and the challenges they faced racially only heightened the tension within the story.  However, by the time you reach the final pages, your heart has been turned toward the Savior in a fresh new way, and you are left to ponder your own life “quilt” and the relationships it represents.

Prayer serves as the constant thread tying the story together.  The message is  both powerful and tender  and made me appreciate the prayers of my own beloved family members all over again!  Cordelia and Bernard will be a blessing to many lives!  Thank you, Bonnie, for sharing them with me!!


Cordelia Grace watched Bernard Howard, the love of her young life, go off to fight for our country in WWII. And she has spent the last three years creating the Pine Cone quilt that will grace their marriage bed when he comes home. Each row of triangles signifies a layer in her life, sets of memories, hopes, dreams, and prayers for her future, enough spoken words to cover them forever. Her image of their “happy-ever-after” grows proportionally as the quilt expands.

But is the man that returns from the war, the same man that she remembered? Are the dark shades of color that she had to use for the outside edges of the beloved quilt prophetic of her life to come? Can love and faith overcome all?

If you would like to read teh first chapter of Pieces of the Heart, go HERE.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

New Awards Debuted New Awards Debuted

ST. LOUIS, Mo.— ST. LOUIS, Mo.—The 2013 Christy Awards honoring and promoting excellence in Christian fiction were presented at the Renaissance Grand in St. Louis, Mo., tonight.

The 14th annual awards presentation highlighted the role of literary agents in the advancement of
Christian fiction. Steve Laube of The Steve Laube Agency emceed the event, and Chip MacGregor of
MacGregor Literary Agency presented the keynote address. Additionally, long-time literary agent Lee
Hough was honored with the inaugural Lifetime Achievement Christy in a moving tribute.

The Christy Advisory Committee debuted the Christy Hall of Fame by inducting authors Lynn Austin,
winner of eight Christy Awards, and Karen Hancock, winner of four Christy Awards.

The event also premiered the Christy Book of the Year Award, showcasing the novel that had the greatest
impact when placed against a set of criteria that includes literary quality, sales, and life impact. A jury of
three people read the year’s nine Christy Award winners and identified Into the Free by Julie Cantrell
(David C Cook) as best exemplifying those factors.

The Christy Advisory Board is happy to announce the 2013 Christy Award winners.

Lifetime Achievement Christy: Lee Hough
Christy Award Hall of Fame Inductees: Lynn Austin (8 Christys) & Karen Hancock (4 Christys)
Book of the Year: Into the Free by Julie Cantrell (David C Cook)
Contemporary Romance:
The Breath of Dawn by Kristen Heitzmann (Bethany House Publishers, a division of Baker Publishing Group).
Contemporary Series, Sequels & Novellas:
You Don't Know Me by Susan May Warren (Tyndale House Publishers)
Contemporary Standalone: Not in the Heart by Chris Fabry (Tyndale House Publishers)
First Novel:
Into the Free by Julie Cantrell (David C Cook)
Flame of Resistance by Tracy Groot (Tyndale House Publishers)
Historical Romance:
Against the Tide by Elizabeth Camden (Bethany House Publishers, a division of Baker Publishing Group)
Rare Earth by Davis Bunn (Bethany House Publishers, a division of Baker Publishing Group)
Soul's Gate by James L. Rubart (Thomas Nelson, a division of HarperCollins Christian Publishing)
Young Adult:
Child of the Mountains by Marilyn Sue Shank (Delacorte Press, a division of Random House)

The Christy Awards are online at:

Epic Fail by Gordon Dobbs

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:

Leafwood Publishers (May 1, 2013)

***Special thanks to Ryan Self for sending me a review copy.***


Gordon Dabbs currently pastors a large congregation in Dallas, Texas. He holds a PhD in philosophy, advanced degrees in theology and ethics, and has ten years of experience as a church planter in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, where he hosted a weekly television program.

Visit the author's website.


Why would our loving God choose to forever record the stories of men and women whose lives collapsed in sin and shame? Why share biographies of people like Jezebel and Judas, whose lives didn’t have happy endings? Perhaps the Lord recognized that their stories could powerfully inform and shape us. Their loss can become our gain. Epic Fail: Gaining Wisdom from Failures of Biblical Proportion is God’s invitation to learn and grow from the great collapses of the Bible.

Product Details:
List Price: $14.99
Paperback: 208 pages
Publisher: Leafwood Publishers (May 1, 2013)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 089112232X
ISBN-13: 978-0891122326


A Problem with Pride

A short time back, my wife and I visited the home of some good friends who are parenting two spirited young boys. Upon our arrival, the oldest boy proceeded to show us the mountain of trophies and medals he had won in Taekwondo tournaments. I made a mental note to stay on this kid’s good side. After their sons had gone back to their room to play, the mother whispered to me, “Don’t be too impressed. At these competitions, all the kids get a trophy regardless of how they perform. They just want all the boys and girls to feel good about themselves.” She rolled her eyes and shook her head.

In America, whatever we’re doing to make us feel better about ourselves seems to be working. A recent survey of high school students revealed seventy percent of them believe they have above-average leadership skills. Only two percent believe they are below average. Back in the 1950s, twelve percent of high school seniors regarded themselves as a “very important person.” Recently, that percentage has risen to eighty percent.

Americans are more self-confident than ever. In a culture that magnifies self and injects children with daily doses of pride, it’s no wonder we’ve been labeled a generation of praise addicts.6 In this climate, we would do well to heed the warning of an ancient proverb, “Pride leads to disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom” (Prov. 11:2 niv).

