Monday

In Good Company by Jan Turano

MY REVIEW

This is one of the best romances I've read in a long time. Deeply fun, characters very well developed, in fact so fun you can find yourself counting them as friends and giving them advice.

The novel has just the right amount of humor, suspense, and abrasion between characters to make it one of the most interesting books of 2015.

Millie and Everett both have a lot of grown to do, and it is inevitable that they each feel the other needs to change the most. It is quite delightful how they manage to help each other become not only better persons, but also realize that when together they make a whole.

The children are delightful scamps, and Turano does an excellent job illustrating how children might behave when they've lost both beloved parents, and when they are trying to find an even keel in unknown waters without the undivided attention of their guardian. Millie comes along in a very unconventional way to help guide them in this turbulent time of their lives. But the fun starts literally when Everett and Millie bump into each other.

This is 5 of 5 stars. I will definitely be purchasing all of Jan Turano's books.

Irish Meadows by Susan Anne Mason





MY REVIEW

This is a pleasing period piece romp. Love abounds for two sisters who want to please their father, but their hearts just won't behave. It isn't the best Bethany House has offered Christian readers, but it ranks fairly high because it is fairly well written and interesting. I give it 4 stars out of 5 stars.

Character development relies mostly upon the looks of a person rather than upon actual character dynamics. It is difficult to truly develop a character when there are so many to develop. There are the two sisters, the mama and papa, a brother and two little ones not to mention the love interests. The novel gets slow in places where it needs to move quickly, and runs right past some spots that could be savored by the reader if the author had spent more time developing the characters. I particularly like the way Mason develops the pouty Colleen. Well done! She may be the most interesting character in the whole novel.

Faith plays out very well among the characters. It is softly done with a gentle touch, and that is so much better than the in-your-face kind.

The story line is very good, and the author uses humor in unexpected style with adds a great deal to interest. One great thing is that there are no startling modern-day references. But there is a lot of head hopping (remember this is where the reader is dragged from one character's point of view to the next in a willy-nilly fashion without well developed transitions, which is quite startling). When readers are jerked around like that, it makes the story flow seem more like stuttering rather than a smooth run through calm waters and a fast flow over white water rapids. When well done, it isn't even noticeable.

Wednesday

The Tuning Station The Tuning Station by Chris A. Crawford

The Tuning StationThe Tuning Station by Chris A. Crawford
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A stunning moral for Christians today is tucked neatly in this unique, page-turner. Chris Crawford has delved into the minds of Ted the Christian and Ted the Unbeliever. There is a little twist with one of them having Asperger's syndrome which is a neat psychological touch.

The novel is well-written, with just enough twists and turns to make the story interesting, but not so much that it is convoluted. The conclusion of why one Ted went one way and the other went the opposite way is quite intriguing. It was one of those things that made me take a hard look at my own Christian walk to see if I could have caused this kind of conundrum. Since we can't change the past, but we can certainly determine the future I decided to change a couple of things. I don't know if this is what Chis was aiming for, but it sure did give me pause without listening to a sermon.

Character development is quite good. The point of view is in the first person, which I love! The author did a very good job with spreading just enough information on the bread to give it plenty of flavor, too. No information overload, in other words, and development of the story is an extraordinary, smooth flowing river. Some white water here and there, and one or two waterfalls that make your stomach lurch in that satisfying way good stories do.

This book is definitely a keeper. I think it would be a great read for new Christians and for older teen readers. The apologetics are good, and the atheist argument is also amazing.

I gave this book 4 stars because there's no way to give 4.5 stars. There are some grammar problems that made me have to reread a few paragraphs to understand them, and quite a few solecisms. Since both Ted-s taught college level courses, the solecisms were reading flow stoppers for me. However, these problems probably would not matter a hill of beans to most readers. I give the book 4.5 stars.



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Trouble At Leighton Hall: (KerryAnne Dawson) (KerryAnne Dawson Mysteries Book 2) Trouble At Leighton Hall: (KerryAnne Dawson) by Sherry Chamblee

Trouble At Leighton Hall: (KerryAnne Dawson) (KerryAnne Dawson Mysteries Book 2)Trouble At Leighton Hall: (KerryAnne Dawson) by Sherry Chamblee
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a good story for the younger crowd. It has enough twists and turns to make for a good story flow. The target audience is 11-16 year-olds, and this offering has a lot to offer with a strong female character who actually admits when she's wrong.

