Saturday, December 8, 2012

The Big Over Easy: A Nursery Crime by Jasper Fforde

A Nursery Crime

Jasper Fforde's bestselling Thursday Next series has delighted readers of every genre with its literary derring-do and brilliant flights of fancy. 

In The Big Over Easy, Fforde takes a break from classic literature and tumbles into the seedy underbelly of nursery crime. Meet Inspector Jack Spratt, family man and head of the Nursery Crime Division. He's investigating the murder of ovoid D-class nursery celebrity Humpty Dumpty, found shattered to death beneath a wall in a shabby area of town. 

Yes, the big egg is down, and all those brittle pieces sitting in the morgue point to foul play.

My Review:
It didn't take me long to realize that this is not a read-it-in one-day book; rather, it should be savored--read and put down for a chuckle and contemplation. A working knowledge of nursery rhymes helps. Each chapter is prefaced with an excerpt from an imaginary publication giving humorous background.

The protagonist, Detective Inspector Jack Spratt and his partner Mary Mary of the Nursery Crime Division, in fictitious Reading struggle with a limited budget, tight office space, and a shortage of staff. The story begins as Jack has just lost his recent case. The trial goes in favor of the pigs when they are found not guilty of murdering the wolf.

Jack's next case begins when Humperdinck Jehoshaphat van Dumpty, better known as Humpty Dumpty, a womanizer,  falls from his favorite wall. Was it suicide? Was it Murder?

British humor coupled with mystery and more allusions than I've seen in one book make this is a good read. (I've already checked out the second in the series from my local library.)

Note: contains some profanity.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Nowhere but Up: The Story of Justin Bieber's Mom by Pattie Mallette & A.J. Gregory

Most people only know her as Justin Bieber's mom, but Pattie Mallette has had an incredible journey of her own. Many people have heard of her son's rags to riches triumph. A few know she was a teen mom who had to overcome a drug and alcohol addiction. Even fewer know the rest of her story.

Now, for the first time in detail, Pattie shares with the world the story of a girl who felt abandoned and unloved. Of a teenager who made poor choices. Of a young woman who attempted suicide and could hardly bear to believe that God would ever care for her. One who messed up, got pregnant, and got a second chance. Every reader will find themselves somewhere in Pattie's painful journey of redemption. They will be encouraged by her example that what was once broken can become whole.

Pattie's story will inspire readers to believe that even in the darkest of places, there's always hope. For those who feel unlovable, there's always love. And for those who believe they're a lost cause, there's always room for another chance.

My Review:
Pattie's voice presents itself loudly and clearly: most of her life, she felt unloved. Turning to alcohol, drugs, and teen "love" didn't help her. Her life continued to spiral down, down, down. She even attempted suicide! Even after she turned to God, she reverted to her old habits.

The story is told in a straightforward manner. The only caveat I have is that it's a bit wordy, but even so, it is a story worth reading.. Whether or not you're a fan of her son, once you read this true accounting, you'll be a fan of Pattie Mallette.

Thank you to Donna Hausler at Baker Publishing Group and Revell for my copy.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Placebo by Steven James

While covertly investigating a controversial neurological research program, exposé filmmaker Jevin Banks is drawn into a far-reaching conspiracy involving one of the world's largest pharmaceutical firms. After giving up his career as an escape artist and illusionist in the wake of his wife and sons' tragic death, Jevin is seeking not only answers about the questionable mind-to-mind communication program, but also answers to why his family suffered as they did.

Rooted in ground-breaking science and inspired by actual research, Placebo explores the far reaches of science, consciousness, and faith. Readers will love this taut, intelligent, and emotionally gripping new thriller from master storyteller Steven James will keep you flipping pages late into the night.

My Review:
Jevin Banks, a skilled magician with a brown belt in TaeKwonDo, now earns his living by exposing phoney fortune-telling scam artists and the like for cable television. He and his small team go undercover to investigate a large paranormal research center.

I've learned a bit of science during the reading of this novel. I sure would like to see telomerase, a drug that stops aging come to market! I know I'm not being fair to say so little, but I don't want to publish spoilers. The plot grabs the reader, and the book is a hard one to put down. I did not see where this was going, and had to keep turning those pages. It certainly held my interest. Some passages are scarey. I may not sleep well tonight.

Characters are believable. A set of twins who seem to be able to combine their ability to change their environment are being tested. Could their combined thoughts work toward the good==or the bad?

Thank you to Donna Hausler at Baker Publishing Group and Revell for my copy.

Available November 2012 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Five Miles South of Peculiar by Angela Hunt

If these three sisters don’t change direction, they’ll end up where they’re going.

Darlene Caldwell has spent a lifetime tending Sycamores, an estate located five miles south of a small town called Peculiar. She raised a family in the spacious home that was her grandfather’s legacy, and she enjoys being a pillar of the community. Sycamores is the kingdom where she reigns as queen . . . until her limelight-stealing twin sister unexpectedly returns.

Carlene Caldwell, veteran of the Broadway stage, is devastated when she realizes that an unsuccessful throat surgery has spelled the end of her musical career. Searching for a new purpose in life, she retreats to Sycamores, her childhood home. She may not be able to sing, but she hopes to use her knowledge and experience to fashion a new life in Peculiar, the little town she left behind.