Growing Up as a God

What would it be like to grow up believing you were the center of the universe, or to be told by adults you should be worshipped as a god? What kind of a person would be produced by this kind of upbringing? How easy it would be, for pride to overwhelm the heart of a person indoctrinated to believe in their own divinity.

Welcome to Pharaoh’s world. From the elaborate royal protocol that surrounded every meeting with him, to his ornate garments, to the magnificent palace that was his home, everything surrounding the young prince was orchestrated to convince onlookers he was no mere mortal. Those who had dealings with Pharaoh believed that he was special. His people understood that he was a descendent of the gods; yes, this god-man was exceptional. After all, he was the leader of the world’s technological, economic, religious, cultural, and military superpower.

To be sure, there were a lot of Pharaohs during Egypt’s proud history. One, however, came to be remembered as the Pharaoh. This one would gain a unique status because his rule would intersect with the life of a man named Moses, with the multitude of Hebrew slaves he represented, and with the God he worshipped.

Four hundred years earlier, the Hebrews had first migrated to Egypt to escape a massive famine. Since Joseph, one of their own, had risen to become the right-hand man to the Egyptian ruler, the Hebrews were originally viewed as partners and friends of Egypt. Over four centuries, however, their status changed dramatically. The Hebrews came to be viewed as a social underclass; they were drafted into service to build grandiose monuments in honor of the Pharaohs, and mistreated as the miserable slaves of the Egyptian social elite.

Along came Moses with his brother Aaron into the royal court of Pharaoh. Moses claimed to have been sent by a foreign God who demanded that his people, the Hebrews, be released from their bondage in Egypt. As absolute ruler, the decision of how to respond to this demand was entirely up to Pharaoh.

Hard Heart Syndrome

Why would Pharaoh give in to the demand that the Hebrews be released from their enslavement? Well, God, through Moses, made a pretty compelling case. It was a shock and awe display of divine power the likes of which Egypt (and the world) had never seen. One by one, the Hebrew God dueled Pharaoh and his pantheon of Egyptian deities who proved to be no match for his power.

After each devastating plague brought against Egypt by God, after each demonstration of Yahweh’s divine power, Pharaoh was asked to release the slaves. Time after time, the mulish king dug in his heels, closed his heart, and proudly refused to be pushed around by any man or any god. At moments like this, when an individual is convinced they are the center of the universe, all the ingredients for an impending catastrophe are present.

The Bible depicts Pharaoh’s heart as hard. Unchecked ego can strip a person of perspective and wisdom. A pride saturated heart morphs into a closed system that refuses to accept any circumstance or opinion that does not bow its knees to the god of self. The absence of checks and balances that come through humility handicaps a person’s capacity for self-reflection and wise judgment.

Something which troubles many when it comes to the hardening of Pharaoh’s heart was the role God played in the process. “. . . The Lord hardened Pharaoh’s heart and he would not listen to Moses and Aaron . . .” (Ex. 9:12 niv). Frankly, it seems wrong for God to do such a thing. Why would God hijack his free will? Shouldn’t Pharaoh be free to make his own choice?

A closer reading of the entire narrative reveals an important nuance of how Pharaoh’s will became closed. In reality, Pharaoh did a bang up job of hardening his own heart before God ever got involved.
The first time his stubbornness is mentioned, the Bible relates, “. . . he hardened his heart and would not listen . . .” (Ex. 8:15 niv). Repeatedly, during the first half of the plagues, Pharaoh hardened his own heart.

So, how exactly did God participate in making Pharaoh’s prideful heart inflexible? For starters, it was God who provided multiple opportunities for Pharaoh to release the Hebrews. Over and over again, God made the exact same request through Moses: “let my people go.” By providing these decision points, God gave Pharaoh opportunities to either humble or harden himself. Pharaoh chose the latter. Just as calluses are formed on the hands of a laborer through repetitive use, a heart becomes callused when the same prideful decision is reconfirmed over and over.

God also became a participant in the hardening of Pharaoh’s heart because God ultimately decided to honor the king’s own choices. In his sovereign power, the Lord could have hijacked Pharaoh’s heart and mind and reprogrammed it to say yes instead of no to the demand of
Moses. Yet God, in his love and respect for human beings, preferred to honor Pharaoh’s freedom to make his own decisions. Only after the Egyptian leader had unilaterally chosen to ignore God’s demand, does the Bible say the Lord hardened his heart.

Pharaoh had transformed himself into a self-absorbed man, a closed system, a person unable to interpret the signs of his time and unwilling to listen to wise counsel. Even voices within his own inner circle could not break through his fortress of pride. “The magicians said to Pharaoh, ‘This is God’s doing.’ But Pharaoh was stubborn and wouldn’t listen” (Ex. 8:19 msg).

A wise person once said, “The only difference between a rut and a grave is six feet.” Every time Pharaoh chose to ignore the pleas of God, Moses, and his own counselors, he was digging a rut. That rut would become a grave for thousands of Egyptians, for his army, for his son, and for his legacy.

The Way of Humility

Hopefully, you were not raised in a home where you were allowed to be the ruler of the household or were worshipped as a god. But whatever our upbringing, a lot of us tend to struggle with pride. I certainly do.

One such struggle took place when I was finishing my master’s degree in philosophy at the University of Oklahoma. My course work was completed and all that was left was for me to take what were known as the General Exams. People around me, many of whom had already passed the exams and were working on their doctorates, told me I need not spend much time studying for the exams; they were really quite easy. The testing, I was told, was more of a rite of passage. Based on their opinions and experiences, and more than that, on an over-inflated estimation of my own knowledge and ability, I didn’t study. I was convinced the exams would be a piece of cake.

