Thursday, December 31, 2009

Through The Fire

Author: Shawn Grady
Publisher: Bethany House
July 2009
ISBN: 978-0-7642-0595-8

Aidan O’Neill comes from a long line of firefighters, so it was natural for him to follow in the footprints of his fathers and grandfather. Aidan has an innate gift for reading flames, but it has made him overconfident, cocky, and causes him to sometimes endanger lives. When one call goes wrong, a rookie firefighter working with Aidan is hurt, Aidan ends up suspended for two weeks without pay.

An arsonist is targeting Reno, leaving a scorched path of destruction. As a result, the fire department needs Aidan back before his two weeks are up. But Aidan’s return is bitter sweet. His gift of reading the fires is gone…replaced by fear, causing Aidan to freeze on the job.

A fire investigator placed with the department is beguiling, and apparently knows more than she’s saying. As the flames burn closer…how can Aidan discover where his trust rests?

THROUGH THE FIRE is a debut novel from a veteran firefighter and paramedic in Reno, NV, making it obvious that Shawn Grady knows his topic very well. The whole story smacks of realism, making it very interesting reading.

Aidan is a very real, very flawed character, married to his job to the detriment of all his outside relationships. He is also fixated with his father’s cause of death from a yet unresolved fire accident, and searching for closure. I was a bit dismayed that the faith message was virtually nonexistent in the beginning of the book, but tiny little tidbits did begin to surface after awhile, leading to a very satisfactory close to the story.

Written in first person, I went through the heat of the fire with Aidan, experiencing his emotions and thoughts. I really think that his story is better for being told in first person—it would have lost it’s punch in third. THROUGH THE FIRE is a wonderful debut novel and I am going to look for more books by this talented author. If you are looking for a different sort of story, one that is not one of the run-of the mill stories about firefighters written by those who are obviously not familiar with the field, then you will not want to miss THROUGH THE FIRE. This book is authentic, and will make an excellent book for any suspense lovers on your gift list. $13.99. 328 pages.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009


Author: John B. Olson
Publisher: Broadman & Holman
December 2009
ISBN: 978-0-8054-4735-4
Genre: Inspirational/Suspense

Reviewed by Lundy Allan Hilton

“Bury me standing. I must be buried standing.” (from the back cover)

Mariutza is a sheltered Gyspy girl. She goes to visit her grandfather to make restitution for something she’d done to offend him. Ten cloaked men arrive on foot, and shots her grandfather. She gathers him into her arms, and dying, he utters a mysterious request.

When Mari helps to dig the grave for her grandfather, she hears something referred to as “the Badness” and she sees the same ten men die before her eyes. But even though the murderers are dead, the government and secret organizations seem to be chasing her to kill her, and her only hope is a prophet that her grandfather mentioned his bedtime stories.

Can Mari find this prophet before its too late? Does the prophet even exist?
POWERS is the follow-up book to Mr. Olson’s Shade, thought it easily stands alone. The story does start slow, but then picks up the action where it caught my interest, but then it started dragging in the middle again.

The characters were very well developed, the setting is well described, and during the exciting parts I could almost envision the action. Olson is compared to Ted Dekker and Frank Paretti, both of whom are among my favorite authors, but I couldn’t get into Olson’s book.

Full of the supernatural, POWERS is for the nonscreamish. $14.99. 400 pages.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Pirate Hunter

Author: Tom Morrisey
Publisher: Bethany House
July 2009
ISBN: 978-0-7642-0348-0
Genre: Inspirational/suspense

In the 18th century, Ted Bascombe, a teenager, is rescued from a slave ship by the notorious pirate Captain Henry Thatch, and finds himself caught up in an exciting world of crime, adventure and a daily fight for freedom

In modern time, Greg Rhode is a recent college graduate, and he’s just landed his dream job and is embarking on a treasure-hunting expedition in the Florida Keys. But he finds a female diver as beguiling as the lure of pirate gold.

Intertwining the past and present, these two young men must escape their past by losing themselves to adventures on the high seas.

PIRATE HUNTER is the first book I’ve read by Mr. Morrisey, though he has quite an impressive publishing history. Mr. Morrisey is a pro deep-sea diver, and his knowledge and interest in the subject is apparent through-out the pages of this book.

I found the jumps in time periods quite jarring – the story would be going along smoothly in one time period, then all of a sudden the chapter ends and it is in a different time period, a different setting, different people, and it would take me a while to regroup and get into the story again. For that reason I am not giving this book as high marks as I probably would otherwise. Both stories (historical and contemporary) are very well told, and flow smoothly, the characters realistic, the setting vividly described, but the jumps from one time period to another threw me every time. Other than that, if you like pirate stories, or treasure hunting stories, intermixed with romance, you might enjoy PIRATE HUNTER. $13.99. 350 pages.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Her Inheritance Forever

Author: Lyn Cote
Publisher: Avon Inspire
August 2009
ISBN: 978-0-06-137343-5
Genre: Inspirational/historical

In 1836 Texas, Alandra Sandoval is the lady of Rancho Sandoval is attempting to run her own ranch. It had belonged to her brother, but now her brother is dead…and Alandra is the sold heir. They had been living relatively peacefully with the Mexican, Texans, Anglos, and Indians, until the Comanches, the most feared tribe in Texas, attacks Alandra’s ranch and kidnaps her.

Once Alandra is rescued, her neighbor insists that Alandra needs protection, so he assigns his top ranch hand, Scully Falconer to guard Alandra. Alandra is not at all happy about this, but no matter what she does to dissuade him, Scully stays quietly at her side.

When Alandra’s relatives burst into her life, trying to claim her ranch, Alandra and Scully try to figure out how to stop them. But then General Santa Anna’s army crosses the Rio Grande, headed toward the Alamo. And Alandra and Scully are caught up in the tide of history…

HER INHERITANCE FOREVER is the second book in the Texas: Star of Destiny series by Lyn Cote, but it easily stands alone. Texas history fans will love reading this romance set in a dangerous time in American history. Scully is a decent sort of hero, though he is an American, a poor commoner, and feels quite out of his league when he is around the fancy Alandra. Alandra, the complete opposite of Scully, is a wealthy landowner, and a proud Mexican

I enjoyed reading HER INHERITANCE FOREVER and am looking forward to reading the next book in the series. Discussion questions, a very interesting letter from the author regarding actual historical events and how she bent a couple of the facts, and a preview of the next book, Her Abundant Joy, coming in 2010. If you like historical fiction, and particularly Texas history, you will love HER INHERITANCE FOREVER. $12.99. 292 pages.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

The Missionary

Authors: William Carmichael and David Lambert
Publisher: Moody Publishers
March 2009
ISBN: 978-0-8024-5569-7
Genre: Inspirational/suspense

THE MISISONARY is a story about David Eller and his family who serve the poor and needy in a small village in Caracas, Venezuela. David’s wife, Christie, works at a small hospital/orphanage, getting kids off the street and spreading the gospel. David is working on the symptoms of diseases that are common among children who live in the street.

A very rare form of pneumonia has hit Venezuela, and it is proving to be fatal in 72 hours. David runs into trouble when the CIA contacts David and gives him the chance to treat the pneumonia instead of studying it. David jumps at the opportunity.

Suddenly, David has discovered he’s landed in an unimaginable nightmare of espionage, which ends in a desperate, life or death gamble to flee the country with his wife and son. Was he wrong to resort to political solutions? And was it really the CIA that asked him to get involved?

THE MISSIONARY is the first book I’ve read by these two authors, and true to Moody Publishers high standards, this is definitely a book worth reading. It grabbed my attention on page one and didn’t let go. I had to keep reading to find out who was behind it, and why, and how this would be resolved.

I enjoyed getting to know David and Christie and having the chance to see how some missionaries might serve in a foreign field (though I’m sure most missionaries don’t go through the excitement included in this book!) THE MISSIONARY is a suspenseful story that is sure to appeal to anyone that loves to read thrillers. $13.99. 376 pages.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Fools Rush In

Author: Janice Thompson
Publisher: Revell
September 2009
ISBN: 978-0-8007-3342-1
Genre: Inspirational/contemporary

Bella Rossi isn’t real sure how she can handle it when her Italian parents decide to just give her the family wedding planning business. In order to attract customers, Bella advertizes themed weddings and her first bride quickly books a country-western theme. There’s only one small problem. Bella doesn’t know a thing about country music—nor does she know a deejay that plays it!

Hearing the word deejay at her uncle’s pizzeria, Bella asks for the phone number, and a rather confused cowboy rattles off the number. The deejay, Dwayne Neeley, comes out to talk about the gig, and after meeting with the bride and groom, the light clicks on. Dwayne is not a deejay, he goes by DJ. And Bella is up to her neck in hot water. And while DJ may know his way around Alan Jackson and George Strait, he couldn’t possibly be the guy Bella is looking for…could he?