Haunted by a tragic romance, Magnolia Caldwell is the youngest of the Caldwell girls. Nolie has never wanted to live anywhere but Sycamores. She spends her days caring for her dogs and the magnificent gardens she’s created on the estate, but when she meets a man haunted by his own tragedy, she must find the courage to either deny her heart or cut the apron strings that tie her to a dear and familiar place.

Can these sisters discover who they are meant to be when life takes an unforeseen detour? In a season of destiny, three unique women reunite and take unexpected journeys of the heart.

My Review:
Every time Angela Hunt publishes a new novel, I look forward to reading it. She never disappoints, but some titles, like this one, are like cream that rises to the top!

The plot revolves around three sisters--each quite different, and yet, each one linked together. These unique family members get so upset with one another that they go months without speaking. Some interesting men add to the mix. Why, there's even two dogs--Lucy and Ricky Ricardo!--who play a big part. Set in a small town in the South, where everyone knows everything about anyone, family loyalty becomes strained.

I found it difficult to put the book down.

Reading Group Guide and recipes included.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

The Matchmakers of Butternut Creek by Jane Myers Perrine

A traumatic experience as a college freshman has left Gussie Milton "once bitten, twice shy." Although she'd like a relationship, she's frightened, so she's thrown herself into caring for her aging parents, her photography business, and her church.

In the eyes of Miss Birdie and her friend Mercedes, aka "the Widows," Gussie would make their young pastor the perfect wife. And though the attraction proves mutual, first Gussie's past and then the pastor's hopes for the future threaten to keep them apart.

Can the Widows' meddling be the catalyst that changes the couple's lives forever?

My Review:
Pastor Adam Jordan, an unsuccessful-at-love single pastor of a small country church in Texas, struggles with a group known as "The Widows," who set about finding him the perfect bride. To further complicate matters, the one chosen to be the pastor's bride, Gussie Milton, shows a reluctance to being touched. There are some humorous scenes as the lovebirds are pushed [ahem] gently maneuvered together.

Although this novel reminds me of Jan Karons' Mitford series with Father Tim, the writing is a bit more uneven. Perhaps this is because I had an uncorrected proof to read. Hopefully, further editing will make a difference.

Reading Group Guide included.

Thank you to Sarah Reck at Hachette Book Group and FaithWords for my copy.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

All Things New by Lynn Austin

New Historical Novel from 7-Time Christy Award Winner!

In the aftermath of the Civil War, Josephine Weatherly and her mother, Eugenia, struggle to pick up the pieces of their lives when they return to their Virginia plantation. But the bitter realities of life after the war cannot be denied: their home and land are but shells of their previous grandeur; death has claimed her father and brother; and her remaining brother, Daniel, has returned home bitter and broken. The privileged childhood Josephine enjoyed now seems like a long-ago dream. And the God who failed to answer any of her prayers during the war is lost to her as well.

Josephine soon realizes that life is now a matter of daily survival--and recognizes that Lizzie, as one of the few remaining servants, is the one she must rely on to teach her all she needs to know. Josephine's mother, too, vows to rebuild White Oak...but a bitter hatred fuels her.

With skill and emotion, Lynn Austin brings to life the difficult years of the Reconstruction era by interweaving the stories of three women--daughter, mother, and freed slave--in a riveting tale.

My Review:
Once again, Lynn Austin has captured my attention with a compelling story! I must admit that I get an extra jolt of excitement when I hold a new Lynn Austin title in my hands. I've never been disappointed in any of her novels. I want to immediately begin reading; yet, I want to go about it slowly so as to better lengthen the pleasure. When I turn the final page, I sigh with contentment. This is a book that I can easily recommend!

What wonderful complex characters! Three women try to adjust at the end of the Civil War. One, Eugenia Weatherly, the lady of a once-grand plantation, determined to regain her former lifestyle; two, her daughter, Josephine, a practical woman, caught between the rules of the South and present day trials; and three, Lizzie, a former slave, who struggles to understand how to help her family survive with this new freedom. As I read, I found myself sympathetic to each.

Thank you to Bonnie at Christian Fiction Blog Alliance and Bethany House Publishers for my copy.

If you would like to read the first chapter, click here.

If you would like to buy a copy, click here.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Full Disclosure by Dee Henderson

Ann Silver is a cop's cop. As the Midwest Homicide Investigator, she is called in to help local law enforcement on the worst of cases, looking for answers to murder. Hers is one of the region's most trusted investigative positions.

Paul Falcon is the FBI's top murder cop in the Midwest. If the victim carried a federal badge or had a security clearance, odds are good Paul and his team see the case file or work the murder.

Their lives intersect when Ann arrives to pass a case off her desk and onto his. A car wreck and a suspicious death offer a lead on a hired shooter he is tracking. Paul isn't expecting to meet someone, the kind that goes on the personal side of the ledger, but Ann Silver has his attention.