Only one character is well-developed, which is the main character. The other characters (and there are a lot of them) are there for story content. That isn't an altogether bad thing when considering the target audience. With the story being about Bible college students, there isn't much love interest going on, but I suppose that will develop as each KerryAnne story progresses. I really like the way Chamblee highlights characteristics about Tim (the potential love interest for KerryAnne) that are not only likable, but also are reasons to love someone.

Far too many authors these days throw two people together and hack away at them until they fit together making them fall in love with no reasons for love to develop. That makes for a very awkward love story. Not so with this book.

This is a mystery series, and Chamblee never takes her eyes off the objective to solve the mystery. That is quite an accomplishment.

Good faith aspect without being preachy. There are several typos and grammatical errors, but they don't dam up the story flow too much. I'm taking 1 star off for that.

I recommend this book giving it a 4 of 5 stars.

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They're Rugby Boys, Don't You Know? They're Rugby Boys, Don't You Know? by Natalie Vellacott

They're Rugby Boys, Don't You Know?They're Rugby Boys, Don't You Know? by Natalie Vellacott
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

True story of a woman on a mission to help street boys in the Philippines.

I really liked this book. I love how God works in so many people is so many different ways to reach the lost souls in this ugly world. I think the most striking thing about the rugby boys is how invisible they were to most people. That made me cry.

Natalie Vellacott walks with you arm-in-arm while she tells you about her adventures with the rugby boys. These guys get high on solvents (rugby), and this is why they are called rugby boys. She introduces you to each young one as she tells their story. You find yourself falling for each one, and praying for them when you are not reading. I couldn't help myself. I know their stories unfolded from 2011 to 2013, but I couldn't help but worry over them. I recognized the demonic oppressions and possessions in these children's behaviors. That may be shocking to some, but it is what it is.

After reading this book, I feel like I have actually been to the Philippines. My neighbor down the street is from there, so I could hear the boys talk in her accent :)

Natalie makes sure that God receives all the glory. She shows how God works in His mysterious ways in how she made it back to the country after her commitment to Logos Hope was finished. How God provides for her ministry, how He led her to a new, but similar, ministry. After reading this, you'll want to log on to her Facebook page and keep track of these homeless boys that God ministers to through her.

God used Natalie and her shipmates to make a huge difference in these young lives. Although, she leaves you hanging about one young man, the story is extremely satisfying, well-written, and free of grammar/typos that made reading this a very pleasant experience.

(Americans need to get over the British spellings of certain words. I stumbled a bit until I realized that's just the way the Brits talk.)

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Tuesday

Creole Princess by Beth White



MY REVIEW...

This is an extraordinary and very interesting look into Southern society during the Revolutionary War era. White deals with the pain of slavery, and I believe her writing reveals quality research. She does not spout the same old stuff written for decades about relationships between masters and slaves.

White also explores the way families can splinter when fathers become too set and rigid to understand their children. The contrasts of thoughts, feelings and emotions in this book is gripping.

Characterizations are developed very well, and personalities sharpen each other rather than grating or blending into each other. Dialogue could use some tweaking, but White does incorporate the syntax of that period quite well in the dialogue.

All in all, I give this book 5 of 5 stars. A well told tale.

ABOUT THE BOOK...

On the colonial Gulf Coast, the beautiful young Lyse Lanier is torn between loyalty to her family and a handsome Spanish stranger with a secret mission.

Friday

Why does a great author need an editor?




You have a masterpiece all completed. It is a work of art. Until you have it in your hands in printed form and you start reading. There are mistakes all over the place. Misspelled words... How can that happen when you you spellchecked three times? What happened to that quirky character that in your writing seemed so funny and added so much spice? In the printed version, he comes off as lame and abrasive with no compassion. But what can you do? The book is in print, and that self-publishing company is going to charge you for making so many changes!

We need to rewind to the time before that manuscript ever left to brave the world.

Think of an editor as Coco Chanel or Christian Dior of the publishing world. But you don't have to pay fashion designer prices to get fashion designer quality in your writing. The investment in the right editing has a very high return of investment because you become a better writer. After you see the suggested corrections, and see how much better your work is, you can skillfully incorporate those changes and even apply them to your next work of art. That makes you a better writer.

Your work is a masterpiece because no one else could have told the story exactly the way you have. No one else thought of the story, or studied the subject like you did for that article. Yet, the clothes your work is wearing are not fashion designer quality. They are definitely serviceable, and enduring, but sending your work out into the world without dressing it up to the nines reflects badly on you and can tarnish your reputation.

In choosing an editor, everything depends upon what kind of editing you need. Every solid piece of writing can be tweaked and trimmed into excellent writing. An author is too close to the work to be able to see the whole clearly. An author needs to be married to the idea, but not to the words. A professional can give you on the job training in how to write more clearly, how to use active voice instead of passive voice, how to develop your characters into vibrant, lifelike humans instead of caricatures.  Your work will be like a river with white water rapids and still water depths.