FOOLS RUSH IN is an adorable novel by Janice Thompson. This is also the first book in a new series, Weddings by Bella. I enjoyed getting to know Bella, and Dwayne just melted me within pages of having met him. Bella’s family is loud, opinionated, and reminded me heavily of the overbearing family on the movie My Big Fat Greek Wedding, totally overwhelming, and perfectly loving.

If you are looking for a good romance, I highly recommend FOOLS RUSH IN. In Janice Thompson’s signature style, the story is fun, fresh, and full of surprises. There might even be a laugh or two included. Includes Sister Twila’s Beauty Secrets. $13.99. 328 pages.

Friday, December 25, 2009


Title: TimeScape: Book Four of Dreamhouse Kings
Author: Robert Liparulo
Publisher: Thomas Nelson Publishers
July 2009
ISBN: 978-1-59554-500-8
Genre: Inspirational/suspense
$14.99, 308 pages

The disclaimer in the frontispiece of this book ought to be heeded: “STOP! Read HOUSE OF DARK SHADOWS, WATCHER IN THE WOODS, AND GATEKEEPERS BEFORE CONTINUING!”

I didn’t. However, the reading guide found on pages 307 and 308 proved to be a wonderful resource, and helped ease the disorientation I experienced upon reading this book. There is also a web site you can check out ( to get the first two chapters from HOUSE OF DARK SHADOWS. Knowing “what to look for” made the book an easier read, without necessarily taking away from the book itself. The author’s skills in characterization, plot, crisis and resolution run deep. Regardless of the initial confusion I experienced from trying to read a book from “the middle,” the action and suspense the author uses as a framework for the story carried me along. Each character was fully developed, nuanced, and allowed to “grow” as goals were attained, achievements fulfilled, and setbacks encountered.

The King family continues in their search for their mother, who was pulled by powerful forces through a portal and lost in time. “They have battled gladiators and the German army, dodged soldiers on both sides of the Civil war, and barely escaped a fierce attack in their own home.” Their only hope is to turn the tables on Taksidian, the stranger who wants them out of the house for his own reasons. “But everything changes when a trip into the near future reveals the devastating outcome of Taksidian’s schemes – a destroyed city filled with mutant creatures. It is only then that the Kings realize what they’re really fighting for – the fate of humanity itself.” (from the back cover.)

Finally, a work of fiction where the “good guys” don’t have everything going their way. A work of fantasy in which reality reigns in all of its grit, grime and grotesqueness. A work of faith where the rubber meets the road. If fantasy, creepy, and mysterious is your bag, this one’s a keeper.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

The House in Grosvenor Square

Author: Linore Rose Burkard
Publisher: Harvest House Publishers
April 2009
ISBN: 978-0-7369-2565-5
Genre: Inspirational/regency

Ariana Forsythe is planning on marrying Phillip Mornay in just a little less than two weeks time. She hopes to use Mr. Mornay’s impressive wealth to help the numerous orphans and other poor people around them. During a tour of her future home, she discovers that while impressive the home is furnished in a pagan style. Ariana immediately makes plans to replace some of the artwork with Angels and other busts of other biblical people.

The housekeeper takes an immediate dislike to Ariana, believing that Ariana is out to get her fired, and determined to keep her job, she tells little fibs through the showing of the house. Also when Mr. Mornay arrives home, he is told that someone has stolen an expensive silver candlestick and a miniature portrait of George III. And each subsequent visit Ariana visits the house, something else goes missing.

When two villains attempt to abduct Ariana amidst other mysterious events, Mr. Mornay must discover who is after Ariana and why.

I read Before the Season Ends by Ms. Burkard, and as good as that first book was, I believe that THE HOUSE IN GROSVENOR SQUARE is even better. I enjoyed getting to know Ariana and the other characters in the book somewhat. The book is written in many points of view, including the servants, the bad guys, the chaperone, and the man who would have loved to have won Ariana’s heart, so the reader pretty well knows what every character is thinking.

The setting is richly described, and the story is worded so that readers can see what they are reading. I used to read regencies when I was a teenager, and I found Ms. Burkard’s books much better than what I remember reading back then. If you like regencies, you won’t want to miss THE HOUSE IN GROSVENOR SQUARE, or Ms. Burkard’s previous book, Before the Season Ends. A glossary and discussion questions are included at the end of the book. $13.99. 338 pages.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Free recipe and an article by Kay Marshall Strom - and three authors favorite holiday memories


This warm, mellow soup from Senegal, West Africa, can easily incorporate any extra turkey you have on hand. Just substitute it for the chicken.

You will need:

1 tablespoon butter
1 teaspoon curry powder
2 teaspoons flour
2 cups chicken broth
½ cup diced chicken (or turkey)
1 cup yogurt
juice of 1/2 fresh lemon
fresh chives, washed and snipped

Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the curry powder and flour and cook 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Gradually blend in the chicken broth and bring to a boil, continuing to stir constantly. Add diced chicken (or turkey).
Remove the kettle from the heat and cool the soup slightly. Gradually stir in the yogurt, a small amount at a time. Squeeze the juice from the lemon half and add the juice to the soup.
Garnish each bowl of soup with a dash of fresh chives.

The Women at the Well
Kay Marshall Strom

In Senegal, West Africa, I sat beside the community well, because that’s where the village women gathered. Out of the dusty wasteland they came, from every direction, their babies tied to their backs and their water containers balanced on their heads. They were glad to rest beside the well, for they had to walk many miles to get there. The average woman in the world, we are told, walks seven miles a day in her quest for water. When you factor in those of us who only walk to the kitchen to turn on the faucet, you can see that some must trek much farther than seven miles!

At the well, the women have a chance to catch up with the goings-on in neighboring villages, to air their complaints with one another, and to share their own news. And so I sat by the well with Obei and Helene, two Christian women in a country 98 percent Muslim, and waited to meet the women as they came for water.

And come they did.

A young woman came, sobbing over her baby son who was burning with fever. We prayed together in Jesus’ name that her baby would be healed.

A girl came and whispered her wish to learn to read, but said she could not because the walk to the well and back took her all day. Obei offered to teach her a little every day when she came for water. She started with: “For God so loved the world….”

A woman came with terror in her eyes and confided that her daughter must surely be a witch. Helene prayed for the girl, but also for the mother. “Do not believe what others tell you,” she warned the distraught mother. “Believe in the power of God.”

And Songa came. Obei and Helene had prayed with her before in Jesus’ name, and Songa had seen a miracle as her seriously ill son was healed. Now she too, was a follower of Christ. “My husband ordered me to renounce Jesus,” Songa told us. “When I would not, he threw me out of the house, but he kept my children. Please, please… pray for my little ones. Pray that they too will know the God of mercy and love.”

This holiday season, I am thankful for the women at the well in Senegal—all three of them, for Songa has joined the other two. I’m thankful for the lives they are touching in the name of Jesus. Most of all, I am thankful for the Living Water that flows freely for every one of us.

Author Kay Marshall Strom has two great loves: writing and helping others achieve their own writing potential. Kay has written thirty-six published books, numerous magazine articles, and two screenplays. While mostly a nonfiction writer, the first book of her historical novel trilogy Grace in Africa has met with acclaim.

Kay speaks at seminars, retreats, writers’ conferences, and special events throughout the country and around the world. She is in wide demand as an instructor and keynote speaker at major writing conferences. She also enjoys speaking aboard cruise ships in exchange for exotic cruise destinations. Learn more about Kay at her website.


My Favorite Family Christmas Tradition
by Virginia Smith

Viriginia Smith's upcoming release, Third Time's a Charm, releases January 2010.

On Christmas Eve my family will gather together to celebrate the first coming of the King of Kings. The evening will be full of traditions – food, games, caroling. But the best part comes when we hold hands in a big circle around the kitchen table. Someone will douse the lights. In the center is a birthday cake with a candle for every century since the birth of the Child in whose Name we gather. We’ll lift our voices together singing Silent Night, then without pause, we’ll launch into a joyful rendition of “Happy Birthday to Jesus!” I guarantee you, there will not be a dry eye in the house.

Shelly Beach's 2009 release of The Silent Seduction of Self-Talk helps readers understand the importance of godly thoughts and scripture in the Christian life. Guessing Giftsby Shelly Beach

One of our favorite Christmas traditions is “guessing gifts.” To stave off “Can-we-open-one-present-early?” pressure, Dan and I began buying one gift for our now-adult children and each other. Beginning two weeks before Christmas, we’re allowed two yes-no questions per night. If we guess the gift, we can open it. Q & A on Christmas Eve lasts until we guess correctly. When guessing gets frustrating, family members help out. (When our son was eight, Dan bought him a soldering gun.) Recent gifts have included “The Clapper,” kitchen gadgets, and dashboard sticky pads. The goal is to create laughter and anticipation.