The better he gets to know her, the more Paul realizes her job barely scratches the surface of who she is. She knows spies and soldiers and U.S. Marshals, and has written books about them. She is friends with the former Vice President. People with good reason to be cautious about who they let into their lives deeply trust her. Paul wonders just what secrets Ann is keeping, until she shows him the John Doe Killer case file, and he starts to realize just who this lady he is falling in love with really is...

My Review:
I found this book hard to get into at first, but I pressed on. Perhaps part of the problem is that I received an ARC copy rather than a finished product. It seemed a bit choppy.

Both of the lead characters, Paul Falcon and Ann Silver are rather flat without flaws. They are sharp problem solvers at the top of their fields. Everyone admires them. When characters are too perfect, it is difficult for readers to connect.

Paul and Ann's romance moves slowly and is told with Skyte-type internet visits. For instance, most evenings, Paul connects to Ann as she writes her book. After greeting each other, to avoid interrupting her work,  he just watches his monitor--for hours at a time. One evening, he watches as she naps on the couch! That smacks of stalking, I think! Somehow Ann is not turned off by his observing. I feel that the plot unnecessarily drags during these times.

Both Paul and Ann are Christian, but only once is grace offered before a meal. They don't seem to attend church. However, they both think about and/or talk to God on a daily basis. There is one serious discussion about their future together, and it is during this conversation that their faith shines. It's interesting to see how well they work on compromises.

The solution to the murder-puzzle will surprise most readers. Fans of Dee Henderson will also enjoy reading a bit about the O'Malleys, characters from earlier Henderson novels.

Thank you to Bonnie at Christian Fiction Blog Alliance and Bethany House Publishers for my copy.

If you would like to read the first chapter, click here.

If you would like to buy a copy, click here.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

A Heartbeat Away by Harry Kraus

When a brilliant surgeon undergoes a heart transplant, her life transforms as she begins experiencing memories of a murder she never witnessed.

The residents worship her. Nurses step out of her way. Her colleagues respect and sometimes even fear her. But surgeon Tori Taylor never expected to end up on this side of the operating table.

Now she has a new heart. This life that was formerly controlled and predictable is now chaotic. Dr. Taylor had famously protected herself from love or commitment, but her walls are beginning to crumble.

And strangest of all, memories surface that will take her on a journey out of the operating room and into a murder investigation.

Where there once was a heart of stone, there is a heart of flesh. And there is no going back.

My Review:
Harry Kraus has done it again! I quickly became engrossed in this medical-suspense tale. Imagine: a patient receives a heart transplant with a bonus. That bonus seems to be the memories of the organ donor, along with clues to a murder!

Tori Taylor, a surgeon with the reputation as a demanding perfectionist, finds her personality being adjusted while recovering from her heart transplant surgery. I'd love to tell more, but I won't ruin it. Run and buy a copy of this page-turner! You won't be disappointed.

Thank you to Bonnie at Christian Fiction Blog Alliance and David C. Cook for my copy.

If you would like to read the first chapter, click here.

If you would like to buy a copy, click here.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Rock Solid Faith Study Bible for Teens

Teenagers today admit that they are feeling uncertain and insecure about their lives, the world, and their futures. They are sincerely looking for something solid to hold on to in these turbulent times. They really want to know more about God, but they don’t know where to find it. How can they be sure that what they read is true? There is often conflicting information from sources which can cause confusion and even despair.

To address these important issues and provide traction for their beliefs and promises for their futures, Zondervan has teamed up with a variety of well-known scholars and included extensive resources to create the Rock Solid Faith Study Bible for Teens. This innovative edition of the New International Version helps young readers, ages 13-16, face their questions head on and build a steadfast foundation for their faith. With the Rock Solid Bible, teens discover constant and concrete truths rooted in the unchanging love, guidance, and promises of God.

This all-new Bible features the complete NIV text, as well as other insightful and informative inserts such as:
  • Truths that examine Christian beliefs and explorations of other religions;
  • Principles that apply the Bible to relationships, sex, money, and more;
  • Promises that call out what is (and is not) promised in the Scriptures;
  • Plans that explore God’s plan for daily life;
  • People that provide scriptural examples of overcoming challenges; and
  • Unshaken God that points out God’s amazing and unyielding attributes.
In addition, readers will find easy to understand apologetics, reading plans, hundreds of call-outs, eight pages of full-color maps, Bible book introductions, and many other insightful features to help teens grapple with big questions about the world, their futures, and their faith.

Zondervan plans to provide the Rock Solid Faith Study Bible for Teens in three printed formats—a hardcover ($29.99) and two Italian duo-tone leather covers ($44.99)—as well as an EBook version ($14.99). It’s the perfect gift for every teen whose heart and life needs reassuring in the midst of our disturbing times. You can find the Rock Solid Faith Study Bible for Teens at your favorite bookstore or at

My Review:
What a good idea: a Bible tailored for teens! There are many unique ideas that encourage perusing. For instance, each book begins with an information page containing the book outline along with the book's history. Interspersed throughout the Bible are gems of wisdom that aid in study. There's a Table of Weights and Measures, guidance in choosing what to read today, Rock Solid Truths, Promises, Principles, and Plans, along with Unshaken People and Unshaken God. Reading plans, topical indexes, a concordance, and six pages of color maps are included.