Unfortunately, I got a slice of humble pie.

A week after the testing, I received devastating news: I had failed. After all the course work, time, and money that had gone into my graduate studies, I was without a diploma. Suddenly my future plans seemed to be up in the air. My ego, however, came crashing down to earth. Thankfully, the merciful faculty allowed me to retake the exams and, after much study, I passed. Eventually, by the grace of
God, I was able to complete my doctorate in philosophy. To this day, I thank God for that painful and humbling lesson.

Whenever I start thinking too highly of myself, which is far more often than I’d like to admit, it seems God sends something or someone along to deflate my swollen head. One afternoon, I walked into a meeting and strode confidently to shake a fellow’s hand. As we greeted each other, he awkwardly observed I had a plastic toilet freshener suspended from the back of my belt. Ouch. Not cool. Sometimes, I’ve found, humility is pine scented.

A great measuring stick for how open a person is to growing in humility is to recognize how they tend to respond to losses. No one likes to lose, but being gracious in defeat, being able to laugh at yourself, and being open to learn from past mistakes prepares us to handle both future success and failure. Quite simply, Pharaoh didn’t know how to lose. He didn’t know how or when to accept defeat. Since we live in a “win at all cost” culture, this lesson may be difficult for us to learn, but learn it we must. Humility is needed.

While Pharaoh was a self-absorbed pride junkie, another leader in the Exodus story shows us a better way to live. In contrast with the Pharaoh, the Bible says, “Moses was a very humble man” (Num. 12:3 niv).

It is worth noting that, in all likelihood, Moses had been raised in the very same household as Pharaoh. They knew each other before Moses arrived in the palace to appeal for the liberation of the Hebrews. Moses had spent the early years of his life studying with the top teachers, enjoying the finest food and luxury accommodations, and reveling in all the perks and privileges of being a royal in Egypt’s court. Just like Pharaoh, Moses had been raised as a prince of Egypt, yet Moses was not an arrogant person.

When God appeared to him at a burning bush in the desert, inviting Moses to become the leader and liberator of the Hebrew people, Moses politely declined, citing his own inadequacies. “But why me? What makes you think that I could ever go to Pharaoh and lead the children of Israel out of Egypt” (Ex. 3:11 msg)? Understanding his faults and past failures (which included homicide), Moses basically said, “Lord, surely you can do better than me!”

After the successful exodus from Egypt, Moses found himself overwhelmed with the constant demands of leading a nation of people. Jethro, his father-in-law, challenged him to think about a new leadership structure that delegated authority to other capable leaders: “Moses listened to his father-in-law and did everything he said” (Ex. 18:24 niv).

Humility is a vital element of successful and balanced living. Humility is so valuable and necessary that it is the very first quality Jesus listed when he gave his famous description of the blessed life during his Sermon on the Mount. “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 5:3 niv).

Cultivating Personal Humility

An important way that people move against their own pride is to admit their limitations, while remaining open to stretching those limitations by embracing new challenges. In Exodus 4, Moses offers to God his own self-appraisal, revealing he does not believe he possesses the requisite public speaking aptitude required to lead. He understood he was never going to dazzle crowds of people with the turn of a well-crafted phrase, or with stirring orations. He was a great leader, but he was keenly aware he was not a great orator.

The lesson for us is this—Moses did not allow his limitations to close his leadership horizons. God had called him to lead. God would equip him with whatever he needed. This calling from the Lord gave him a quiet confidence. The humility of Moses permitted him a balanced, realistic, and faith-oriented appreciation for what God could do with his life. As Gordon Smith writes, “Humility means recognizing both our limitations and our potential. . . . With sober judgment we simply accept who we are.”8 Enormous potential for growth and future accomplishment is unleashed when people tear up their selfadmiration society membership card.

Another way that humility is cultivated is by listening to the wise counsel of others, then making the necessary adjustments. When his father-in-law came with leadership advice in Exodus chapter 18, Moses didn’t scoff and say, “Look old man, I’m the chosen one here! God made me the leader of Israel, not you!” Instead, he humbly considered the counsel of this older, more seasoned man, and decided to tweak his leadership style accordingly.

What a contrast between Pharaoh and Moses. One arrogantly stuck to his guns and paid an incredible price for his hubris, the other listened and learned.

No one is saying that Moses was perfect. He had some failures on his résumé. For starters, most of us can say with confidence that we’ve never committed murder. Moses could not say this. At one point, he disobeyed the explicit instructions of God which were that he speak to a rock so that water would come forth from it to refresh the thirsty people of God. Instead of speaking to the rock, he stuck it with his staff. But even though his initial meeting with God revealed he was well aware of his weaknesses, and even though he had been forced to flee Egypt after committing a capital crime, he still made an impact on the world around him like few others ever had.

Giving a short overview of the life of Moses, a New Testament writer says, “He chose to share the oppression of God’s people instead of enjoying the fleeting pleasures of sin” (Heb. 11:25 niv). One thing we learn about Moses is he embraced his identity as one of God’s people. He could have bought into all the pomp and pride of being part of the royal family, but he chose to identify with God and with God’s family.

Like Moses, people also cultivate humility when they prepare themselves for spotlight moments by living their daily life understanding who, and whose, they are. In choosing Moses, the Lord chose to work through a person who was willing to serve a community and a cause greater than himself. Pharaoh’s ego left no room for any agenda but his own.

