Monday, 20 July 2015

Book Review: Letters from my Father's Murderer by Laurie A Coombs

About the book:  When her father was murdered, Laurie Coombs sought justice and found it.

His murderer now serves two life sentences with no possibility of parole. Yet, despite the swift punishment of the killer, Laurie found herself increasingly full of pain, bitterness, and anger she couldn't control. After coming to faith, she realized she was being called to seek something infinitely more difficult than justice: forgiveness.

This is an extraordinary true story of grace, mercy, and the redemptive power of God to change lives. The reader is swept along with Laurie as she undergoes the life-changing transformation of becoming a Christian. As she studies Scripture, seeing God redeeming losses and healing deep wounds time and time again, she starts to understand that her own healing would require her to love her enemy in a real, practical way.

Using her incredible correspondence with the man who killed her father, Laurie reveals a compelling journey of transformation, not only in her life, but in the lives of those whom many would call irredeemable.

Letters from My Father's Murderer is for any audience Christian or secular who

-Craves freedom from the inability to forgive those who've caused them harm 
-Wants to hear testimony of God's power in our obedience 
-Has experienced pain through other's sin against them 
-Needs to know healing is always possible
The real story here is not primarily about murder and its fallout, but rather about redemption and how far it can reach.

Purchase a copy: http://bit.ly/1g6sd4H

My Thoughts:  The title of this book alone intrigued me, and I was looking forward to reading and reviewing Letters from my Father's Murderer.  Even with high expectations, this book surpassed them all by far.

Many books that are somewhat autobiographical in nature are not necessarily well written - the story is interesting, but the writing can often be abysmal.  Not so with this book.  The writing is incredibly well done and you are swept, not only into the story, but into Laurie's heart and mind as she deals with the ramifications of her father's murder.

I was also not anticipating a book of theology, and though clearly it is not, as such, it contains a great deal of theology - sound theology.  Though some people tend to make light of the import of sound theology in books that are non-theological in nature, it is actually incredibly important.  We learn through stories - as evidenced in the parables used in Jesus' teaching.  And when stories - whether fiction or non-fiction - are told from a poor theological perspective, the result can be quite damaging.  However, when those stories are told from a strong theological perspective, the result is simply amazing.  The depth of insight Laurie provides on the subjects of forgiveness, reconciliation, and our walk with God is incredible.

Here are some quotes that moved me.....
It turns out life's purposes really isn't such a riddle, after all. It's much simpler than most people think, but it takes spiritual eyes to discern. The purpose of life is God. To know and be known by the One and Only. The One who loves immeasurably more than we imagine. The One who gave everything to reconcile us to Himself that we might have a relationship with Him. It's profound yet simple - beautiful. It is God who gives purpose. And it is God who is our purpose. Life is about loving God and loving others - magnifying Him so that the whole world may see and know that He is who He says He is. That He may take His rightful place in our lives, bringing joy to both God and the world. This is shalom, everything as it ought to be. He is the peace we so desperately seek.

They say time heals all wounds, but that's simply not true. Time only dulls the pain. God heals the wounds.

Healing begins the moment we allow Jesus complete access to the darkness contained within our souls. Darkness flees in the presence of light, but light cannot go where it's not permitted. Doors must be opened for light's rays to touch our darkest dark. And I was flinging doors open left and right, begging, Come, Lord Jesus, come.

...apart from God's grace, we are all capable of doing the unthinkable.

I cannot recommend this book more highly - if you read it, you will be better for having read it.

Thank you to Litfuse Publicity for organizing this tour and providing me with my complimentary review copy.

Thursday, 16 July 2015

Book Review: Picture Perfect Love by Melissa McClone

About the book: When image becomes everything, it's up to love to refocus the heart.

Photographer Jenna Harrison wants every bride and groom to look picture perfect on their special day, putting her heart into every wedding to give the couple memorable images of their love. But her own heart is still broken, the unworn wedding dress hanging in her closet a reminder that relationships aren't always as perfect as they look through her camera lens. But Jenna has faith that she will find true love. Until then, she must be patient and trust in God's plan and His perfect timing.