How to choose an editor?

I completely understand about the sample edit thing. Five pages is hardly enough to display the skill of an editor, but it takes so much time to edit some things because of many reasons: a) the author has English as a second language; b) the author does not have the work perfected to be ready for a comprehensive edit because the author wants the work "cleaned up" so more writing can be done (as in only a first draft is complete; c) the author has no clue where the story is going; and d) the author does not know what kind of editing he/she needs.

I never knew that I was such a bad proofreader until I had a professional proofreader edit one of my books. I thought I had done a really good job proofing the thing. I received back a gold mine of corrections that saved me a lot of embarrassment because I self-pubbed that book. I am truly proud to market my book because I know it is a professional presentation of my thoughts and studies. That is priceless. I also realized that I was far too close to the work. My words were my deepest thoughts so I didn't realize I had so many common errors that writers make until I saw them highlighted by my worthy proofreader.

Another excellent benefit from having your work professionally edited is that it makes the author a better writer. There are many people out there with Bachelor's and Master's degrees who still can't put a really good fiction book together. An editor can see the big picture. An editor is far enough away from the author's work (both fiction and non-fiction) to identify the holes in story or thesis, give great advice on characterizations, make sure that dialogue is snappy and character-unique instead of all characters talking the same (as I've read many books with this problem).

What an author needs is more value-realizing of the great investment that editing is.

Wednesday

Beast of Stratton by Renee Blare

MY REVIEW

There is a lot in this story to like. At times the story whooshes along so fact you barely hear the railroad crossing warning before the train has passed. However, other times it moves really slow, but the prose is staccato like high heels clacking along a cement platform.

Character development is nicely done. You meet a young woman who has a mission to find out where her father is. You have to figure out that she's going undercover to the job where he was last seen. She's and architect, but is pretending to be a secretary (she was one a long time ago, so it's okay, she knows what to do). We get a good feel for Aimee, we know she's a firecracker, and that she's good at what she does. We also know that she loves her father AND she loves him for good reasons: He's faithful, true, honest, etc. so the characters are very believable.

I like the way we meet the Beast of Stratton; in your face and sort of growling. It's a long time into the story before you figure out what his problem is, and why he's so grumpy.There is one character, I think it's one character who is usually called Ian, but something Sebastian. That part was very confusing, so I'll tell you that he's the head of security and he really is a good guy.

About style...
Blare makes a lot of points in the narrative without a lot of care that the reader truly understands what is going on. I get this kind of writing because I wrote this way a long time ago. It's to be efficient with words so that the words carry a lot of impact. However, the word economy here is very distracting to the storyline. The reader has to waste time trying to figure out exactly what is going on, and sometimes who is doing the action. That dams up the story flow, and can actually keep the reader from enjoying the suspense. This is the fault of the editor mostly, not the author. Authors tend to get caught up in story telling and frequently we leave out words and sentences because our brains are working faster than we can type. The editor on the other hand must make sure the story flows fluidly so the reader can shoot the rapids as well as savor the deep, quiet waters. That is what makes a good story a great novel.

Dialogue needs some work as well. Sometimes it's hard to tell who is talking to whom. Although, what the characters say to each other is believable.

For the ending to have the kind of huge impact that I know the author is going for, more time should have been spent on the mother. It's great what happens in the end, but frankly I didn't get to know the mother so I really didn't care if she was forgiven or not. Maybe you will feel differently about it. Maybe I'm just getting old and I don't like the sound of high heels walking across a concrete platform. I like the sound of steady rain on the roof, and splashes of puddles, and white water rivers because it's all going somewhere with a purpose that is clearly discerned.

 I liked the book. It is interesting and a very good premise, so I give it 3 stars out of 5.

ABOUT THE BOOK...

 He appears the beast, but she sees the man...

Architect Aimee Hart, determined to locate her father, infiltrates Miles Stratton’s engineering firm as a secretary. Her presence wrenches the shaggy, wounded man from his penthouse, and the quest begins.

Betrayed by his best friend, Miles would rather hide than help, especially from the man's daughter. But something's not right. Someone’s trying to destroy Stratton Industrial. A decorated war veteran, he's defended his own before and the Beast of Stratton can do it again.

Even with the enemy at his side.

The Search for Reason by Michael E. Dreher

MY REVIEW

There are many things that are very good about this book. I think all Christians who have been believers for a while should read this book or at least one similar. We often take our faith for granted never doubting God's existence or His grace. But we do often doubt His mercy else why would we constantly beat our head against the walls for our past sins?