In an ancient sixth century Christian text, Gregory the Great wrote, “No one can learn humility in a high position unless he ceases to be proud when in a lowly position. No one who learned to long for praise when it was missing knows how to flee from praise when it abounds.”10 Once I humbly accept who I am, and that my value comes from the God I bow my knees to, then I am ready to open my eyes to a new reality. Then I find myself in a world shaped by an acute awareness of the constant movement of God in and around my life.

What about Moses? The Bible reveals that, “He kept right on going because he kept his eyes on the one who is invisible” (Heb. 11:27 nlt). Whatever obstacle he came up against, he kept right on going.
What about you? An awareness of God’s presence in your life and in your world allows you to have the spiritual and emotional traction needed to pull through difficult and painful seasons of life. Whether in victory or loss, joy or sorrow, Moses kept on going. Why? Because he kept his eyes on the Lord.

This means the cultivation of humility is aided by recognizing the presence of Almighty God in day to day life. Consider this helpful insight of C. S. Lewis: “In God you come up against something, which is in every respect immeasurably superior to yourself…. A proud man is always looking down on things and people: and of course, as long as you are looking down, you cannot see something that is above you.” If you are going to have a balanced and well-informed view of your potential and limitations, then you have to be awake and alert to your own spiritual brokenness, grateful and awestruck in the shadow of the Cross, and acutely aware of the greatness of God Almighty. Truly, if your eyes don’t turn upward to God, you will never have a clear-headed view of your own place in the world.

The more a person grows in the way of humility, the more room they give for God to operate in them and through them. Tender mercies and great strength are unlocked in the life of the humble believer.
“God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble. Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time” (1 Pet. 5:5–6 niv).

So, where is your source of perspective? Where are you grounding your identity? Where does your sense of worth come from? Are you a praise addict, clinging to the shiny medals and trinkets of a self-magnifying culture? Or, do you look upward? May God make you secure in his love so you can humble yourself, believing that only then, his grace will be released, and his mighty right hand will lift you up.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Rainbows for Rainy Days by Catherine Campbell - REVIEWED

About the Book: (from Lion Hudson)

Catherine Campbell’s experience as a nurse and as the mother of two handicapped girls, whom she cared for until they died at ages 10 and 13, has given her a unique insight into suffering. As an inspirational speaker she frequently encounters people with tragic stories. And yet she believes that God is Lord and that in both good times and bad, He is always good. Isaiah 40.31 says, that 'those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength: they shall mount up with wings like eagles.' She comments, 'How often have you wakened in the morning knowing that the problem, or the pain, or the unpaid bill has not disappeared? We worry and fret ourselves into exhaustion. Yet God has promised us endurance. 'The great eagle cannot reach the heights merely by its own strength. As it spreads its impressive wings the bird allows the wind to carry it to places no other bird can go. This kind of flying appears effortless because the eagle trusts in a power bigger than itself… the wind!' In this unique devotional, Catherine examines different aspects of God’s love for those times when life gets hard.

My Thoughts:
“…Jesus’ presence in the both doesn’t necessarily stop the storm from coming.  Rather, His presence ensures that my boat does not sink!

    And as I take my eyes off the storm and fix it instead on the Storm-Stiller, I discover He’s been in control the whole time.”  (p. 29)

I thinks as Christian, we are often temped to compare our degree of suffering with others.  I think when we approach books like Rainbows for Rainy Days we are often tempted to feel relieved that our trials are relatively “small” in comparison to others’ trials.  This is a wrong attitude.  For God allows the trails of this fallen world to mold us into His image. He uses trials for our good and His glory.  Each trial is unique to each life, and it serves a unique purpose.

I am thankful that Catherine Campbell was able to write words of encouragement for others  - born out of her own life storms.  I’m thankful that her life is a testimony of the strength and grace available through Christ.  I am thankful for her testimony of God’s unending faithfulness and His comforting presence in our lives through whatever storm we might face.

As Christians we will all face a myriad of trials throughout our lifetime.  It is my prayer that my heart will reflect Christ’s live as clearly, as tenderly and as powerfully as the words Catherine Campbell has penned in Rainbows for Rainy Days!  This book has been such an encouragement to me!  To read Scripture passages and then her thoughts and life applications has been both comforting and challenging.

I praise God for His light that shines so brightly through Catherine Campbell’s testimony! What a gift! Thank you from the bottom of my heart for being obedient to pen these words and share them with others!

About the Author:
Catherine has spoken at numerous Ladies’ events, including day conferences, breakfasts and weekends, as well as individual fellowship meetings for women in various churches. Having cared for two profoundly disabled daughters for a period of almost twenty years, Catherine is often asked to speak on the subject of suffering - through testimony, bible ministry and seminars. But she also delights in opportunities to share what the Bible has to say on a myriad of other subjects too! She is married to Philip. They have three children; two daughters, Cheryl and Joy, now in heaven, and a wonderful son, Paul who is married to Susie, both exceptional musicians. 

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Slow Moon Rising by Eva Marie Everson - REVIEWED

About the Book: 
One family, one secret--and one chance to make it right
The beautiful Claybourne home on Cedar Key has long been a place of rest, healing, and release. Each member of the family has turned there in times of confusion, loss, and hurt, only to feel their spirits renewed and their hearts restored.

But Cedar Key might also be the birthplace of a lie that is poisoning the family from within. 

Join the five Claybourne women--Anise, Kimberly, Jayme-Leigh, Heather, and Ami--as they search the past and confront the truth. Their unique paths will lead them through heartbreak, misunderstandings, and pain. But their journeys will also bring reconciliation with each other and the precious renewal of love in their own lives.