Attorney Ashton Vance is the one that got away. When an embarrassing Photoshopped picture of put an end to his political aspirations, he blamed Jenna. So what if the photo led to his being offered a dream job and changing his life for the better? Jenna betrayed his trust, and two years later, Ashton's heart still hasn't recovered.

It was me. His younger sister's three words turn Ashton's world upside down. He must ask Jenna's forgiveness, but can he risk his heart a second time? Even if Jenna can forgive him, dare he hope for a second chance at her love?

Purchase a copy: 
http://bit.ly/1JJZY8s

My Thoughts: I enjoyed this novella, but felt that the limitations of length made this a mismatch when it came to subject matter.  Forgiveness and trust are pretty big issues, particularly when it comes to marriage, and I didn't feel like it was realistic, possible, or wise for the relationship between Jenna and Ashton to progress the way it did.  It's hard to say too much without spoilers, but suffice it to say that forgiveness does not equal trust, and if this story took place in real life to me (or my children!) there would have been some major red flags that would've need to be addressed over a much longer time period in order to have a firm foundation on which to build a marriage.

That being said, I loved the author's writing style, and her ability to draw you in to the characters, even the ones you don't want to like.

Thank you to Litfuse Publicity for organizing this tour and providing me with my complimentary e-book review copy.

Monday, 13 July 2015

Book Review: Summer's List by Anita Higman

About the book: A dying wish alters the course of a young woman's life.

Life hadn't been easy for Summer Snow. In acts of selflessness---caring for her ailing parents and running her grandmother's bookstore---she had forfeited her youth and dreams for the needs of others. And the only tries she had at love . . . didn't turn out. She had the bookstore, she had her beloved granny, but she was missing something---or someone.

Opportunity strikes when Granny sends Summer on an unexpected adventure with one Martin Langtree, a kind but gangly young man from Summer's past. A childhood friendship is rekindled, a romance is sparked, and mysteries are solved in one magical Texas summer. Will Summer strike out on love again, or will things finally go her way?

My Thoughts:  I thoroughly enjoyed the last book I read/reviewed by Anita Higman, and if anything, I enjoyed this one even more.

All the main characters are endearing, the storyline is compelling, the topics are serious and treated with the utmost care (adultery, divorce, adoption, death, betrayal, and lies, as well as forgiveness, redemption, hope, and promise), and the author manages to cover all of that without it feeling heavy or preachy, but rather real and refreshing.

I loved this book and would wholeheartedly recommend it.

Thank you to Litfuse Publicity for organizing this tour and providing me with my complimentary review copy.

Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Book Review: A More Christlike God by Brad Jersak

About the book: What is God like? A punishing judge? A doting grandfather? A deadbeat dad? A vengeful warrior?

Believers and atheists alike typically carry and finally reject the toxic images of God in their own hearts and minds. Even the Christian gospel has repeatedly lapsed into a vision of God where the wrathful King must be appeased by his victim Son. How do such good cop/bad cop distortions of the divine arise and come to dominate churches and cultures?

Whether our notions of 'god' are personal projections or inherited traditions, author and theologian Brad Jersak proposes a radical reassessment, arguing for A More Christlike God: a More Beautiful Gospel. If Christ is "the image of the invisible God, the radiance of God's glory and exact representation of God's likeness," what if we conceived of God as completely Christlike---the perfect Incarnation of self-giving, radically forgiving, co-suffering love? What if God has always been and forever will be cruciform (cross-shaped) in his character and actions?

A More Christlike God suggests that such a God would be very good news indeed---a God who Jesus "unwrathed" from dead religion, a Love that is always toward us, and a Grace that pours into this suffering world through willing, human partners.
Purchase a copy: http://bit.ly/1JHG9yp


My Thoughts:  It took me awhile to get through this book, and I'm still pondering parts of it.  I appreciated a lot of Jersak's thoughts, but many of his points left me unsettled, uneasy, and frankly, unconvinced.

Jersak's assertion that we can know everything there is to know about God from the life of Jesus is, in itself, suspect.  Yes, Jesus is the perfect representation of God, but not everything He said or did is recorded in the gospels.  If that was all we needed to know, why do have the epistles, or the entire OT for that matter?  God has revealed himself in the entire Bible, not just select books.