Sandra Glahn's 2009 releases included Jonah with Kona and Frappe' with Philippians- 2 Coffee Cup Series Bible Studies.
Sandi's Favorite Christmas Traditions
by Sandra Glahn

Wherever we travel, we buy an ornament to remind us a place we’ve visited together.
We wait till Epiphany to place the wise men in the crèche. Throughout the season they inch their way across the living room toward the manger.
On Christmas we gather around the table and work on a jigsaw puzzle after the big meal.
Dessert between Christmas and New Years always includes my great grandmother’s recipe for steamed pudding cooked in a #1 coffee can, just like she made it during the Depression.

Kathy Carlton Willis, owner of the same named communications firm, can’t get enough Christmas. She takes the star off the top of the tree and makes it shine in the lives of her clients all year long. They aspire to reflect the true star of Christmas, Jesus Christ, every day.
Kathy’s Christmas Memory Albumby Kathy Carlton Willis

I imagine my fondest Christmas memories preserved in a family photo album. My mind recollects events and people who made each Christmas holiday an event to be cherished. As I leaf through this memory album, pages of special events appear before my eyes.

On the first page of my memory book, Grandma Mary makes chilled boiled custard served in punch cups with mounds of real whipped cream. She rolls the iced cakes in a choice of crushed peanuts or coconut to make the traditional blarney stones. Her gaudy Christmas tree light bulbs sag from mere size on the dried out pine tree. I can see her tree in my mind's eye, and it triggers another memory: Grandma Mary hoisting the decorated tree over the hillside, because she’s mad at Papa Pete. They argued over gift giving, and she showed him! After emotions cooled down, the tree is retrieved and propped up in the living room with more than a few pine needles missing.

On the second page I see my cousin, Keith, painting a Christmas scene on the picture window of their Missouri home, atop the sky lift hill. The window features the nativity scene, inspiring spectators to celebrate the blessed birth amidst the hectic pace of their busy schedule. On Christmas Day, the Kent home buzzes with excitement as cousins gather to catch up on important things like discussing their favorite schoolgirl crushes.

Turning the next page of the memory album, I see Mom working alongside our neighbor Elaine, cooking candies and nut breads. They dust off the gently used recipe cards with instructions for their annual specialties. Peanut brittle spreads across buttered wax paper, and the aroma of molasses oatmeal bread fills the kitchen. Mom and Elaine box up most of the treats for Christmas gifts, but samples remain to fill our tummies.

Next in the album, I see a group of carolers bundled up in sweatered layers, singing to shut-ins. As a youngster, I sing with my Girl Scout Troup, and later on, with friends. Our music fills the halls of nursing homes and hospitals. And just for kicks, we sing in our neighborhoods as well. Christmas means caroling!

On an adjacent page in the memory album I see another musical memory. Dressed in festive attire, my classmates and I sing Christmas choral arrangements for our school Christmas concert. Back when it could still be called a Christmas concert. Our school band performs several holiday tunes, and hearts are prepared for the holiday.

“Christmas Plays,” reads the headline of the next page. One photo shows me dressed as a princess, hand clasped in the hand of my prince. For our Christmas program at church, I memorize a Bible verse from the gospel of Luke. Trembling, I proudly quote God's Word to the packed sanctuary. Mom mouthed the words with me from her seat. I don't notice, but she trembles too.

Some of the favorite pages in my memory album feature our family sitting around the cut pine tree in our living room. With pride, we select just the right tree each year. The fragrant scent of pine fills the air. Mom reads 'Twas the Night Before Christmas. My brother's chest puffs with importance, as he distributes each gift. To top off the day, I perch on Daddy's lap, embracing my favorite dolly.

The memory album grows each year. There is always room in my heart for new Christmas adventures. But the fondest memories in the book will always be those from my childhood. The best gift of all was not a doll or toy, but being part of a family who loved me. They gave me the sense of belonging as a child, and as an adult, this sense of belonging is broader, encompassing the entire Family of God.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The Blue Umbrella

Author: Mike Mason
Publisher: David C Cook
October 2009
ISBN: 978-1-4347-6525-0
Genre: Inspirational/fantasy/youth

Ten year old, Zac Sparks is now an orphan. His mother has just died, struck by a random lightning bolt. Zac has no family, except for two elderly aunties (whom he has never heard of) who swoops in and takes him (without any of his clothes or toys) to a small town called Five Corners. But life will never be the same. The aunties live with an old man named Butler who takes care of them, but something is not right.

Next door to the aunties house is a store call Porters. There are weird lights at night flashing above the store and everyone believes the store is haunted. Not only that but the aunties have forbidden Zac to have anything to do with Sky Porter, the owner.

But that is until the aunties Dada insists that Zac steals the Blue Umbrella that Sky Porter is always carrying around. But Zac likes Sky. How can he possibly steal Sky’s most treasured belonging for Dada, a man that terrifies him? And what would happen if he does obey Dada and steal the umbrella?

I initially passed on THE BLUE UMBRELLA because I don’t read science fiction. But a friend of mine raved on this book, so when the opportunity came up to review it again, I accepted. This book is an absolute treasure! Zac is a wonderfully realistic little boy who is dealing with a lot of issues, such as the death of his mother, and the transition to another home, but still, one can’t help but fall in love with him. The aunties were evil, evil, evil.

It was mentioned that this is a allegory, but it took me almost to the end of the book to figure it out. I loved this book, and my husband has already picked it up, wanting to read it. So this is a youth book that will reach different generations. I loved getting to know Zac, Sky, and the different characters in this book. I am looking forward to the sequel to this story. $14.99. 425 pages.

Q&A with Mike Mason, author of The Blue Umbrella

Where did you get your inspiration for The Blue Umbrella?

I live at the top of a hill. At the bottom of the hill, a couple of blocks down, is the real Porter’s Store. A few years ago I awoke in the middle of the night to a flash of insight. I recalled that when I was a little boy, many years ago and many miles away, I also lived at the top of a hill and at the bottom was an old store. How interesting! With this strange convergence of my present and past lives, the whole geography of a children’s fantasy novel flowed into my mind. I could set the story right in my own neighborhood! But it would really be the neighborhood of my childhood, which is the deepest source of all writerly inspiration.

There was also a third old store, Foster’s, which I knew as a young man living in a small prairie town. Old Mr. Foster was always talking about the weather and he even made up little poems about it. In winter he might say:
Snow, snow, the lovely snow,
You step on a bit and down you go.
Or on a rainy day he’d say:
Sun, sun, the beautiful sun,
It never shines, the son-of-a-gun!

Listening to Mr. Foster recite his silly poems, one day my imagination got to wondering what might really be going on in that store …

Which character is most like you?

There is quite a bit of me in Zac Sparks—in two ways. Firstly, as a little boy I was very active and excitable and I got into a fair amount of trouble. I used to climb on top of the piano and shout, “Jump, Mommy, jump!” and from wherever she was in the house my mother would have to come running to catch me. And I once pushed the neighborhood bully off a high stone wall into a big tub of water! I picture Zac, under normal circumstances, as being like that.

This story, however, does not take place under normal circumstances. Zac’s mother has died and he’s been plunged into a dark situation, so for most of the book he struggles with grief, shock, fear, and confusion. This changes him. While he still has “sparks” of mischief and excitability, on the whole his behavior is much subdued, his natural character repressed. Interestingly I think this side of him reflects, to some extent, my adult self. Life has a lot of hard experiences that can knock you sideways. At some level aren’t adults trying to get back to the fully alive children they once were?

So yes, I identify with Zac. But to say which character is most like me, I have to admit it’s Ches. I like Ches a lot—so much that I decided to write book two in the series from Ches’s point of view. Talk about repressed! Due to his background he has so many problems. But precisely because of that, he has a great journey to make from darkness to light.

Who is your favorite character?

Chelsea! I love her because she is the one who has most retained her childlikeness. Through her connection with Eldy, she has resisted all pressure to conform to the evil that has Five Corners in its grip. Book three in the series will be from Chelsea’s point of view and I can hardly wait to write it!

This story seems to be an allegory. Did you start out intending to write an allegory or did it just happen?

For years I’d written nonfiction books with a message, and I was tired of that. I had nothing more to tell anyone; instead I just wanted to tell a good story. I had just turned fifty and I realized that fiction is what I’d really wanted to write all along. Somehow I’d gotten away from that, and it was time to return to my original dream.

So with The Blue Umbrella I set out with no message in mind, no allegory, just a story. As I went along, I myself was very surprised at the spiritual depth that developed. But I don’t think this makes my book an allegory, so much as a work of literature with an allegorical dimension. An allegory tends to feel wooden because there is a clear one-to-one correspondence between all the elements of the story and some other reality. An allegory is so linked to what it represents that it cannot really stand on its own, whereas a good literary story, while it always points beyond itself, is fully alive in its own right.