In her lyrical, evocative fashion, Eva Marie Everson weaves a tapestry of complicated relationships that, when complete, reveals the most beautiful work of art there is--family.

My Thoughts:
“I’d rather survive the coming storms with you than not experience them and be without you.”     (p. 64)
This is a statement that is pregnant with promise.  This promise cannot begin to encompass the complexities that the Claybourne family will face!  In fact, the statement made later on this same page is, “…I had no idea what I would face when I returned with him to his home…”.  I want to give readers fair warning…..there are MANY hidden circumstances that come to light in this novel!  Eva Marie Everson has created a very multi-layered story that makes clever use of point of view to reveal generations of secrets that have provided fertile soil for relationships to grow, to change and to risk an untimely demise. 

What I enjoyed most about this story is that it reflects the modern complexities of blended families.  The Claybourne women must confront some pretty uncomfortable truths both about their present circumstances and their past choices.  Thinking that withholding the truth about the past from others will make things easier for family members proves to bring about complicated circumstances in the future. You will be TOTALLY amazed at the journey you will make between the covers of this novel.  This is a thought-provoking read that will encourage you in unexpected ways!

I am happy to recommend this novel to everyone!

About the Author:
Eva Marie Everson is a successful speaker and the award-winning author of Things Left UnspokenThis Fine Life, and Chasing Sunsets. She is coauthor of the Potluck Club books and the Potluck Catering Club series. She lives in Florida.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Lock, Stock and Over a Barrel by Melody Carlson - REVIEWED

This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
Lock, Stock and Over a Barrel
B&H Publishing Group (April 30, 2013)
Melody Carlson


Over the years, Melody Carlson has worn many hats, from pre-school teacher to youth counselor to political activist to senior editor. But most of all, she loves to write! Currently she freelances from her home. In the past eight years, she has published over ninety books for children, teens, and adults--with sales totaling more than two million and many titles appearing on the ECPA Bestsellers List. Several of her books have been finalists for, and winners of, various writing awards.

She has two grown sons and lives in Central Oregon with her husband and chocolate lab retriever. They enjoy skiing, hiking, gardening, camping and biking in the beautiful Cascade Mountains.


With high hopes, Dorothy Ballinger lands her dream job at The New York Times. But it's not long until writing about weddings becomes a painful reminder of her own failed romance, and her love of the city slowly sours as well. Is it time to give up the Big Apple for her small hometown of Appleton?

When her eccentric Aunt Dot passes away and leaves a sizeable estate to Dorothy, going back home is an easy choice. What isn’t easy is coming to terms with the downright odd clauses written into the will.

Dorothy only stands to inherit the estate if she agrees to her aunt's very specific posthumous terms -- personal and professional. And if she fails to comply, the sprawling old Victorian house shall be bequeathed to . . . Aunt Dot’s cats.

And if Dorothy thinks that’s odd, wait until she finds out an array of secrets about Aunt Dot's life, and how imperfect circumstances can sometimes lead to God's perfect timing.

My Thoughts:
“No one has a guarantee of what tomorrow will bring – you only have today.  Why not live it to the fullest?” (p. 65)

Daphne Ballinger receives this bit of advice soon after she receives the news of some very peculiar circumstances set forth in her aunt’s (and namesake’s) will.  From the start she feels a bit hopeless and defeated.  She has settled for much less that what she set out to pursue and achieve in her lifetime.  When she is offered the opportunity to return to her hometown, it’s no wonder she is less than enthusiastic.

Until she considers the chance to live in a comfortable home at no cost as an opportunity seldom offered in a busy life – a chance to slow down and consider options, opportunities and a change of direction.  The only thing that keeps her from enjoying the freedom this opportunity offers is the fact that if she fails to marry at the end of the year, she forfeits the home and the security it offers.  Daphne does what I think most people would do in her situation, she tries to meet the requirements of her aunt’s will in order to continue to enjoy the security of the town she has come to call home.

Already, Daphne is faced with some pretty disgruntled relatives, and as the summer progresses, she faces and ever increasing and unbelievable relationship.  It’s pretty hard to believe anyone’s claim of affection can be genuine if her aunt’s will comes into consideration.  Daphne must learn to trust herself and her heart – and the heart of her Heavenly Father – before she will be able to enjoy life as her aunt intended.  It is a path filled with obstacles and challenges – some of them painful – but what is gained by the end of the book is beyond price.

Melody Carlson’s books are to be savored and thoughtfully considered.  Lock Stock, and Over a Barrel is no exception.  She mines truth out of some very unlikely places!  Enjoy the journey!!  

If you would liketo read the first chapter of Lock, Stock and Over a Barrel, go HERE.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Fear Has a Name by Creston Mapes - REVIEWED

This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
Fear Has a Name
David C. Cook (June 1, 2013)
Creston Mapes


Creston has fond memories of his boyhood in Bath, Ohio, where he became enchanted with his future wife, way back in the fourth grade. His father, Bernie, owned and operated The Weathervane Furniture Shop in town. The whole family lived right upstairs in the century-old house known as "The Shop."

Creston studied journalism at Bowling Green State University, then began his writing career. During the past 30 years, he has worked as a reporter, corporate copywriter, creative director, freelance writer, and author.


From popular suspense author Creston Mapes comes another faith-building thriller, a tale that follows journalist Jack Crittendon as he fights to protect his family from a stalker's terrifying schemes, investigates a pastor's mysterious disappearance, and struggles to keep his faith amidst unthinkable fear.