The NIV version makes for easier understanding. Why, to facilitate gifting, there's even a dedication page.

The only negative is that the book is heavy at 2.2 pounds. No one skimped on producing this one! Folks, I absolutely recommend this Bible.

***Special thanks to Rick Roberson for sending me a review copy.***


Chapter will be placed up here soon.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Giveaway! The Reunion by Dan Walsh

There are people in this world we pass right by without giving a second thought. They are almost invisible. Yet some of them have amazing stories to tell, if we'd only take the time to listen . . .

Aaron Miller was an old, worn-out Vietnam vet, a handyman in a trailer park. Forty years prior, he saved the lives of three young men in the field only to come home from the war and lose everything. But God is a master at finding and redeeming the lost things of life. Aaron is about to be found. And the one who finds him just might find the love of his life as well.

Expert storyteller Dan Walsh pens a new tale filled with the things his fans have come to love--forgiveness, redemption, love, and that certain bittersweet quality that few authors ever truly master. Fans old and new will find themselves drawn into this latest story about how God cares for everyone.

My Review:
If you could see me now, you'd notice that I am standing while applauding. I just finished reading this excellent novel, and the author, Dan Walsh, deserves my standing ovation.

This Christian fiction causes the reader to run the gamut of emotions. The characters are believable; the plot is well drawn. Prepare to enjoy this read! There are few works that capture the reader's attention as well as this one.

Buy a copy, and pick up a box of tissues while you're at it. When you finish reading, you might want to stand with me to applaud.

Thank you to Donna Hausler at Baker Publishing Group for my copy.

Available September 2012 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.

Starting today and running until next Monday, September 17th, Dan Walsh is celebrating the release of his new novel, The Reunion, with a ten book giveaway contest! Five winners will each receive a signed copy of The Reunion, as well as his third novel, The Deepest Waters. (He’s including this book because it was named a finalist for an ACFW Carol Award for book-of-the-year). Click here to enter the contest!

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Grace: More Than We Deserve, Greater Than We Imagine by Max Lucado

We talk as though we understand the term. The bank gives us a grace period. The seedy politician falls from grace. Musicians speak of a grace note. We describe an actress as gracious, a dancer as graceful. We use the word for hospitals, baby girls, kings, and premeal prayers. We talk as though we know what grace means.

But do we really understand it? Have we settled for wimpy grace? It politely occupies a phrase in a hymn, fits nicely on a church sign. Never causes trouble or demands a response. When asked, “Do you believe in grace?” who could say no?

Max Lucado asks a deeper question: Have you been changed by grace? Shaped by grace? Strengthened by grace? Emboldened by grace? Softened by grace? Snatched by the nape of your neck and shaken to your senses by grace?

God’s grace has a drenching about it. A wildness about it. A white-water, riptide, turn-you-upside-downness about it. Grace comes after you. It rewires you. From insecure to God secure. From regret riddled to better-because-of-it. From afraid to die to ready to fly.

Grace is the voice that calls us to change and then gives us the power to pull it off.

Let’s make certain grace gets you.

My Review:
I once heard Max Lucado speak and quickly became a fan. His straightforward ability caused me to sit still so as to not miss a bit of his important message. He writes the same way he talks. His books read as if he is speaking directly to the reader.

Each chapter contains Bible verses, Bible stories, and anecdotes from life. That alone makes the book worthwhile; however, Lucado goes to the next level--the Reader's Guide.

A unique feature about Grace is the Reader's Guide section. More than a list of questions, each chapter is thoroughly covered. There is a guide for chapter one, chapter two, etc. making the book a useful tool for personal or small group Bible study. Scripture is reviewed, life-changing questions are listed, a prayer is included, and life applications are given. This comprehensive section allows the reader to more deeply study and apply the biblical truths. I recommend this book!

Thank you to Thomas Nelson Publishing for my copy.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

To Write A Wrong by Robin Caroll

A Justice Seekers Novel

In Angola State Penitentiary, a man is serving time for a crime he didn't commit. Riley Baxter is an eager reporter desperate for a story to make a name for herself. When she stumbles upon the daughter of the incarcerated man, Riley sees a little too much of herself in the teen, and vows to help prove her father's innocence.

At the same time, Hayden Simpson has his hands full with keeping
 his little sister in line, worrying about his job as Police Commissioner, and dealing with his past emotional baggage. The last thing he needs is someone blowing the lid off his emotional bucket. But when Riley Baxter storms into his life, struggling to understand why God would let bad things happen to good people, Hayden has no choice but to follow his heart.

Now, Riley and Hayden must work together to uncover the truth of the past . . . before someone shuts Riley up for good.

My Review:
If romantic suspense tales are your reading pleasure, this Christian Fiction novel is for you! The character of Riley Baxter is a journalist struggling to please her editor. She begins writing a series about an innocent man serving time for a crime he didn't commit, and inadvertently opens a Pandora's Box.

Meanwhile, Hayden Simpson and Riley begin their long distance romance. The two stories intertwine to end with some surprises.

Recipes and discussion questions included.

Thank you to FirstWildCard and Shannon Kozee at B&H Books for my copy.