What is the main thing you hope readers remember from The Blue Umbrella?

Weather: how it looks and feels, and how it suggests something much more than meets the eye. I want readers to remember Zac in his room at the Aunties’ house, listening to the wind as it moves tree branches against his windowpane like someone tapping to be let in.

Have you ever wondered why weather is the number one topic of conversation? It seems like the smallest sort of small talk, but I think weather is really a very BIG topic. This is obvious in our own time, when the world is heading for climate disaster and everyone’s talking about it. But even just normal chitchat about weather is, I believe, far more significant than it appears. I think it’s a safe way for people to acknowledge something very important. We all have a deep yearning to discuss the big questions in life (such as “Why are we here?” and “What’s it all about?”), but often we cannot talk freely because there are so many different beliefs and it just gets really awkward. Weather, however, is something right in our faces that both deeply affects us and that we can all agree on. It’s perfectly obvious if it’s raining or snowing or the sun is shining, and it’s also perfectly obvious that such magnificent phenomena reflect a greater reality. Weather is the ultimate metaphor.

The Blue Umbrella by Mike Mason
David C Cook/October 2009
ISBN: 978-1-4347-6526-0/425 pages/softcover/$14.99 -

Monday, December 21, 2009

The Liturgical Year

Author: Joan Chittister
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
ISBN: 978-0-8499-0119-5
Genre: Inspirational/spirituality

THE LITURGICAL YEAR is not a subject I know anything about, since my beliefs have never studied this. But I have heard a lot about it recently so I decided to pick up this book to learn something about this topic.

In THE LITURGICAL YEAR, the author attempts to show us that ”the liturgical year is an adventure in bringing the Christian life to fullness, the heart to alert, the soul to focus. It does not concern itself with the questions of how to make a living. It concerns itself with how to make a life.” (from the back cover)

We all go through stages of life, all marked by years – infanthood to childhood, childhood to adulthood, adulthood to old age, and according to the author, in the center of all of this is the liturgical year.

In THE LITURGICAL YEAR, you will learn such things as:

. how following the liturgical calendar helps us meld our lives with the life of Christ
. the role that asceticism plays in liturgy
. the four major kinds of celebrations, from Sundays to saints’ days
. how even non-holy days have a place in the liturgical routine.

I’m not quite sure how I feel about the book. I did learn quite a bit about THE LITURGICAL YEAR in this book, but I think I would like to do additional study about the subject.

This book is not very conversational, but reads rather like a lecture. Still I enjoyed reading it and learning something about the topic. I think I am going to go back through the book slower and maybe it will help me to absorb a little bit more about the topic. $17.99 hardcover. 215 pages.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Hometown Courtship / Witness to Murder / Lonestar Cinderella

Author: Diann Hunt
Publisher: Love Inspired
July 2009
ISBN: 978-0-373-81417-6
Genre: Inspirational/romance

Callie Easton has several unpaid tickets. And now, in court, the judge has assigned her to do forty hours of community service. Unfortunately, the community service is helping build houses for an organization similar to Habitats for Humanity, and Brad Sharp is the supervisor.

Brad Sharp is tired of being set up by his happily married brother, the judge. And Callie is just one more reason he’s had enough. Okay, she seems to know her way around a hammer and nail, but she has a bit of trouble with punctuality, and she is into pedicures, manicures, and the entire beauty thing, something that Brad is convinced killed his sister.

Callie has a heart of gold, plus she works hard. Soon Brad finds himself fighting off his attraction to her. But when he finds out that Callie knew his sister—and was even friends with her—well, that is the last straw. What will it take for God to reveal that He wants them to make a home—together.

HOMETOWN COURTSHIP is a book that I’ve looked forward to reading for quite sometime. Full of humor, the sizzle of attraction, and a story line I haven’t read recently, it is a recipe for romance.

Callie is definitely a sweetheart. A lot more girly-girl than I, she is more at home around hair colors and nail polish, and knows her way around specialized bakeries and coffee shops. Brad is a bear, gruff, and tending to roar a bit. His anger issues kind of turned me off of him, but well, it was nice to read about a less than perfect hero for a change. If you are looking for a good romance then HOMETOWN COURTSHIP might be a book you’d be interested in. Available from Discussion questions included at the end of the book. $6.25. 268 pages.

Author: Jill Elizabeth Nelson
Publisher: Love Inspired Suspense
July 2009
ISBN: 978-0-373-44345-1
Genre: Inspirational/romantic suspense

TV Reporter, Hallie Berglund is supposed to interview a model for a fluff segment on TV, but when she arrives at her destination, she finds the door open, and the woman dead, with a popular sports figure standing over her, holding the murder weapon. Hallie quickly notifies the police of her discovery, and the suspect flees the scene of the crime.

Brody Jordan is a sports reporter, and apparently on good terms with the popular jocks, as the first person the suspect thinks to call is Brody when he needs help. Brody is quick to respond, and he tries his hardest to convince Hallie that he is innocent, but Hallie will have nothing to do with it.

Then the murder weapon arrives via the mail in Hallie’s office, with a note, informing her she could be next. Not only that, but the victim in the crime was wearing an exclusive piece of Hallie’s mother’s jewelry, and now Hallie is the only person who can unearth the secrets of the past—if she can survive long enough.

WITNESS TO MURDER is the second Love Inspired Suspense by popular suspense author, Jill Elizabeth Nelson. I enjoyed getting to know Hallie, and Brody, but I did think that both of them needed to learn some lessons in caution! Most people would not just enter a house (not theirs) where the door is standing open; they would call out and announce their presence first.

However, the story was fast paces and intriguing, and I had to keep reading to discover how the victim got Hallie’s mother’s bracelet, and who the murderer actually was. Discussion questions are included at the end of the book. $5.50. 212 pages.


Author: Debra Clopton
Publisher: Love Inspired
July 2009
ISBN: 978-0-373-81415-2
Genre: Inspirational/romance

Melody Chandler is looking forward to her time living in the former stage coach stop on a ranch. But the owner of the ranch is less than thrilled to have her there. He knows all about the rumors that gold was hidden on his land back in the days of stage coaches and outlaws, and he doesn’t want a bunch of treasure hunters pounding on his door.

Seth Turner is surprised when he goes to evict his new tenant and discovers she refuses to leave—she has a lease, signed by his brother. So, he decides to do the next best thing and work with Melody to control what she finds in his great grandmother’s journals and limit the community involvement.

But when Melody finds a map, leading to the treasure, Seth finds himself out in the woods with Melody, trying to follow the clues. Will he find a treasure at the end of the search?

I’ve read all the books in Ms. Clopton’s Mule Hollow series so far, and I just love her voice. Her stories are full of humor, and real life, and loveable characters. LONE STAR CINDERELLA is no different. I enjoyed getting to know Melody and Seth and seeing Seth’s ranch as they explored it, looking for that ancient treasure.

Melody and Seth are very expertly developed, and it was nice to revisit some of the characters from previous books. I can’t help but love all the elderly matchmakers living in the community. Makes me wish that Mule Hollow is actually a real place. Don’t miss any of the books in the Mule Hollow series, but most especially not LONE STAR CINDERELLA. Available at Discussion questions are included at the end of the book. $5.50. 268 pages.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

article by Virginia Smith plus giveaway...

The Book of Your Heart
By Virginia Smith

Putting up the Christmas tree at my house is a very special event. I relish the ritual of hanging the ornaments I’ve collected over the years. Each one holds a memory. The shiny silver bell engraved with our wedding date. The brightly painted teddy bear with the year of my daughter’s birth painted on his hat. The skiing Santa I bought on our first ski trip. As I lift each treasure carefully out of the box where it has lain hidden from view all year, a precious memory emerges from deep within my heart and finds a place on my tree.

I imagine stories are like those ornaments, each one a treasure nestled within the heart of a writer, waiting to be brought out and displayed. Perhaps that’s how we first recognize that we are writers: fictitious people walk and talk and breathe within us, and we burn with the desire to show them to others. A story unfolds with startling clarity in our minds, and we know—just know—that we won’t have a moment’s peace until we’ve set it down on paper and shared it.

That burning desire is exactly what enables us to tell a story that stirs the imaginations of others. It is our passion for the story and the characters that causes us to spend hours striving for the precise word or the perfect phrase to relay the vivid images in our heads. For some, the stories conceived in our hearts burst from us full-grown; others hold a story inside, nurturing it in the deep places until it ripens into the thing of beauty we’ve envisioned.