This is a refreshing walk down a path searching for faith in a very reasonable world. Everyone needs to remember what faith is all about, and to know that regardless of our beliefs God really does have our best interests at heart. He's real, and personal, and intimately involved in our lives. This book reminds us of those things, and that is a very good thing.

The beginning is done very well. We have a brief look at what Matthew's life is like; without graphics we get the picture. Then we slip into his thought processes as he muddles about trying to make sense of a gut wrenching blow to his equilibrium when his friend dies. Matt comes face to face with how God can change a person inside out. All this is written very well, and to the point. The character development is excellent, and he's fully believable as a 30-something.

The other characters are drawn with a deft pen as well... the bad influences are really bad, and the good ones are not preachy or prudes. They are just average Christians who have a noticeable heart for God, and are not ashamed of saying so. Michael makes good use of prayer as well.

There is a lot of background story that bogs down the story flow, though. The quest is all about Matthew, not the psychologist so we don't need to go down any side roads with him. That is very distracting and it does not move the story along. Although, the psychologist does help Matt to understand somethings, and Dreher uses that character to tackle some hard questions. The story would move along at a much better pace if all that back story was removed and used in a different book that tackled some of those things that long-time Christians face every day.

Another drawback is that the story is very wordy, and Dreher uses a lot of passive voice verbs instead of action verbs. In his next book, he needs to pay closer attention to verb tense as well. All that said, this is a good first endeavor for a new author. I look forward to more from him.

This book gets 3 stars out of 5. I liked it. If the writing were tightened up quite a bit, and some of the characters' back stories were trimmed, it could get 5 stars.


ABOUT THE BOOK

 Matthew Edwards thought he was living the dream. He was young, successful, and had his sights set on a bright future. Then, out of the blue he received a phone call that turned his world upside down. His childhood best-friend that he had not seen in 15 years, died suddenly, and the news rocked him to his core. After receiving the news, a series of “coincidences” had him searching for answers. Trying to deal with the death of a friend was hard enough, but then he found out that his job might be on the line, as well as the partnership he dreamed of. Nightmares of a faceless child haunted his sleep, and the peace he thought he had in his life had all but vanished. “How much could one person take,” he would wonder, as he tried to piece things together before his life fell apart.

After the funeral, the questions that plagued him left him restless and void. “What’s the reason to all of this? How could God allow this to happen? If he was a God of love, how come there is so much pain and suffering?” More and more, he tried to find the meaning in all of it. “I need to know,” he would think. So at the behest of his mother, he sought answers in a place that he never thought he would; a psychologist. While he found answers to some of his questions, he still felt as if he had a hole in his soul. Without knowing what to do next, or where to find the peace he so desperately needed, he took a step in the direction that he ran from many years before.

Will he be able to find the peace or reason he seeks?


Friday

Art of being Broken by Aaron Mark Reimer


MY REVIEW

There are some sparkling gems of wisdom in this book. Reimer has a beautiful way of telling his stories in a style that is truly down to earth, and very human, and very open about his brokenness. You can tell that some of life's kicks bruised him deeply, but he is positive about how God is the great Healer.

This book would have been much better if it had an introduction telling the reader where he was going, and what his purpose was for writing the book. You don't get a feel for the purpose until you are almost finished reading. Each chapter does have a purpose. But if you are like me, you rarely read the chapter headings, so you miss the purpose of the chapter. I don't have to have things spelled out for me, so I figured out that the book is basically an autopsy of brokenness, or maybe a better term would be anatomy of brokenness. The fact that every person is broken because every person is human is discussed thoroughly. The fact that God heals brokenness when the person is willing to allow Him to, is also explored thoroughly. This goes without saying, but so many people never acknowledge the truth humans are broken and need God to be healthy souls.

This book would be great for small group discussion (and only a 14-week length if you take a chapter each week). You may be able to study 2 chapters a week because the first chapter Fine is followed by Broken Things Are Broken, which is a natural flow. I would suggest highlighting those things that strike your heart with a true resonance, and then discuss those things.

You can't read this book fast, because each chapter needs to be savored as well as pondered. However, you can read it on many different levels. As a devotional type reading a chapter a day, or on a much deeper level if you really want to learn something that will stick with you for longer than a month. I strongly urge youth pastors to consider using this book as a summer study for youth groups. The wisdom imparted here is priceless if you learn it earlier rather than later.

For adults there is a lot of humor, tongue-in-cheek, and tremendous amount of honesty that begs the reader to be honest with himself or herself. So reader beware.