In order to dewrath God, Jersak does two things.  First he interprets wrath to be passive - the natural consequences of our sin is it's own punishment.  To a certain extent, this is very true, but leaves many questions unanswered.  Second, he interprets all mention of God's active wrath as either misunderstood, figurative, or ironic.  He does not give satisfactory explanations to the portions of scripture he tries to tackle, and seems to simply take a scissor to other passages from both the OT and the NT, including even the words and actions of Jesus.  (Jesus clearing out the temple strikes me as wrathful, for example).  At time he implies that the writers of the OT were misinterpreting things or confused - which is impossible, since all scripture is God-breathed.  And, at times, seems to take a snide tone when he talks about anyone disagreeing with his obvious conclusions.

I agree that no matter what we do God is always turned toward us, continuing to offer us grace.  I disagree with him though, that the offer never ends.  He doesn't outrightly say it, but it is implied that he believes eventually everyone is saved and no one is in hell.

I agree that who God actually is, is independant of who we think He is.

Yet, at the same time, I think he has tried to put God in a box, and He doesn't quite fit.

Thank you to Litfuse Publicity for organizing this tour and providing me with my complimentary review copy.

Friday, 26 June 2015

Book Review: Hearts Made Whole by Jody Hedlund

About the book:  Can she forgive the hurting man who costs her the role she loves?

After her father's death, Caroline Taylor has grown confident running the Windmill Point Lighthouse. But in 1865 Michigan, women aren't supposed to have such roles, so it's only a matter of time before the lighthouse inspector appoints a new keeper---even though Caroline has nowhere else to go and no other job available to her.

Ryan Chambers is a Civil War veteran still haunted by the horrors of battle. He's secured the position of lighthouse keeper mostly for the isolation---the chance to hide from his past is appealing. He's not expecting the current keeper to be a feisty and beautiful woman who's angry with him for taking her job and for his inability to properly run the light. When his failings endanger others, he and Caroline realize he's in no shape to run the lighthouse, but he's unwilling to let anyone close enough to help. Caroline feels drawn to this wounded soul, but with both of them relying on that single position, can they look past their loss to a future filled with hope...and possibly love?

Purchase a copy: http://bit.ly/1eN4pC8

My Thoughts: I loved this book!

Believable characters, likeable but not perfect; action; romance; suspense; and intriguing storyline; while delving into topics such as addiction, independence vs dependence on God, forgiveness, war, injury, death, loss, and more - this book had a lot going for it.  Combined with Hedlund's excellent writing ability and style, as well as her ability to weave in spiritual themes without sounding preachy, this made for a great read.

Thank you to Litfuse Publicity for organizing this tour and providing me with my complimentary review copy.

Friday, 19 June 2015

Book Review: Fatal Trauma by Richard L Mabry

About the book:
Fatal Trauma (Abingdon Press, May 2015)

A gunman who has nothing to lose faces a doctor who could lose it all to prove his innocence.

When Dr. Mark Baker and Nurse Kelly Atkinson are held at the mercy of a dangerous gunman, the lives of every emergency room patient are at stake. At the end of the evening three men are dead. One of them is a police officer who couldn't be saved despite Mark's best efforts. The other two are members of the feared Zeta drug cartel.

Though the standoff is over, the killing is not, because when the drug cartel loses its members, revenge is not far behind. Facing an adversary whose desires are dark and efforts are ruthless, Mark finds himself under suspicion as a killer, yet still a potential victim. When he turns to his high school sweetheart, attorney Gwen Woodruff, for help, Kelly helplessly looks on, as she hides her own feelings for the good doctor.

At the height of the conflict, three questions remain: Who is the shooter? Who will the next victim be? And can Mark prove his innocence before the gun turns on him?

Purchase a copy: http://bit.ly/1AIM9U5

My Thoughts:  After reading and reviewing a previous book by Mabry, I was excited to read his latest medical suspense novel.  Unfortunately, I'm not sure if my expectations were too high, based on how much I loved his previous work, but this one didn't quite measure up in the same way.