Many years ago, a story bloomed in my heart. It was full of adventure and love, and infused with hope—truly, a thing of beauty. I wrote the first draft feverishly, the words pouring onto the page as the plot unfolded in my mind. The characters were so real, their struggles painful and vivid. I studied the craft, intent on telling my tale with artistry. With each new skill I learned, I revised and polished until the story sparkled. If ever a story was born from the heart, it was that one.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t find an editor who shared my passion. Whether due to my lack of skill or the uncertainties of the market for that genre, the story of my heart was rejected over and over. I mourned. I raged. I cried out to God, “Why did You give me this story if You don’t intend me to tell it?” After my rage died, I revised and polished the manuscript again. Finally, when there was not a single word that hadn’t been scrubbed until it shone, I gave up. After all, if there was no place for the story of my heart in the publishing world, maybe there was no place for me there either.

That’s when I heard God’s whisper: Do you think I have only one story to give?

A few days later, a character waltzed into my mind and began telling me about her life. She became real to me, as real as the characters in my first story. I discovered that there was room in my heart for her, too. In fact, this new tale took on a glimmer and shine all its own. I employed the skills I’d honed on my first, and eventually, God placed a published book in my hands.

And then He said: I have more stories to give you.

Can you imagine anything sadder than a Christmas tree with only a single ornament? Or a life with only a single precious memory? Or a heart with only a single story?

I am convinced that good stories are born in the heart of God, a heart immense and overflowing with creativity. He carefully selects an author for each one and bestows a precious gift – straight from His heart to ours. We write it and polish it and, when the story has become as beautiful as we can make it, we must hang it on the tree and reach into the box for another treasure.

Virginia Smith is the author of a dozen Christian novels including Stuck in the Middle, a finalist for the 2009 ACFW Book of the Year award, and A Taste of Murder, a finalist for the 2009 Daphne du Maurier Award of Excellence in Mystery/Suspense. Her newest, Third Time’s a Charm, the third and final book in her Sister-to-Sister Series, will hit bookstore shelves in January. Learn more about Ginny and her books at

Check Out Ginny's Big Prize Bonanza Giveaway, Going On Now!

Jesus--No Greater Love

This Christmas, put giving the good news on your holiday gift list. Join Bruce Marchiano and become a producer of Jesus…No Greater Love, the Jesus movie for the next generation. Be a part of reaching the nations with the gospel of Christ. What better time than Christmas to share the love of Jesus with the world? Check out to find out how to give the good news this Christmas.

Dallas/Ft. Worth, TX—Jesus…No Greater Love will come from millions of producers—everyday, normal people—all over the world who are part of the movement to bring Jesus…No Greater Love to a new generation. The brain child of actor, author and speaker Bruce Marchiano, Jesus…No Greater Love is sparking a movement of love within the body of Christ. It is a visual love letter to the world.

Bruce is flanked by a passionate group of people who have already caught the vision for what this film can be and are committing extraordinary effort to raising support for the project. These are small business owners and employees working around the clock, utilizing all their personal and professional networking abilities to spread the word about this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to reach the world for Jesus. They have launched a grassroots fundraising and social media effort reaching out to individuals incorporating social networking venues such as Twitter, Twitter Hashtag, Facebook, Flikr, Tangle and YouTube. This fundraising effort has the potential to sweep across the globe in mere seconds. By incorporating traditional publicity, the group is ensuring that millions more will hear this message through traditional media outlets as well.

Conspicuously absent from the group are Hollywood insiders, celebrities and well-heeled investors. A spokesman for the group states, “This is an unprecedented fundraising adventure. It’s not about big endorsements, record-breaking profits or any media machine. If this works and we make the new Jesus movie for the next generation, it will be because of God’s power, and the glory will go to Him alone.”

Jesus…No Greater Love will be a word for word, verse by verse film adaptation of the Gospel according to John. “The gospel is the power of God unto salvation. That’s really our concept, that the gospel would go out in the power of the film medium, unaltered by any human script writer,” Marchiano says.

Though Jesus…No Greater Love will be released to movie theaters, the movement isn’t about generating commercial success. “This isn’t about the box office. It’s about millions of youth watching this movie on iPods, cell phones, the internet, etc., and it also being projected on an old bed sheet in an Indian leper colony. This is a movie produced by the body of Christ to reach the entire world for Christ,” Marchiano says.

You know the story. You know the ending. Now know the heart of the Man.

You can become a part of the movement to reach the next generation. Donations can be made at

Friday, December 18, 2009

Authors share favorite Christmas recipes - and a free download with chance to win!

Author Sandra Glahn released Kona with Jonah and Frappe' with Philippians in 2009. These Bible studies are part of her Coffee Cup Series.
From the kitchen of Sandra Glahn

Serves 6

2 heads fresh broccoli
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 c. grated sharp, cheddar cheese
1 t. dry minced onion
2 egg whites, well-beaten
1 c. mayonnaise
Salt and pepper to taste
Crushed potato chips

Cut flowers off broccoli. (You can shred the spears for slaw later). Chop broccoli flowers into bite-sized pieces. Microwave on high in 2 T. water for 3 minutes (or steam for 5 minutes on stove). Drain. Mix everything together except broccoli. Add broccoli and mix gently. Put in Pam-sprayed casserole (1-1/2 qt. size). Sprinkle with crushed potato chips. Bake at 350 for 20 to 30 minutes.

Virginia Smith's January 2010 release of Third Time's a Charm is the much anticipated conclusion of the Sister to Sister Series.
Virginia Smith’s Favorite Christmas Recipe

My grandmother made this every year before she passed away. I’ve continued the tradition.

Mono's Lemon Cake

3/4 cup oil
1 cup canned apricot nectar
4 eggs
1/2 cup sugar
1 Lemon cake mix

Combine ingredients with mixer. Pour into greased, floured Bundt pan. Bake at 350 for 25 minutes. Reduce heat to 325 for another 25 minutes. Turn hot cake onto cake stand and poke with toothpick. Pour on a mixture of:

1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1/4 cup lemon juice

Cover with the cake stand lid and wrap tightly with several layers of plastic wrap. Let stand for 2-3 days before serving.

Kathy Carlton Willis, owner of the same named communications firm, can’t get enough Christmas. She takes the star off the top of the tree and makes it shine in the lives of her clients all year long. They aspire to reflect the true star of Christmas, Jesus Christ, every day.
In the Kitchen with Kathy

People think this is a puff of sweet potatoes—and try to debate me every time when I say it’s carrots!

Cafeteria Carrot Souffle'
Serves 8

2-3 15 oz cans sliced carrots, mixed or blended until mashed/pureed
1/2 cup melted butter (I melt in the microwave—use REAL butter)
1 cup white sugar (I use a tad less, this is SWEET)
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
small amount of spices of your choice (I use cinnamon)
3 eggs, beaten (I go ahead and beat this with a mixer so that it makes the casserole really pouf)
1 teaspoon confectioners' sugar for dusting

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).

2. Mix all ingredients except the confections’ sugar, and transfer to a 2-quart casserole dish.

3. Bake in preheated oven for 30-60 minutes (Recipe says 30 minutes, but because I puree the carrots, it takes longer to solidify in the oven.)

4. Sprinkle with confectioners' sugar, optional.

With the hustle and bustle of the Christmas season, Gina Stinson, publicist assistant for KCWC, enjoys the special opportunity to spotlight fiction and non-fiction authors who reflect the light of the Savior all through the year.
Ready, Set, Bake with Gina

These are fast becoming a favorite with family and friends....ooey, gooey goodness!

Caramel Bars

32 individually wrapped caramels, unwrapped (or you can use one package of caramel chips)
5 tablespoons heavy cream
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup rolled oats
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup butter, melted
1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). In a medium saucepan over low heat, melt together the caramels and heavy cream, stirring occasionally until smooth.

In a medium bowl, stir together the flour, oats, brown sugar, baking soda and salt. Stir in the melted butter until well blended. Press half of the mixture into the bottom of a 9x13 inch baking pan. Reserve the rest.

Bake the crust for 8 minutes in the preheated oven. Remove and sprinkle with chocolate chips and walnuts. Pour the caramel mixture over the top and then crumble the remaining crust mixture over everything.

Return to the oven and bake for an additional 12 minutes, or until the top is lightly toasted. Cut into squares while it is still warm.

Christian recording artist and author of 101 Ways to Give This Christmas Away, Matthew West ( ), is offering a free download of the Christmas story from Luke read by the singer/songwriter himself. In fact, our goal is to reach 1 million total downloads. You can also download a free copy of the Gospel of John in the New Living Translation. (to download scroll to the bottom and click on “Download the Christmas Story”).

Some ways this download is being used:

- Family time listening experience (hot cocoa, fire place, Christmas cheer)
- Christmas E-cards (include a link to the download in your Christmas card this year)
- Posting the link in the comments sections of other blogs you read to spread the word
- Embed the audio file into your Facebook page or website so it plays automatically
- Spread the Gospel though Twitter
- Send the link through a text message or through your smart phone so you can download the file and play it all around town

Think you have a fun, interesting, or unique way that you’ve used the download? Want to share it with the world and in the process enter to win a Tyndale House January new release? Post your story in the comments section of the Tyndale Blog ( , and we’ll draw 5 winners on Christmas Eve.