With his family's safety on the line, Crittendon realizes there are secrets behind "Christian" walls--secrets with painful, deadly implications. He must find the faith to trust a God who allows inconceivable trials, and the courage to guard his family, with danger exploding at every turn.

Through it all--the sharp, character-driven writing for which Mapes is known--takes fans and new readers on an edge-of-your-seat journey that explores the harsh, far-reaching consequences of bullying and the Christian response to fear.

My Thoughts:
God can save us from this trial, but what if He doesn’t?  What if the worst happens? What if that’s His will? How will you do then?  What kind of Christian will you be then?”  (p. 129)

This question is asked at a point where events plainly indicated that evil has purposefully acted against Jack Crittendon and his family.  A stranger has come into their lives, into their home, and made the familiar seem terrifying.  Each action perpetrated against this family ratchets up the suspense, and as a reader you begin to feel the terror creeping into you mind and heart.  You fear for Pam and her precious daughters.

Jack gets pulled into another family’s trial as he does his job as an investigative reporter for the Trenton City Dispatch.  A local pastor, Eric,  has vanished and suspicions  swirl around among the church staff and community  about his dramatic disappearance.   Only his wife never wavers in her belief that something is strange about the situation.  Her insistence gives purpose to Jack’s investigation and the answers he uncovers are strangely woven amid the terror wreaking havoc in his own life.

These two plot lines are cleverly woven into a face paced intriguing read that will keep you captivated!  You will be both encouraged and challenged by the conclusion of the story.  The truth that is revealed will take your breath away!

You can count on Creston Mapes to deliver a heart-pounding, thought-provoking read, and Fear Has a Name does not disappoint!!

If you would like to read the first chapter of Fear Has a Name, go HERE.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Fearless by Mike Dellosso - REVIEWED

About the Book:  (from Charisma House Book Group)
Struggling after losing their own child, Jim and Amy Spencer agree to take in 9-year-old Louisa---who mysteriously appeared with no memory of where she came from. But when the girl's special gift of healing hurting hearts puts her in contact with a serial killer, can the grieving couple unite and save Louisa before it's too late? 

My Thoughts:
“It’s not magic, and it’s not about me.  It’s about surrendering to God’s will.” (Jim to Louisa)

Louisa – a nine-year-old miracle worker?  No.  Just a lost, damaged little girl who mysteriously appears on the night that fire destroys Jake Tucker’s home.  Louisa comes to live with Jim and Amy and their begin to change in significant ways – all of which mystify the residents of Virginia Mills.   What is this mystery?  Something quite normal in the lives of believers…prayer.  Or is it normal?  Is it powerful? If it is powerful, what makes it effective?

All of these questions are explored on some level… and all the while evil has taken a malevolent hold in this same small town, and folks are being taken from life randomly and violently.  The police force and the town’s residents are becoming more and more unsettled in the midst of the dueling forces that have overtaken the small town.   They are torn between  life-changing hope and paralyzing fear.

At one point, Jim makes an observation that it “…was as if a storm were coming, a great tempest with churning black clouds and rumbles of thunder, and he needed to do something to prepare but lacked the knowledge to complete the task.”    Oh, what knowledge and faith they all lack!! And what trauma and evil they all must face before they ever learn what is lacking!

Mike Dellosso has crafted a masterful, ever increasing tense plot that will grip your heart and never let it go.  This is a story about brokenness, healing, family and community.  Ultimately it deals with what everyone must face – their faith – or lack thereof – in the face of evil and its consequences.  Who will survive this onslaught?  You MUST pick up a copy of Fearless today!! This is an unforgettable read!!

About the Author:
Mike Dellosso is the author of numerous novels of suspense, including Darkness FollowsDarlington Woods, and Scream. He is an adjunct professor of writing at Lancaster Bible College and frequent contributor to Christian websites and newsletters. Mike is a member of the American Christian Fiction Writers association, the Christian Fiction Blog Alliance, the Relief Writer’s Network, and FaithWriters, and he plans to join International Thriller Writers. He earned his BA degree from Messiah College and his MBS from Master’s International School of Divinity. He lives in Hanover, PA, with his wife and daughters. 

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Deadly Devotion by Sandra Orchard - REVIEWED

About the Book: (from Revell Publishing)
Kate knows the truth is out there--but if she's right, that means a killer is out there too.
Research scientists Kate Adams and Daisy Leacock were on the brink of a breakthrough for treating depression with herbal medicine when Daisy was suddenly found dead. Kate knows that her mentor's death wasn't suicide or a careless accident--and she's determined to do whatever it takes to unearth the truth about what happened to the woman who changed her life.

Former FBI agent Tom Parker is finding it hard to adjust to life back in his hometown of Port Aster. Though an old buddy gave him a job as a detective on the local police force, not everyone approves. Tom's just trying to keep a low profile, so when Kate Adams demands he reopen the investigation into her friend's death, he knows his job is at stake. But despite his attraction to her, Tom thinks Kate may have something to hide.

As evidence mounts, a web of intrigue is woven around the sleepy town of Port Aster. Can Kate uncover the truth? Or will Tom stand in her way?

My Thoughts:
“Is your faith in who God is, or who you thought Daisy was?”  (p 319)

By the time Kate has this question asked of her, she is truly at a point of indecision concerning her pursuit of answers in the wake of her mentor and best friend’s death.  From the very first pages of Sandra Orchard’s novel, Deadly Devotion, Kate is convinced that her friend was murdered and not the victim of suicide as the news headlines trumpet.  Convincing the local police to re-open the case is only one of many challenges she must face!! 