I have to tell you that the book is a bit wordy and takes a little while to get to the point. The chapters do not have a thesis statement at the beginning nor do they have a conclusion statement at the end, so it is a bit difficult to key in on the author's points unless you dig for them. Because of this, I give it 4 of 5 stars.
ABOUT THE BOOK

What if everything isn't fine?
What if there is life outside of our shells?
What if there is beauty underneath our masks?
What if there is healing beyond our brokenness?
What if we could see the image of God in ourselves?
What if God's best art is made from our broken pieces?

In The Art of Being Broken, Aaron Mark Reimer opens up an authentic, sometimes awkward, occasionally hilarious, one-way conversation about our brokenness, the things we use to cover it, and the healing that can come through exposing it.

Monday

Review: God's Crime Scene: A Cold-Case Detective Examines the Evidence for a Divinely Created Universe


God's Crime Scene: A Cold-Case Detective Examines the Evidence for a Divinely Created Universe
God's Crime Scene: A Cold-Case Detective Examines the Evidence for a Divinely Created Universe by J. Warner Wallace

My rating: 4 of 5 stars



This book won't hit the shelves until August 2015, but I read an ARC, and am quite impressed. The perspective is unique, from the point of view of a homicide detective. Looking for all kinds of clues relating to why God is, and why only God could create the universe. If you have ANYone in your family that is agnostic or atheistic, if you have anyone that believes science is above all and end all, then you must get them to read this book.

Wallace presents a wall of evidence that cannot be denied. Step by step, or maybe I should say, brick by brick he builds a solid case for the Intelligent designed, and God-created universe. Everything leads to Christ. You can't go wrong with this book.



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Thursday

Dead Dog Like Me by Max Davis

    
MY REVIEW

Max Davis writes from the heart. He certainly creates characters that are believable and real, especially describing what it's like to topple from an ivory tower. What I like about this journey this novel is that it isn't preachy, and doesn't take you down a lesson-plan path. You get engrossed in the story, and perhaps feel a lot of sympathy for the main character, Nick Gregory. You feel compassion for his wife as well. During the whole book you may not completely understand why you are feeling this compassion for Abbi until the last few chapters. Because...

In the first three or four chapters, a lot of questions are raised. Who is Philip? Why and how did he die? Why did he write a letter and what did the letter say? It takes a long time to clear up this mystery. This novel doesn't need that kind of mystery. There is enough tension and strain and strife without it. All the characters in the book know the answers, and that made me feel like an outsider. When reading a book, I don't like being an outsider at all. That tactic alienates readers. We like to find out things along with the main character. I think the book would do much better without that ploy, so forewarned is forearmed. There are also a ton of flashbacks. Personally, I detest flashbacks. Although this makes the story flow disjointed, it doesn't distract too much or take you out of the story. For me it doesn't work. Again forewarned is forearmed.

It is interesting how this one character, Philip, who is dead, seems to dominate and orchestrate the actions of the characters. We tend to do this in the real world as well. We tend to live in the past allowing past actions, past beliefs, and past thoughts dictate how we act in the present. Davis used this very well in his novel. He explores how we use anger as a shield, and how we Christians hear God, but tend to try to obey under our own power. This book will keep you thinking long after you've read the last page.

ABOUT THE BOOK
Nick Gregory regains consciousness after a horrific car accident to find he’s been transported back in time and that he has become Mephibosheth, Jonathan’s son and King Saul’s grandson. Aware that he’s experiencing another man’s life, he has to learn fast. When mega-church pastor, Nick Gregory, regains consciousness after a horrific car accident, he’s on the ground in agonizing pain. Nick realizes he is in a bizarre place – a foreign, parched, ancient land, having been transported back in time to 800 B.C. Unbelievably, he is in the body of a prince named Mephibosheth, a son of Jonathan and King Saul’s grandson. Nick is fully aware of who he is and that he’s now living in Mephibosheth’s body, strangely able to speak and understand Hebrew. This experience helps him see that he, like Mephibosheth, is a broken man desperate for God’s outrageous grace and healing (2 Samuel 9:8). Returning to present day, Nick’s experience motivates a changed life.

 
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Max Davis is the author of over 20 published books and has been featured in USA Today and Publisher’s Weekly, and has appeared on The Today Show and The 700 Club. He holds degrees in Journalism and Biblical Studies and is a much sought-after speaker for churches and organizations worldwide. He and his wife, Alanna, live on 50 beautiful acres in Greenwell Springs, Louisiana.Dead Dog Like Me Website
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