Here’s what you could win:

The Daniel Fast by Susan Gregory
Raising a Modern-Day Princess by Pam Farrel & Doreen Hanna
The Busy Couple’s Guide to Sharing the Work & the Joy by Kathy Peel
The Courteous Cad by Catherine Palmer
Blackout by Jason Elam & Steve Yohn


Tyndale’s New : NLT Holy Bible Mosaic HC

Merry Christmas!

God Sightings -- The One Year Bible and Companion Guide


If you’ve ever wondered—even for a moment—

if God is real, you’re about to get your answer

God Sightings helps Christians to see God

as present and active in their everyday lives

Dallas/Ft. Worth, TX— People are suggesting that they want more of God and less of the stuff that gets between them and their relationship with God. A recent Barna study revealed that 75% of Christians polled say they sense that “God is motivating people to stay [spiritually] connected but in different ways and through different types of experiences than in the past.”

Group Publishing and Tyndale House Publishers have heeded that call and joined together to provide a unique interactive Bible reading experience called God SightingsTM where people can experience God in a refreshing and non-traditional way. For the first time ever, the complete tools needed to make the pages of Scripture come alive and see God manifested in everyday life and events are now available. By reading God Sightings: The One Year Bible and God Sightings: The One Year Companion Guide, whether in book form or online, users will become participants in something so profoundly simple and powerful that it changes their lives. Through the first-of-its-kind free website,, users will encounter something that is already out there but is often missed: God’s expressed love in the lives and circumstances of others. Materials for God Sightings are available for individuals to use alone, with groups, as a church-wide campaign or even in online communities.

By using the God Sightings website, groups or individuals can publicly or privately share their thoughts about Scripture and captured “God Sightings” with other people anywhere in the world at any time. The private online community also offers a unique opportunity for groups or families separated by distance or time to look for God together. It is ideal for military spouses separated by war, parents whose children are in college in another city or distant friends who want to stay in touch. It’s a chance to witness and share God’s presence even when separated by hundreds or thousands of miles.

The God Sightings products include The One Year Bible (New Living Translation or New International Version ), The One Year Companion Guide, The One Year Small Group Leader Guide, and The One Year Launch Kit for Pastors and Ministry Leaders. When used, these beautiful and inviting books along with the easy to access website will provide a renewed faith and passion for the Word. The One Year Bible, today’s #1 selling annual reading Bible, leads people to experience God on a daily basis. And when paired with The One Year Companion Guide, they will begin to see God’s magnificent presence reaching out to change their lives in ways that will startle awe and excite them as never before.

God Sightings: The One Year Companion Guide - ISBN: 978076443954 - Paperback $9.99

God Sightings: The One Year Small Group Leader Guide - ISBN: 978076449261 - Paperback $9.99

God Sightings: The One Year Bible (NLT) - ISBN: 9781414334424 - Paperback $12.99

God Sightings: The One Year Bible (NIV) - ISBN: 9781414334431 - Paperback $12.99

God Sightings: The One Year Launch Kit (NLT) - ISBN: 9780764440083 - Includes promotional DVD $69.99

God Sightings: The One Year Launch Kit (NIV) - ISBN: 9780764439278 - Includes promotional DVD $69.99

Thursday, December 17, 2009


Make this the first book you read in 2010.

Title: PRIMAL: A Quest for the Lost Soul of Christianity
Author: Mark Batterson
Publisher: Multnomah
November 2009
ISBN: 978-1-60142-131-9
Genre: Inspirational/nonfiction/Christian living

Our generation needs a reformation, but a single person won’t lead it. A single event won’t define it. Our reformation will be a movement of reformers living compassionately, creatively, courageously for the cause of Christ. This reformation will not be born of a new discovery. It will be the rediscovery of something old, something ancient. Something PRIMAL. (from the back cover.)

Have you ever considered what your faith would look like if it were stripped down to the simplest, rawest, purest faith possible? PRIMAL wants to take you to that time. A time when you will stop uncomplicating Christianity, and let Jesus simplify it. So that we will be able to unconditionally love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. But if we are to live out the essence of Christianity, we must commit to being great at the Great Commandment.

In PRIMAL, the author explores the four basic elements of the Great Commandment in Christianity: compassion, wonder, curiosity, and power. And he invites you to be a part of God’s commandment, starting in your own life.

When I was diagnosed with breast cancer, I had no place to turn, but to God. I told Him my life was in His hands, even as I begged him to intervene, for the sake of my husband and children. And God met me. He carried me every step of the way through the cancer experience, surgery, recovery, chemo and radiation, impressing even my doctors with my amazing tolerance of the treatment (it was all God.) And I immerged a different person. I will never be the same again, and I don’t ever want to lose the relationship with the Lord that I have right now.

In PRIMAL, Mark Batterson wants all the readers to come to that point. A point where your heart will break for the things that hurt God. A place where you met God and God met you. A place where God will birth something supernatural in your spirit.

Grow great at the Great Commandment.

PRIMAL. $17.99 hardcover. 171 pages.

Be Astonished Again

We have a tendency to complicate Christianity. Jesus simplified it: Love God with all of your heart, soul, mind, and strength. If we are to live out the essence of Christianity, we must commit to being great at this Great Commandment.

In Primal, Mark Batterson explores the four elements of Great Commandment Christianity: compassion, wonder, curiosity, and power. Along the way, he calls you to be a part of God’s reformation, starting in your own life.

As Mark writes, “Is there a place in your past where you met God and God met you? A place where your heart broke for the things that break the heart of God? Maybe it was a sermon that became more than a sermon. Maybe it was a mission trip or retreat. Maybe it was a vow you made at an altar. In that moment, God birthed something supernatural in your spirit. You knew you’d never be the same again. My prayer is that this book would take you back to that burning bush—and reignite a primal faith.”

Primal will help you live in light of what matters most and discover what it means to love God. It will help you become great at the Great Commandment.

Author Bio:

The author of Wild Goose Chase and In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day, Mark Batterson serves as lead pastor of National Community Church in Washington , D.C. One church with nine services in five locations, NCC is focused on reaching emerging generations and meets in movie theaters at metro stops throughout the D.C. area. Mark has two Masters degrees from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Chicago . He and his wife, Lora, live on Capitol Hill with their three children.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

40 Loaves

Title: 40 LOAVES: Breaking Bread with Our Father Each Day
Author: C. D. Baker
Publisher: WaterBrook Press
November 2009
ISBN: 978-0-307-44490-5
Genre: Inspirational/nonfiction

Why don’t I have more faith?
Why am I so bored with Jesus?
Why are Christians so hard for me to like? (from the back cover)

If these are questions that you’ve asked, maybe 40 LOAVES should be a book for you to consider. It seems that there are so many questions that we’re not supposed to ask when playing by the religious rules. Christianity makes people uncomfortable. And asking hard questions about the subject, even more so.

But did you ever notice that Jesus asked questions, even while inviting them? Are you afraid to ask God about what is bothering you?

C. D. Baker maintains that while asking is risky, it is even more risky to continue trying to get by without knowing. So, Mr. Baker began by asking 40 soul-searching questions which ultimately taught him more about God than he ever expected.

I thought that 40 LOAVES would be a devotional type book when I requested it for review, but it is not. This would be the ideal book to give to someone asking hard questions about God or life. Questions like:

Why do I want Jesus in my life?
Why can’t I overcome sin in my life?
Why do I get so angry with God?
Why don’t I have more faith?
Why am I so afraid of death?
Why does God seem so silent in my life?

And many more.

40 LOAVES will surely be a book that is helpful in answering these questions, and making God more clear to you. Little prayers are included in each section, as well as questions for you to ask yourself. $14.99 hardcover. 162 pages.


Why don’t I have more faith?

Why am I so bored with Jesus?

Why don’t I feel connected at church?

These are the types of questions the religious establishment often makes it uncomfortable, if not impossible, to ask. And by asking them, C. David Baker, author of 40 Loaves: Breaking Bread with Our Father Each Day hopes to start a conversation in people’s hearts, then with others, and ultimately with God. Many circles of Christianity have led us to believe that certainty and confidence are the proof of true spirituality; questions are discouraged.

But Jesus offered his followers an ongoing conversation—a relationship built around a free, open-ended discussion. Questions were encouraged. They were often impertinent, sometimes alarming, and the religious establishment was distinctly uncomfortable with them … just as it is today.

“40 Loaves is something of a collection of the kinds of questions I felt finally free to ask of myself and of my relationship with Christ,” says Baker. “It’s my belief that these questions are shared by many others who long for the freedom to simply ask them out loud. I hope this book becomes a platform that frees others to search their hearts more deeply and be fed with the Bread of life.”