I’ve never read Sandra Orchard’s work, and I must say I was thrilled to find a new suspense author to add to my collection!  Orchard weaves many aspects of the Port Aster community together to create an increasingly taut story line!  Although Port Aster is a small, close-knit community, Orchard allows her characters and circumstances surrounding Daisy’s death to cast doubt in every conceivable direction.  I think that all of the main characters had some shadow fall across their path at some point in this story.  You even begin to doubt the bad guy is really the bad guy even when a partial confession is made!! I know I was relieved to finally know beyond a doubt when justice was being served.  (well, at least until I read the first chapter of the next novel at the end!! Arggggghhhh!!!)

Aside from the stellar suspense build, I really grew to like the characters in this novel.  I admired Kate’s tenacity.  I loved Keith and Tom’s brokenness and the way they struggled to reconnect in the wake of their own personal tragedy.  I even grew to tolerate Hank’s crustiness!  The small town feel is complete with coffee shops with cool names, nosey neighbors and a thread of faith that appears during  honest moments between the characters as their lives grow more closely knit together.    And I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the brilliant way that the author uses herbal remedies as the center of this murder mystery!!  She even gives us the recipe for the “deadly” tea!!!

This was a very satisfying and suspenseful read that I am HAPPY to recommend!!

You can go HERE to see additional book features!

About the Author:
Sandra Orchard is an active member in American Christian Fiction Writers, The Word Guild, Romance Writers of America, and a local writing group. She recently participated in the Writers' Police Academy for hands-on training and simulations at a police training facility. She is the author of Shades of TruthCritical Condition, and Deep Cover, which won the Canadian Christian Writing Award for romance in June 2012 and was recognized as one of the top five novels of the year by Family Fictionmagazine. Sandra has also received a Daphne DuMaurier Award for Excellence in Mystery/Suspense in both the inspirational category and for best score overall. She lives in Niagara, Ontario, Canada. To find out more, please visit

Friday, June 14, 2013

Afloat by Erin Healy - REVIEWED

About the Book:
Who will you trust when dark waters rise?
Eagle’s Talon is an architectural marvel—shining residential units afloat in a protected cove of the gorgeous Rondeau River. The project is nearly complete, partially occupied, and ready to make investors rich when a sinkhole gives way. Then torrential rains and a flood leave a ragged collection of builders, investors, and residents stranded in one floating building, cut off from the rest of the world.
They’re bitterly divided over what to do next.
Architect Vance Nolan insists they should sit tight and wait for rescue. Developer Tony Dean wants to strike out into the darkness. And single mom Danielle Clement, desperate to protect her young son, Simeon, struggles to hold their motley band together.
Power failure, a pall of unnatural daytime darkness, explosions in the distance, then a murder ratchet tensions to a boiling point. But Danielle’s young son, Simeon, has spotted something strange underwater—beautiful, shifting lights in the dark water below.
In this watery world where everyone’s secrets will eventually come to light, salvation may mean more than just getting out alive.
Another stunning exploration of the human spirit and supernatural possibilities from best-selling author Erin Healy.
My Thoughts:
“Loving any human being always involves a little bit of dying.”  (p. 320)

Erin Healy has constructed  a unique reading experience in her latest novel, afloat. Prepare your heart and mind for the wildest ride imaginable, because that’s exactly the journey you are about to take!  The elements of suspense abound in this novel, and the good guys and bad guys seem pretty clearly defined at first.  Once the sinkhole opens up, it is as if the entire world sort of comes apart at the seams. Then the line between good guys and bad guys blurs and you can’t be sure who to trust!

Quite honestly, I felt a bit sorry for Danielle and Simeon from the beginning, because they reacted to tragedy in a pretty common way – they moved toward what they perceived to be safety.  Like the floating home she inhabits, Danielle’s life if buoyed by a hope that can be both comforting and deadly. She is never certain where to find the stability she longs for.

Vance is one of the most realistic and gritty characters in the story.  He battles back the darkness in his soul with a faith that is both strong and pretty stalwart.  He doesn’t pretend to be a super guy, but he moves through life with a humbleness and strength that makes his character both memorable and remarkable.  His faith has come through fiery trials – but nothing like what he must face in this novel!!  The spiritual truths contained in this novel are amazing and presented in breathtaking reality!

Survival becomes questionable for our main characters about half-way through the novel.  From that point forward, every single page is filled with episodes that will have you hanging on for dear life – right alongside the characters you’ve come to love.  How will it end?  You must begin your journey into Erin Healy’s world today! Place yourself afloat on a grand adventure!!

Purchase your copy HERE!
About the Author:
Erin Healy is the best-selling co-author of "Burn" and "Kiss" (with Ted Dekker) and an award-winning editor for numerous best-selling authors. She has received wide acclaim for her novels "Never Let You Go", "The Baker's Wife", "House of Mercy", and "Afloat". She and her family live in Colorado. Erin can be contacted through her website or through Facebook at erinhealybooks.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Fiery Secrets by Stephanie McCall - REVIEWED

About the Book: (from  HopeSprings Books)
When it comes to trial, God either spares you from it totally, asks you to walk through it, or delivers you from it by taking you to Heaven. Dr. Grace Taylor, a driven pediatrician and single mom, needs divine intervention if she’s going to heal from the actions of her cheating, abusive ex-husband.  But she never thought God would work through Chris Anderson, a tutor at the local learning center whose secrets keep him from opening up to her. Both Grace and Chris have been asked to walk through their trial by fire; they’ve come out alive, but they still smell like smoke.  Despite fears and distrust, love begins to take root in their hearts. But their fiery secrets threaten to keep them apart, and blister their souls.