And now, the first chapter:

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Dying to Read by Lorena McCourtney

Cate Kincaid Files Series #1

Cate Kincaid is just dipping her toe into the world of private investigating until one of the many resumes she has floating around lands her a real job. All she has to do is determine that a particular woman lives at a particular address. Simple, right?

When the big and brooding house happens to contain a dead body, this routine PI job turns out to be anything but simple. Is Cate in over her head?

My Review:
Mystery lovers have a new, female sleuth: Cate Kincaid. In addition to her bright mind and her ability to ferret out details, she sometimes trips over clues, but she manages to solve the crimes.

At the beginning of this light-hearted cozy mystery, Cate is grabbing the chance to work in a temporary position of Assistant Private Investigator; after all, it's the only paid job she can find. As she stumbles along, her curiosity takes her places few would venture.

The story is rich in quirky characters. There's the Whodunit book club, a group of middle-aged mystery readers; Willow, a tree hugger, who wins people over with her cooking; Octavia, a blue-eyed, fluffy, white cat who seems to direct Cate; and a hint of romance supplied by a couple of eager young males.

I can't wait for the next Cate Kincaid Files to be published! Thank you to Donna Hausler for my copy.

Available August 2012 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.

Monday, August 13, 2012

A Sweethaven Homecoming by Courtney Walsh

The Sweethaven Circle is back—and so is the friend they thought they’d never see again!

Country music star Meghan Rhodes has moved on with her life, leaving Sweethaven and its painful memories in the past. But when she is confronted on national television with her ex-husband’s plan to file for sole custody of their twins, Meghan takes the first flight home, back to the charming lakeside town full of regrets and relationships that need mending.

As Meghan searches for forgiveness—as well as the ability to forgive—she is overcome with the need to make things right with her children, her ex-husband, her mother, and even the friends she’d convinced herself she no longer needed. But is she too late?

The Sweethaven Circle is together again as Meghan works with Campbell, Jane, Lila, and Adele begin a new scrapbook for memories yet to be made. Picking up where A Sweethaven Summer left off, A Sweethaven Homecoming explores the strong bonds of friendship, the power of forgiveness, and the importance of unconditional love.

My Review:
This is the second in the series, and I enjoyed revisiting the beach town of Sweethaven. The Circle of friends each wrestle with problems. Meghan, a country music star is the central character. As her agent, Duncan, suggests, the thing she does best is to be a star; Meghan seems to turn everything else into a mess. As an alcoholic, she has a hard time forgiving herself. Sadly, her four-year-old twins no longer recognize her.

Romance blooms aplenty. Marriages are restored.

Journaling and scrapbooking help the characters better understand how to forgive themselves and others. There are some gems of wisdom within these pages.

Thank you to Bonnie at Christian Fiction Blog Alliance and Guideposts for my copy.

If you would like to read the first chapter, click here.

If you would like to buy a copy, click here.

Dr. Dobson's Handbook of Family Advice by Dr. James Dobson

Encouragement and Practical Help for Your Home

Families worldwide seek the godly guidance of respected counselor and internationally recognized radio host Dr. James Dobson. Now in this helpful collection, families young and old have quick access to Dr. Dobson's advice and wisdom to nurture their marriages and children with love, grace, and biblical preparedness.

Through engaging stories and relatable examples, Dr. Dobson helps readers:

  • make family time a priority
  • deal with job and financial pressures
  • forgive and love unconditionally
  • successfully maneuver the tween and teen years
  • share God's love and truths by example

This collection of Dr. Dobson's sought-after expertise and encouraging insights will be referred to many times as families seek leading in vital topics including adolescence, money, marriage, discipline, and much more.

My Review:
If you're a fan of Dr. Dobson, you're going to love this book! Written in a 90-second format that makes pieces of wisdom sharp and to the point, Dr. Dobson has complied commentaries taken from his radio and television programs. Further, they are organized into sensible categories such that when the reader would like enlightenment on a subject, (marriage, teens, or getting older, etc.) all he need do, is turn to the pages of that section.

I think that this book will serve many as an excellent resource for practical help.

Thank you to FirstWildCard and Ginger Chen at Harvest House Publishers for my copy.

And now, the first chapter:


The Security of Boundaries

Children feel more secure, and therefore tend to flourish, when they know where the boundaries are. Let me illustrate that principle.

Imagine you’re driving a car over the Royal Gorge Bridge in Colorado, which is suspended hundreds of feet above the canyon floor. As a first-time traveler, you’re pretty tense as you drive across. It is a scary experience. I knew one little fellow who was so awed by the view over the side of the bridge that he said, “Wow, Daddy! If you fell off of here, it’d kill you constantly!”

Now suppose there were no guardrails on the side of the bridge. Where would you steer the car? Right down the middle of the road. Even though you don’t plan to hit those protective railings along the side, you just feel more secure knowing that they’re there.

It’s the same way with children. There is security in defined limits. They need to know precisely what the rules are and who’s available to enforce them. When these clear boundaries exist at home, the child lives in utter safety. He never gets in trouble unless he deliberately asks for it. And as long as he stays within those reasonable, well-marked guardrails, there’s mirth and freedom and acceptance.

Your children need the security of defined limits, too. They may not admit that they want you to be the boss, but they breathe easier when you are.