The storyline started off with a bang and I was hooked at the beginning, but it didn't seem to resonate with me in quite the same way.  I'm not sure exactly what it was - the characters didn't quite have the same depth or maybe I felt them a bit harder to relate with.   It was still a great read, and I would still recommend it - I think my expectations were just too high.  I will still not hesitate to read his next book!

Thank you to Litfuse Publicity for organizing this tour and providing me with my complimentary review copy.

Tuesday, 9 June 2015

Book Review: Who's the New Kid? by Heidi Bond

About the book:
Who's the New Kid? shows readers how Heidi helped her daughter lose weight without the aid of fad diets, medication, or surgery and how other parents can do the same with their kids.

At nine years old, Breanna Bond weighed a whopping 186 pounds. Just walking up the stairs to her room was a challenge. Her legs chafed to the point of bleeding from rubbing against each other, and her school days were filled with taunts of "Hey, Fatty!" Breanna's mom, Heidi, was devastated and wondered, How can I get my daughter healthy again?

In just over a year, Heidi's plan worked! Breanna dropped 40 percent of her body weight and was transformed from a morbidly obese child who spent her days in front of the TV eating chips and chocolate to a vibrant, healthy, energetic little girl.

Filled with helpful diagnostic tools, easy-to-make recipes, eye-opening nutritional information, fun exercise ideas, and practical tips and advice, Who's the New Kid? will not only show parents how to help their kids lose weight naturally but also introduce them to simple, yet effective lifestyle changes that will benefit the entire family.

Purchase a copy:
 http://bit.ly/1R01IuI

My Thoughts:  I found the first part of the book to be slow going.  It seemed to cover the same ground over and over, and while I understand that it helped to get across their continual frustration and lack of progress, it dragged a bit too much.  I did, however, appreciate Heidi's honesty about her own responsibility in her daughter's weight gain, and that her own selfishness played a huge part in delaying the weight loss process.

I enjoyed the book a lot more once they started focusing on what finally began to work. I commend Heidi for fully committing to this weight loss journey with her daughter and walking (literally!) through it with her every step of the way.  I think this book would be a huge encouragement to anyone dealing with childhood obesity.


Thank you to Litfuse Publicity for organizing this tour and providing me with my complimentary review copy.

Monday, 1 June 2015

Join Odyssey Adventure Club for a Summer Challenge and Movie Ticket Giveaway

Take the plungebanner banner 

Summer . . . a time that kids pine for during the school year and parents may anticipate with something akin to dread. Fearing refrains of “I’m bored” or hours spent on the couch playing video games can make moms and dads nervous about the long, hot months stretching before their family. Focus on the Family’s Odyssey Adventure Club offers an answer, encouraging parents and kids to embrace faith and fun with the Take the Plunge Adventures in Odyssey Clubhouse magazine’s Summer Challenge.

Take the Plunge

The Take the Plunge challenge features:
  • Master Mind Monday — commit God’s Word to memory
  • Ways to Play Wednesday — spend active time with your family
  • Faith Sharing Friday — share God’s love with others
The Take the Plunge challenge helps families memorize at least five verses, engage in five activities together and share their faith with five people before the school doors swing open again. Those who sign up will receive an 11-week plan with suggested verses to memorize, activity ideas (such as visiting a war memorial) and ways to witness (such as passing out popsicles at the park with an invitation to your church), making this challenge the perfect tool for parents who want summer to be a time of spiritual and social stimulation for their kids.

"Research tells us that the more senses we involve when teaching children a principle, the more likely it is to stick,” Plugged In editor and Adventures in Odyssey podcast host Bob Smithouser says. “Bible memorization by itself is great, but it becomes even more powerful when put into action. Know it. Share it. Live it.”

Families who sign up to take part in the challenge at www.whitsend.org/summer will have access to weekly verses to memorize, ideas for family fun and suggestions for service projects that allow a family to share their faith. Additionally, anyone who signs up to participate in the Take the Plunge challenge will receive a free scene from the latest Adventures in Odyssey album, as well as a free story from the book Strange Journey Back.

A Bonus Contest

From June 1–5, tell us in 30 words or less how you are going to take the plunge to deepen your faith this summer for a chance to win a family four-pack of tickets to the theatrical release of Beyond The Mask June 5th weekend and free access to the Odyssey Adventure Club all summer long (June, July, August—total $85 prize value)!