Each “loaf” here is a big question that stimulates discussion, investigation, and contemplation; it will take hours—or days—to digest. Conversational, inviting, disarming, and real, 40 Loaves nourishes self-examination and offers validation for those who feel discouraged, guilty, or even shamed when the realities of their lives don’t match up with the ideals of the Christian establishment.

Author Bio:

C. David Baker founded an award-winning business before redirecting his career to write full-time from his small farm in Bucks County , Pennsylvania . He is the author of eight books, including six novels, one of which was nominated for a Christy Award. He has contributed articles to the Christian History Institute’s international publication Glimpses, and to Christian Singles magazine. Baker has a Master’s degree in theological studies from the University of St. Andrews in Scotland .

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Pearl Girls

Title: PEARL GIRLS: Encountering grit, experiencing grace
Compiled by: Margaret McSweeney
Publisher: Moody Publishers
November 2009
ISBN: 978-0-8024-5862-9
Genre: Inspirational/nonfiction/Christian Living

PEARL GIRLS is a book that you’ll come back to over and over again. Full of true stories by some of your favorite authors, such as Susan May Warren, Melody Carlson, Robin Jones Gunn, among others, are stories that will break your heart and then warm it.

For instance when Susan May Warren returned home to Minnesota she discovered that her mother-in-law had sold all her belongings, not knowing that Susan was looking forward to unpacking all her earthly treasures and use them in her new home. It took a major act for Susan to forgive her mother-in-law.

Or Melody Carlson’s story about having a son addicted to illegal drugs. Could anything good possibly come out of that?

You will be inspired by the wisdom and insight in these pages. I know I was.

PEARL GIRLS is a book that is beautifully published, an ideal book to give to a loved one for Christmas. The stories are all short enough to read in one sitting, and you might even learn something.

This book contains a message that every woman needs to learn. So come to the place where grit encounters grace. And discover that God isn’t finished with you yet. $12.99. 201 pages.

About the book:

With His love and grace, God covered the unexpected pain in my life of becoming an adult orphan and transformed this pain into a pearl. We are all Pearl Girls. Each of us has been touched by God's gift of love and grace, and it's a gift that I want to share with others. That's why I am launching Pearl Girls.

Actually, my very first gift from my parents was a pearl. The gift of my name. Margaret means "precious pearl." So perhaps this is what I was always supposed to do. My heart's prayer is that Pearl Girls will be a blessing to others - to the women who contribute their literary talent to the Pearl Girls projects; to the readers who are inspired and comforted by the life experiences shared through these projects and to the women and children who will benefit from the proceeds given by Pearl Girls to various charities. This is a win-win for everyone, and each of us has a special part in making the Pearl Girls projects "blessed sellers."

After the first Pearl Girls tea in Atlanta, I went to my brother, Claude's home to help sort through our parents' boxes in his basement. It was an emotional experience and tedious process to discover what was in each box, to decide what to do with each item and to discard those belongings which we needed to let go. After several long hours of sorting, I received an incredible hug from heaven - a confirmation that Pearl Girls is something that is meant to be. I discovered a three strand necklace of painted pearls belonging to my grandmother from the early 1900s! Isn't that amazing?
Press Release:


Hi-Res cover:

It’s about Connecting Hearts and Souls to Impact the World.

As you know Margaret doesn’t keep a penny of any proceeds. When getting the word out about Pearl Girls, please let people know that 100% of the royalties go directly to two charities:

WINGS (women in need growing stronger). The proceeds will help fund a Safe House in the Chicago suburbs. It costs $50 a night to provide safe shelter for a woman and her children. During this economy, WINGS is receiving even more phone calls for a safe place to stay. Already, the Pearl Girls have provided 60 nights with the advance royalties.

Hands of Hope. The proceeds will help build wells in Uganda for school children. Can you imagine a child at school without a water fountain in the hallway where he or she can grab a quick sip of water in between classes on a hot day? These children have to drink from puddles and other water sources which carry diseases and parasites. It costs $12,000 to build a well in Uganda. Already, the Pearl Girls have provided funds to build ¼ of a well. www.handsofhopeonline.orgFirst and foremost Margaret would like you to highlight above all else that 100% of the book’s royalties go to Charity.

Link to buy the book online:

Link to video:

Pearl Girls from Michael J Garvey on Vimeo.

Inspired by the many women who opened their lives and shared their stories in Pearl Girls: Encountering Grit, Experiencing Grace, we have created sister site, Post-a-Pearl. A place to continue the connection and encouragement the book began. I hope you will take the opportunity to connect through the Post-a-Pearl site. Please post your own Pearl story and reach out to share your own story with others. Collaborating is an important purpose of Pearl Girls. We connect to make a difference in the world.

You can find all the info and instructions on the website.

Pearl Girls button

Monday, December 14, 2009

Watch Over Me

Author: Christa Parrish
Publisher: Bethany House
October 2009
ISBN: 978-0-7642-0554-5
Genre: Inspirational/women’s fiction

Abbi and Benjamin Patil are just pretending. Pretending that they are still happily married, pretending that they have the same relationship that they had before Ben went to Afghanistan. Pretending that they still love each other. But Abbi would testify that she and Ben are going in two different directions. And that Ben rarely came home at night. And that their conversations were mostly arguments.

When Deputy Ben finds the newborn baby gift abandoned in the field, he is elevated to hero-status by the community for finding the baby, Abbi is the last to know. She finds out in the grocery store line and told by a gossipy clerk. Abbi is hurt that Ben never called to tell her, that he never comes home for two nights, and that the nameless baby is getting more attention than she is.

As Ben and the rest of the police force work to identify the mother, Ben and Abbi seem the most obvious couple to serve as foster parents. But the newborn’s arrival into their home opens old wounds for Abbi, plus shines a harsh light on exactly how much Ben has changed since his military tour.

With their marriage teetering on the brink, what will it take for the struggling couple to reclaim what they once had?

WATCH OVER ME is a powerfully written story that is too realistic for a comfortable read. The baby broke my heart—every time I hear of an abandoned baby, I want to cry—ad this story is just stock full of the pain. I hoped that Ben and Abbi would be able to work out their many differences and that a happy home would be provided for this baby girl.

A secondary story is also interweaved into the plot line, a story about a young deaf boy who is struggling to find his place in the world—a family that would watch over him...

WATCH OVER ME is a story that will grip you by the heartstrings and not let go. Poignant, tear-jerking, and unforgettable. $13.99. 349 pages.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Cowboy Christmas

Author: Mary Connealy
Publisher: Barbour Books
September 2009
ISBN: 978-1-60260-145-1
Genre: Inspirational/historical romance

Annette Tabot has a voice of an angel. And she loves singing for the Lord. But now she has a new boss and he is abusive, a gambler, and he is determined to dress Annette like a harlot and make her sing more modern songs. He also has plans that are a fate worse than death.

When Annette’s only friend is killed at the hands of her new boss, Annette takes flight, fleeing home to Wyoming where her father has a ranch. But after a long trip home, working her fingers to the bone in order to pay for her flight, Annette finds her old homestead deserted, run-down, and there is no sign of her father.

To make matters worse, Annette’s old boss has followed her from Missouri, and he almost arrived before she did. And now he is insisting she return to work for him—willingly, or not so willingly. Annette is determined to escape—and she does. Right off the edge of a cliff. What will it take for Annette to completely escape from this evil man’s clutches and find a true and lasting love of her own?

COWBOY CHRISTMAS is the latest novel by this funny author, Mary Connealy. I couldn’t wait to get into the pages of this book and laugh my way through the story. But maybe because I’m suffering from a bad cold while reading this, and I’m struggling to breathe, but I didn’t find this book quite as funny as her previous books. The story is still well told, the heroine and hero are at complete odds, trading insults and the story flows in the normal way for Ms. Connealy.

Annie is a stubborn heroine, determined to make a go of it, even in a cabin that is all but falling down around her ears. And the hero is of the opinion that she doesn’t have the sense that God gave a fly (no offense to the flies). But maybe this type of mentality was necessary to survive in Wyoming in 1879 (and maybe in the rest of the nation in 2009 as well). Still, the story was entertaining to read, and I couldn’t wait until Annie found a home—a true home. Don’t miss COWBOY CHRISTMAS for a side-splitting good read. $10.97. 304 pages.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

The Christmas Glass

Author: Marci Alborghetti
Publisher: Guideposts
October 2009
ISBN: 978-0-8249-4776-7
Genre: Inspirational/women’s fiction

Anna’s mother gave Anna the box of Christmas glass for a wedding present. It was a box that her own mother had been given as a wedding present years earlier. But now, with the Nazi’s invading, and Jews in danger, Anna feels that the Christmas glass would be safer with her sister, Filomena, who lived in the southern tip of Italy, and was hoping to move to America. So, Anna ships the box of Christmas glass off to her cousin.