Mom’s Football Team

In the late 1960s, the phrase “If it feels good, do it” made its way around the counterculture. It meant, in effect, that a person’s flighty impulses should be allowed to overrule every other consideration. “Don’t think—just follow your heart” was the prevailing attitude. That foolish advice has ruined many gullible people. Those who ignore lurking dangers are casting themselves adrift in the path of life’s storms. We must be prepared to disregard ephemeral feelings at times and govern our behavior with common sense.

Not only can emotions be dangerous—they can also be unreliable and foolish. I’m reminded of a story told by my mother about her high school years. They had one of the worst football teams in the history of Oklahoma. They hadn’t won a game in years. Finally a wealthy oil producer asked to speak to the team in the locker room and offered a brand-new Ford to every boy and to each coach if they would simply defeat their bitter rivals in the next game. The team went crazy. For seven days they thought about nothing but football. They couldn’t even sleep at night. Finally the big night arrived, and the team was frantic with anticipation. They assembled on the sidelines, put their hands together, and shouted, “Rah!” Then they ran onto the field—and were smashed thirty-eight to nothing. No amount of excitement could compensate for the players’ lack of discipline, conditioning, practice, study, coaching, drill, experience, and character. Such is the nature of emotion. It has a definite place in human affairs but is not a substitute for intelligence, preparation, and self-control.

Instead of responding to your impulses, therefore, it is often better to hang tough when you feel like quitting, to guard your tongue when you feel like talking, to save your money when you feel like spending, and to remain faithful when you feel like flirting. Unbridled feelings will get you in trouble nine times out of ten.

So, before you chase after something that simply feels good, you might want to think it over. You could be about to make one of your greatest blunders.

Children and Materialism

It’s not easy to say no to children, especially in an affluent and permissive society. Toy companies are spending millions of dollars on advertising aimed at children—not their parents. They know boys and girls are the very best customers. But by giving in to this pressure, parents may actually deprive their children of pleasure. Here’s why.

Pleasure occurs when an intense need is met. A glass of water is worth more than gold to a person who’s dying of thirst, but it’s worthless to the person who doesn’t need it. That principle applies directly to children. If you never allow a boy or girl to desire something, he or she will not fully enjoy the pleasure of receiving it. If you give him a tricycle before he can walk, and a bike before he can ride, and a car before he can drive, and a diamond ring before he knows the value of money, you may actually have deprived him of the satisfaction he could have received from that possession.

How unfortunate is the child who never has the opportunity to long for something, to dream about that prize by day, and to plot for it by night, perhaps even to get desperate enough to work for it.

Excessive materialism is not only harmful to children—but it deprives them of pleasure, too.

Children and Television

There’s been considerable debate in recent years about television rating systems. That kind of information is desperately needed by parents who want to protect their kids from harmful content, and I’m among those who believe that the present system just doesn’t get the job done.

But even if changes are implemented, there’s a new wrinkle to be considered. Social research conducted by Yankelovich Partners, Inc., has analyzed the television-viewing habits of Americans. What they discovered is surprising. Forty-two percent of children between nine and seventeen have their own cable or satellite television hookups in their bedrooms.  1 The image of families gathered around a single TV set in the family room is fading. Instead, many kids are off by themselves where they can choose anything that they want to see.

Ann Clurman, a partner at Yankelovich, said, “Almost everything children are seeing is essentially going into their minds in some sort of uncensored or unfiltered way.”  2 Considering the explicit sex, violence, nudity, and profanity available now, especially on cable and satellite television, this is a disturbing revelation.

Children need to be protected from adult programming, and yet almost four out of every ten kids have parents who don’t really know what they’re watching. I fear that situation will come back to haunt us for years to come.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Lethal Legacy by Irene Hannon

Guardians of Justice (Book 3)

The police say her father's death was suicide. But Kelly Warren says it was murder--and she has new evidence that she believes proves it. Detective Cole Taylor doesn't put much credence in her claim, and nothing in his case review suggests foul play. But when Kelly ends up in the emergency room with a suspicious life-threatening medical condition, the incident strikes him as more than just coincidence. Digging deeper, he discovers she's linked to a long-ago crime. Is history repeating itself? Who wants Kelly silenced?

With her trademark high-intensity action and taut suspense, Irene Hannon closes out her Guardians of Justice series with a story of old grudges and budding romance that is sure to increase her substantial fan base.

My Review:
What a compelling read! Irene Hannon knows how people think, and she gets inside the heads of her characters. Early on, the reader can guess the identity of the villain. However, this only adds to the suspense as his twisted thought process is brought to light. The plot moves along at just the right pace.

The story contains romance aplenty. Although sexual tension is felt, Kelly and Cole demonstrate admirable constraint.

Sentence fragments bother me, but perhaps only me. The book is definitely worth your time, and I recommend it.

Although this novel is the third in a series, it can easily be enjoyed as a stand-alone novel.

Thank you to Donna Hausler at Baker Publishing Group for my copy.

Available August, 2012 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Perfectly Ridiculous by Kristin Billerbeck

A Universally Misunderstood Novel

Daisy's ready for summer fun--but it seems summer has something else in store.