My Thoughts:
Being brave means doing something you need to do, even when it frightens you.” (Chris to Jacob)

Stephanie McCall has created a cast of characters who need to brave in very significant ways in her novel, Fiery Secrets.  Stephanie, Chris and Jacob have truly come through trials that have seared their souls.  They struggle with fear, trust and the acceptance of forgiveness from both God and other people in their lives.  McCall’s story is both compelling and honest in the manner in which these situations are handled.  Life isn’t always neat and clean in its choices or its consequences, and many times we refuse to accept the grace and forgiveness offered to us through Christ’s death on the cross.  Our relationships with others are profoundly affected when we strive to achieve that forgiveness any other way.

Stephanie and Chris must also struggle against some pretty evil people as they try to follow the Lord’s direction in their lives.  They must learn to trust God’s protection, and there are instances that His protection is timed pretty tightly!  There are many nail-biting moments in this story both emotionally and physically, and I found myself whispering a prayer or two on behalf of the characters myself!!  Again, life circumstances aren’t always neat and clean, and Fiery Secrets masterfully displays that fact!

I came to care a great deal about McCall’s cast of characters!! All of them are well-developed and very believable.  She is very good at creating realistic relationships of every variety, and the relational issues dealt with in this story are both gritty and believable!  I’ve become a true fan of McCall’s work, and I look forward to her next novel!! I’m happy to recommend Fiery Secrets to all readers!!

About the Author:
Stephanie McCall is an English teacher with two Master of Arts degrees from Western Carolina University, one of which has a professional writing concentration. She also has a B.A. in Religious Studies. She lives in North Carolina with her parents and younger brother, where she enjoys reading, writing (and discussing her writing), and participating in Bible studies, prison ministry, and her church’s drama team. She also plans to adopt a cat in the near future. Her favorite Scripture is Jeremiah 29:11
Stephanie’s books published by HopeSprings Books:

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

An Open Heart by Harry Kraus - REVIEWED

This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
An Open Heart
David C. Cook (June 1, 2013)
Harry Kraus


A Word from Harry:

I started writing my first novel during my last year of surgery training at UK. I was a chief resident, and started writing Stainless Steal Hearts in a call room at the Veteran's Administration Hospital in Lexington. It was a crazy time to write! I had a very demanding schedule, often spending days and nights in the hospital. I had two sons at that time, and I recognized the wisdom in my wife's urging: "Now doesn't seem the right time for this dream."

My experience as a writer is far from typical. Having received my formal training in biology and chemistry and medicine, my only preparation for a writing career was a love for reading. The longest thing I'd written before my first novel was a term paper in undergraduate school. My first novel was accepted by Crossway Books and published in 1994, and it wasn't until after I had FOUR published novels that I even opened a book of instruction about the craft of writing fiction. This is not what I recommend to others! Yes, I was successful, but I was bending the "rules" without knowing it. I had a natural talent for plotting, but I realize my initial success may have stunted my growth as a writer. I'd have made faster progress if I'd have gone to the fiction teachers sooner.

I have three sons: Joel, Evan, and Samuel. Look closely in all of my books and you'll see them there. My lovely wife, Kris, provides the basic composition for all those beautiful, athletic, dedicated women in my novels.


Their Messages—From Beyond the Grave—Might Destroy Him ...

They hover between life and death, their hearts stopped on the surgery table. And the messages Dr. Jace Rawlings’ open-heart surgery patients bring back from beyond the grave cannot be ignored. For they predict the deaths of people around him, and point a finger of suspicion straight at him.

It thrusts Jace into a firestorm of controversy and danger. A maeltsrom blown by the darker winds of political intrigue and spiritual warfare. And the forces working against him will do anything to stop him from uncovering a truth they will kill to hide. He’d come to Kenya to establish a heart-surgery program for the poor. But what he will find in that place where he grew up will put everything at risk–his marriage, his career . . . his life.

My Thoughts:
Maybe God is trying to get your attention.” (p.231)

This sentence is a severe understatement!  God is using a megaphone the size of the universe to get Dr. Jace Rawlings attention!!   I have a distinct feeling that Dr. Harry Kraus, the author of An Open Heart, has written from firsthand experience when he delved beneath the spiritual warfare raging within the country of Africa!  And man what a story he has to tell!! 

Well, I don’t know if he writes from personal experience, but the story reflects some distinct realities that I feel only a medical missionary would be able to employ within the constraints of a fictional tale.  The reality of the poverty and disease, the tough medical choices that must be made to treat the people native to this country, the spiritual warfare that rages….all of these elements create a powerfully compelling story!  The unsolved mystery that follows Dr. Rawlings to Africa serves as a magnificent way to tie the story together into a suspenseful package that will keep you up into the wee hours  and reading frantically!

An Open Heart combines many elements  - romance (a very broken one), suspense, a hint of mystery, spiritual warfare, political intrigue – this novel has it all!  Not only does it appeal to a broad audience, but it does so in a VERY satisfying, believable way!  To make the deal even sweeter, the precious name of Jesus is revealed in some pretty amazing ways!  The transformation that takes place in the lives of the characters comes through dangerous trials, but that makes the transformation all the more believable and powerful!!

I loved this book!! The struggles were real and painful, but the resolution wasn’t neat-as-a-pin.  Very life-like!! LOVED THIS!! I HIGHLY recommend this novel!!

If you would like to read the first chapter of An Open Heart, go HERE.