Years have passed. Now Filomena is old, and living in an assisted living apartment. But her family is pushing her into moving to “the dying place”, the part of the nursing home for those who need more long-term help. But Filomena is objecting. Unless her family agrees to come together one last Christmas…and bring the pieces of the Christmas glass together, which she had divided up between her daughters and friends of the family.

But Filomena’s twin daughters, Marie and Catharine haven’t spoken in years. Not since Marie’s husband died, and she got remarried to Catharine’s high school boyfriend. Catharine feels that Marie had betrayed her. But since Catharine had returned Daniel’s ring and married someone else, Marie didn’t feel she’d done anything wrong. How can Marie possibly honor her mother’s wish and return home for Christmas when Catharine would be there? If she does go, will it be a wondrous reunion, or a disaster that would shatter them all?

THE CHRISTMAS GLASS is the first book I’ve read by this author. Beautifully published, in hard cover, this book would be excellent for gift giving this holiday season. However, the story is rather slow, and it takes some time to get into. I never did grow to care about the characters, and I couldn’t understand some of the mindsets some of the members possessed.

Filomena is a very strong willed, bitter woman, and it seemed as if her daughter, Catharine, was the same way. Marie fled as far from her family as she possibly could, going from Connecticut to California, both to be near her son, and to marry her second husband, but it also fueled the distance between the sisters.

THE CHRISTMAS GLASS is a story about a family trying to heal the fractures that occurred over time, fractures that have healed and scarred, and may not be able to ever be properly healed. Still, it is a Christmas story that will stay with the reader that stays with the book. $15.99 hardcover, 304 pages.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Wild West Christmas

Authors: Kathleen Y’Barbo, Lena Nelson Dooley, Darlene Franklin, & Vickie McDonough
Publisher: Barbour Books
September 2009
ISBN: 978-1-60260-566-4
Genre: Inspirational/historical

Christmas courtships corral four sisters in Texas

Charlsey’s Accountant by Lena Nelson Dooley—Charlsey Ames believes that she is the son that her father will never have. So, she works the ranch with the ranch hands. Horace Miller III is an accountant from back East, who is intrigued by Charlsey, at least until he learns she dresses like a man, and acts like one, on the range. What will it take for Horace & Charlsey to stop judging each other and find love?

Lucy Ames, Sharpshooter by Darlene Franklin—Lucy Ames dreams seem to come true when her sharpshooting skills get the attention of Major Paulson’s Wild West Show. Gordon Paulson is traveling with his family one last time before taking a teaching position at a Christian college. When Lucy and Gordon start falling in love, they realize they have different callings. What will it take for them to find a common ground?

A Breed Apart by Vickie McDonough—Sarah Ames is magnificent at training horses. Unfortunately, Sarah believes that is her only talent. Sarah is crush when her father hires a half-breed to take over her job. But then prized longhorn cattle go missing. Could Carson Romero be a cattle thief posing at a horse trainer? Has Carson stolen her heart as well?

Plain Trouble by Kathleen Y’Barbo—Bess Ames believes that her calling is to remain single now that her three sisters are happily married off. After all, some one needs to care for their father. But now Texas Ranger Joe Mueller rides into town, the only man whose ever gotten Bess’s attention. But it also seems that the man Joe is tracking also has eyes for Bess. How can Bess care for her father and still find love in the plans?

WILD WEST CHRISTMAS is a collection of four novellas written by different authors, combining different tales set in the same locale in the state of Texas, giving us a Texan Christmas. I enjoyed getting to know these four sisters, and reading their stories.

WILD WEST CHRISTMAS is a different sort of Christmas novella, giving readers a taste of ranch life in addition to romance. If you or someone you love is looking for a Texan Christmas romance, then WILD WEST CHRISTMAS is a book to consider. $9.99. 364 pages.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Crossing the Lines

Author: Richard Doster
Publisher: David C. Cook
June 2009
ISBN: 978-1-434799-84-5
Genre: historical

Jack Hall is a journalist, wanting to write about the fun things of life. Baseball. But when a black player is hired in his home town, emotions heat up, and Jack finds himself in a different world…especially once his house is bombed, endangering his wife and child. Jack takes a new job, as a sportswriter, in Atlanta, and the family is happy, believing this unfortunate event is behind them. But even before Jack starts his new job, he finds his past catching up with him.

Rosa Parks refuses to sit in the black part of the bus, and even though Jack objects, he finds himself going to investigate the details of this story. There he meets the legendary Martin Luther King, Jr., and sits in with black leaders as they make minute-by-minute plans to boycott the buses for the injustice.

Moved by King’s philosophy, Jack’s writing begins to reflect a need for racial equality that isn’t always well received—not even by his own wife. As historic events sweep Jack and his family into harm’s way, they find them selves on a collision course which could destroy their family forever.

CROSSING THE LINES is the first book I’ve read by Mr. Doster. The story isn’t really shown so much as told, which left me feeling distant from these characters. Based on a true story, the events mirror what I observed when I went to a museum in Memphis, to a section that focused exclusively on Black history. As Martin Luther King’s voice was broadcasted in the background I observed through pictures and articles the events in the 50’s that changed the course of history forever.

I am a white person living in a predominately white area. Not only that but all the events in this book happened long before I was born, so I am considerably separate from this story-or time period. However, even when I lived in Grand Rapids, an area that has an abundance of blacks, well, we were separate. There were black neighborhoods, and white. I never rode the bus, nor did I eat out much, so I never had much experience with this divide. I do have on-line friends that are black that I love very much, and that they had to go through such events in order to truly gain their freedom is heartbreaking.

CROSSING THE LINES is a book that is invaluable to those who want to learn more about this time in history. Educationally, it is based on real events, even though it is written as a novel. If you are interested in this subject and or time period, whether you are black or white, you will find this book invaluable, educational, and maybe even entertaining. $14.99. 304 pages.

Caught in the Crossfire of Black and White
The exciting sequel to Richard Doster’s Safe at Home offers a front row seat
at the explosive events of the Civil Rights Movement

Dallas/Ft. Worth, TX—Eager audiences need wait no longer for the much anticipated sequel to Richard Doster’s well-received Safe at Home. In Doster’s new historical fiction, Crossing the Lines (David C Cook, June 2009), giants of the dawning American Civil Rights Movement come alive as an idealistic white news reporter in the racially charged South of the late 1950s dedicates himself to the renewal of the region he loves.

Family man Jack Hall wants nothing more than to be a respectable newspaper reporter, see a good baseball game now and again, love his wife, and watch his son grow up in their middle-class, white community. A sportswriter for the Atlanta Constitution, Jack is a contented Southerner—until, across the pages of the nation’s newspapers, the photos begin to appear of bombed out “Negro” churches, black schoolchildren swarmed by angry white mobs, and Thurmond, Talmadge, and Russell standing before gold-domed buildings, vowing that “our way of life” will never change.

With each image, Jack’s discomfort grows until, in September 1957, the pain becomes unbearable. That’s when one image, in one small newspaper—of a white girl screaming insults at her black classmate—ignites a new mission. Jack, so thoroughly grieved by the now famous photo of Elizabeth Eckford and Hazel Bryan, is determined to show the world the South he loves—with its beauty, its literature and music, and its achievements in sports and business.

He’s thrilled when he’s introduced to legendary editor Ralph McGill, an outspoken opponent of segregation who promptly sends Jack to Montgomery to investigate reports of a bus boycott. There Jack meets another man on the fault line of black and white: Martin Luther King, Jr. Profoundly moved by King’s commitment to Christian philosophy, Jack’s writing begins to reflect a need for racial equality and tolerance that isn’t always well received—even by his own wife.

As the years pass, Jack covers stories about Southerners from Orval Faubus to Jim Johnson, John Lewis, and Diane Nash and from music pioneer Sam Phillips to literary giants Flannery O’Connor and Harper Lee—always using his writing as a conscience for the South he loves so much. But once again, historic events sweep Jack—and his idealistic son, Chris—into harm’s way. Will this be the collision that destroys his family forever?

Author Bio
Richard Doster is the editor of byFaith magazine. Prior to his work with byFaith, Doster spent 25 years in the advertising business. He’s been published by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and is a regular contributor to byFaith, winner of the 2006 and 2008 Evangelical Press Association’s Award of Excellence. A native of Mississippi and a graduate of the University of Florida, Doster is now concentrating on Southern fiction, exploring the history, religion, family relationships, sense of community and place, and social tensions that characterize his home region. He resides in Atlanta, Georgia, with his wife, Sally.

Crossing the Lines by Richard Doster
David C Cook June 2009/ISBN: 978-1-434799-84-5/304 pages/softcover/$14.99 ~

While the City Sleeps (Women of Midtown)

  While the City Sleeps  (Women of Midtown)  February 13, 2024 by  Elizabeth Camden   (Author) Amid the hushed city, two hearts must navigat...