High school is over, and Daisy Crispin is happy to leave it in her past and look forward to a bright new future at college. In the meantime, she is planning an all-expenses-paid trip with her best friend Claire to Argentina--home of exotic food, the tango, and her handsome sort-of boyfriend Max.

When Daisy discovers she needs to do missions work to fulfill the requirements of her scholarship, she chalks it up to her monumental bad luck in life and kisses her vacation goodbye. What was supposed to be a relaxing time in the lap of luxury turns into hard work, sleeping on a cot, avoiding scorpions, and stressing about where she stands with Max. Daisy wonders if anything in her life will ever go according to plan.

My Review:
This Christian fiction novel perfectly captures the voice of Daisy, a teenage volunteer on a summer mission trip to Argentina. Written in the first-person account, the book reads like a journal; in fact, some pages are written as entries in Daisy's travel journal.

Daisy struggles with the problems that most young people experience: her over-protective parents, her out-of-reach wish-he-could-be boyfriend, her plans for college, her BFF whose parents are decidedly richer than Daisy's. (Even though I'm far from a teenager, I enjoyed it. I would recommend it for any teen.)

Thank you to Donna Hausler at Baker Publishing Group for my copy.

Available July, 2012, at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

The Litigators by John Grisham

The partners at Finley & Figg—all two of them—often refer to themselves as “a boutique law firm.” Boutique, as in chic, selective, and prosperous. They are, of course, none of these things. What they are is a two-bit operation always in search of their big break, ambulance chasers who’ve been in the trenches much too long making way too little. Their specialties, so to speak, are quickie divorces and DUIs, with the occasional jackpot of an actual car wreck thrown in. After twenty plus years together, Oscar Finley and Wally Figg bicker like an old married couple but somehow continue to scratch out a half-decent living from their seedy bungalow offices in southwest Chicago.

And then change comes their way. More accurately, it stumbles in. David Zinc, a young but already burned-out attorney, walks away from his fast-track career at a fancy downtown firm, goes on a serious bender, and finds himself literally at the doorstep of our boutique firm. Once David sobers up and comes to grips with the fact that he’s suddenly unemployed, any job—even one with Finley & Figg—looks okay to him.

With their new associate on board, F&F is ready to tackle a really big case, a case that could make the partners rich without requiring them to actually practice much law. An extremely popular drug, Krayoxx, the number one cholesterol reducer for the dangerously overweight, produced by Varrick Labs, a giant pharmaceutical company with annual sales of $25 billion, has recently come under fire after several patients taking it have suffered heart attacks. Wally smells money.

A little online research confirms Wally’s suspicions—a huge plaintiffs’ firm in Florida is putting together a class action suit against Varrick. All Finley & Figg has to do is find a handful of people who have had heart attacks while taking Krayoxx, convince them to become clients, join the class action, and ride along to fame and fortune. With any luck, they won’t even have to enter a courtroom!

It almost seems too good to be true.

And it is.

My Review:
John Grisham has long been one of my favorite authors. Time zooms by and I realized that there's a novel he's authored that I've not yet read. That's why I love my local library; I checked this book out and thoroughly enjoyed it!

The plot moves at a good pace. Characters are easily understood. I connected to David Zinc, who is introduced as a David who is almost defeated by the huge Goliath law firm. When David cross examined the witness, I found myself smiling. I love the way Grisham writes legal thrillers.

Folks, I recommend this one.

Note: contains some mild profanity.

If you'd like to read chapters 1 and 2, click here.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

The Deposit Slip by Todd Johnson

This Gripping Legal Thriller Is a Perfect Summer Read.

When Jared Neaton grew tired of the shady ethics of his big law firm and left to go out on his own, he never expected the wheels to fly off so quickly. One big case collapsing on him has pushed him to the brink and it's all he can do to scrape by. He can't risk another bad loss.

Erin Larson is running out of options. In the wake of her father's death, she found a slim piece of paper--a deposit slip--with an unbelievable amount on it. Ten million dollars. Only the bank claims it has no record of the deposit and stonewalls her attempts to find out more. This lawsuit, her last chance, has brought only intimidation and threats. Now she needs to convince Jared to take a risk, to help her because the money is real. And both need to watch their backs as digging deeper unleashes something far more dangerous than just threats.

My Review:
This is a page-turner; I liked it! Fast paced writing with short chapters, makes this a good "beach book." A good plot with many twists and turns--along with surprises--kept this reader's attention. It's the tale of an one lawyer's struggle against a large, legal corporation--a David and Goliath.

The novel is authored by an attorney, who I hope decides to continue to write. If you like John Grisham, you'll like this one.

Thank you to Bonnie at Christian Fiction Blog Alliance and Bethany House Publishers for my copy.

If you would like to read the first chapter, click here.

If you would like to buy a copy, click here.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Inescapable by Nancy Mehl

Road to Kingdom (Book One)

Page-Turning Romantic Suspense Set Against the Backdrop of a Small Mennonite Town

Lizzie Engel is used to running away. At eighteen, she left her Mennonite hometown, her family, and her faith with plans never to return. Five years later, Lizzie finds she'll have to run again. False accusations at her job, a stalker, and a string of anonymous threatening letters have left her with no other options. This time, however, her escape is back to Kingdom, her hometown.