Send your entry to contests@whitsend.org. Two winners will be chosen to win each day June 1-5 and announced on the Adventures in Odyssey Facebook Page.

Entries will be chosen based on creativity and writing skill. Rules are available at whitsend.org.

Monday, 25 May 2015

Join the Odyssey Adventure Club for a ‘Buck’ (Plus a Summer Challenge)


oac-may 


Memorial Day is just around the corner, which means (for Americans) school will be out for the summer! And for Canadians, it's just over a month away.  Parents, does that fill you with dread, knowing all you'll hear for the next few months is, "I'm bored!"? Keep reading because we have a deal for you—one that will only cost you a buck and that will keep your kids safe online while allowing them to have fun and to grow in their relationship with Jesus.

Buck Oliver is back in the latest Adventures in Odyssey album, and to celebrate, you can try the Odyssey Adventure Club for just a buck for your first month. Sign up before May 31st using the promo code BUCK! *This deal only applies to first-time accounts and is good the first month only.


Members receive:
—24/7 streaming access to more than 750 Adventures in Odyssey episodes (a $1500 retail value).
—A new, members-only Adventures in Odyssey episode every month.
—A subscription to Adventures in Odyssey Clubhouse Magazine.
—A web quest of video stories and online activities reflecting the biblical theme of that month's episode.
—On-the-go access with the OAClub mobile iOS app.
—Growing access to Odyssey books, a daily devotion, access to select Radio Theatre dramas and more.

Additionally, a portion of each Odyssey Adventure Club membership benefits Focus on the Family partner organizations, such as Carry the Cure and Mission Aviation Fellowship, providing parents with an opportunity to teach children about the value of serving others. The Odyssey Adventure Club hopes to spend another 25 years hand-in-hand with parents seeking to teach biblical truth to their children while inspiring the theater of their imagination.

OAC-May-Offer 


Your favorite Adventures in Odyssey characters are also Taking the Plunge in Album 59 and now you can, too! This summer, dive into your faith and grow closer to God by joining the Adventures in Odyssey Clubhouse Magazine Taking The Plunge Summer Challenge. It includes these simple things:

-Learn 5 memory verses
-Get active with 5 family activities together
-Share God’s love and your faith in 5 different ways 


When you commit to the Adventures in Odyssey Clubhouse Magazine Taking The Plunge Summer Challenge, you'll receive:

-A promo code for an exclusive Odyssey Adventure Club first month offer (for new members only)
-Adventures in Odyssey special studio message
-“Strange Journey Back” book excerpt
-“Jones and Parker Mysteries” book excerpt

To learn more about the Odyssey Adventure Club, visit www.oaclub.org, Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.


Monday, 30 March 2015

Book Review: How to Catch a Prince by Rachel Hauck

About the Book:

American heiress Corina Del Rey's life was devastated by war. Every thing she loved was lost. But after five years of grief, she's shed her grave clothes and started over in the sunshine along the Florida coast.

But some things are not so easily forgotten. When a secret from her past confronts her face to face, she realizes she must follow her heart. Even if it cost her everything.

Prince Stephen of Brighton Kingdom is a former Royal Air Command lieutenant turned star rugby player, trying to make sense of his life after the devastation of war.

When his brother, King Nathaniel, discovers Stephen's pre war secret, he must deal with an aspect of his life he longed to forget. But how can he do so without exposing the truth and breaching national security?

Yet, true love has a destiny all it's own. As the cathedral bells peal through Cathedral City, Corina and Stephen must chose to answer the call of love on their hearts.
Or let it be lost forever?

My Thoughts:  With the release of the new Cinderella movie, this seemed a very fitting book to review.  If you enjoy fairy tales and princesses, then you will love this book!

It's not all light and fluffy.  The book deals with serious issues including war and death.  Yes, there is romance and love, but there is also tragedy and sorrow.  What I really enjoyed were the spiritual lessons learned along the way.  One scene involving the prince towards the end of the book was particularly moving.

Thank you to Litfuse Publicity for organizing this tour and providing me with my complimentary review copy.

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