As Lizzie becomes reacquainted with Kingdom, she realizes she may not have left her Mennonite roots and her faith as firmly in the past as she thought. She draws on the support of Noah Housler, an old friend, as she hides out and attempts to plan her next steps.

When it becomes painfully clear that the danger has followed Lizzie to Kingdom, suspicions and tensions run high, and she no longer knows who to trust. With her life and the lives of those she loves at risk, Lizzie will have to run one last time--to a Father whose love is inescapable.

My Review:
Lizzie, a single parent, is being stalked. To further complicate her life, she is falsely accused of criminal activity at her workplace. She decides that she must take her child and go into hiding. This concept had me hooked at the beginning of this novel, but unfortunately, there wasn't enough to reel me in. The plot flounders and the end is quite unbelievable.

Characters are flat. Charity, a six-year-old still takes naps, yet, most every night, she can hardly keep her eyes open. She is content to sit all day and color. Hmm, I don't remember my children acting like this. Matthew Engels, Lizzie's super stern father, causes anyone in his presence to tremble whenever he glares their way. The entire town is afraid of him; although he's an elder in the church, he is without friends. Somehow, he softens so as to become a marshmallow-like; why, at one point, he even has tears coursing down his face (286).

Perhaps you'll enjoy this one. I did not.

Discussion questions are included.

Thank you to Bonnie at Christian Fiction Blog Alliance and Bethany House Publishers for my copy.

If you would like to read the first chapter, click here.

If you would like to buy a copy, click here.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

The Director’s Cut by Janice Thompson

A Backstage Pass (Book 3)

Tia Morales is used to calling the shots. She's the director of the popular sitcom Stars Collide, and her life on set is calculated and orderly. Well, most of the time. But her life outside the studio is another matter. If only she could get her family to behave as well as her stars do! When she starts butting heads with handsome camera operator Jason Harris, it's enough to send a girl over the edge. Will she ever learn to let go and take life--and love--as it comes?

Full of the humor and crazy family dynamics Janice Thompson fans have come to love, this colorful story gives readers an inside look at Hollywood and a healthy dose of romance.

My Review:
How good it is to see Lenora Worth exiting from her pink convertible! I was delighted to meet her again along with several other characters from the Backstage Pass series. The author has the ability to write characters such that this reader feels as if they are long-time friends. The novel can be enjoyed without having read the other titles in the series; however, the entire series is worth a reader's time.

I loved peeking behind the scenes of this award-winning sit com. Hollywood personalities are magnetizing. We fans can't get enough!

If you're looking for a lighthearted summer read, get a copy of The Director’s Cut! I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Available June, 2012 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group. Thank you to Donna Hausler for my copy.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Love in Disguise by Carol Cox

Delightfully Engaging Blend of Romance, Suspense, History, and Humor.

When costume-maker Ellie Moore suddenly finds herself out of a job in the middle of a bleak Chicago winter, she uses her knowledge of theatrical disguise to secure a position as an undercover operative with the Pinkerton Detective Agency. Her assignment: find the culprit behind the theft of silver shipped from the mines near Pickford, Arizona.

Disguised as Lavinia Stewart, a middle-aged widow, Ellie begins her investigation. Soon she finds she must also pose as the dazzling young Jessie Monroe, whose vivacious personality encourages people to talk.

Mine owner Steven Pierce is about to lose his business after the theft of several bullion shipments--until hope arrives in the unlikely form of Lavinia Stewart, who offers to invest in Steven's mine. In his wildest dreams, Steven never expected to be rescued by an inquisitive gray-haired widow...or to fall head over heels for Lavinia's captivating niece, Jessie.

But then the thieves come after both Lavinia and Jessie. Ellie isn't safe no matter which character she plays! Will she be forced to reveal her true identity before the criminals are caught? What will Steven do when he discovers the woman he loves doesn't exist?

My Review:
And the Oscar goes to . . . Ellie Moore! A wannabe actress, Ellie poses as both Lavinia Stewart, an aging widow, and as Jessie Monroe, her young, eye-catching niece as she sets out in the Wild West to solve a mystery of stolen silver ore. She manages to fool an entire small Arizona town, and therefore, she certainly deserves that Oscar. The reader must be willing to suspend disbelief as Ellie first poses as Lavinia in a grey wig and then Jessie in a red wig. I don't think that she would have fooled me.

Ellie's relationship with Christ ranges from nonexistent in the beginning to fuzzy at the ending. There seemed to be no point where she begins a relationship. She does begin attending church, but only as part of Lavinia's character, not as her true self; it fails to make an impact on her. There are times that she asks for God's help when she's in a jam, but I found her non-faith confusing for a Christian fiction novel.

I did not like the way the author chopped off action in a chapter and then in the following chapter, summarized what had happened. I'd much rather witness the action. In other words, show me don't tell me. In addition, there are some sentence fragments. All of these things make this not one of my favorite books.

Thank you to Bonnie at Christian Fiction Blog Alliance and Publisher for my copy.

If you would like to read the first chapter, click here.

If you would like to buy a copy, click here.