Dead Dog Like Me by Max Davis


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.

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.

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


Justified by Varina Denman


You can always count on David C. Cook to publish great reads. This one is no exception. Justified is Book 2, but you'd never know it if you read it. You don't have to have read Jaded because this one is a complete stand alone. You may be stepping into the middle of a story, but you have a full, satisfying, complete read in Justified.

There are three main characters that are so exquisitely developed you are captivated by the end of the first chapter. I have to admit, I wasn't particularly fond of Fawn in the beginning, then I understood why by the end of the second chapter. After that, I couldn't put the book down. I ached for her hurts, and rejoiced over her small triumphs. I warned her not to trust the rat who had gotten her pregnant, and rejoiced as she grew fond of and fell in love with a very good, Christian man. 

There is a reason why the reader is taken into the head of the antagonist, but I really detest head jumping. That kind of writing is lazy in my opinion. However, Denman does a good job with the transitions so the head jumping isn't such a reading shock. I still think there is no need for the head jumping into the baby's father's head. His motives and his thought processes are quite discernible by his actions. 

Fawn's character is quite poignant. As her faith grows from mere surface platitudes and actions into a deeply felt heart change, she becomes a tender, true-blue Christian rather than a brittle play-like Christian. I really like the way Coach points out her flaws in such a gentle, but firm way. Without believers being held accountable, believers never grow. This story illustrates that adage marvelously. 

Denman also illustrates certain characteristics that Christians are gifted with because we are children of God: Strength of character, willingness to change our attitude so that we align more correctly with God's will, tender mercies, forgiveness, discernment, and other more complicated characteristics. 

Several facets of human behavior are studied in this novel. One that really is not a biblical principle is forgiving one's self. No place in the Bible talks about this, however believers have a tendency to be harder on themselves than on others. They assume they must forgive themselves, when actually it is Satan that is using our past to kill and destroy our present peace and forgiveness from God. Other human behaviors are romance, need for comforting, motherly instincts, strength of character to resist others trying to direct our path. These characteristics are deftly infused into the storyline to make the story flow in river-like grace: smooth and deep, to white water rapids, then back to smooth and deep. It is a wonderful, exciting ride. The book is well worth the money, and is definitely a keeper. Five of five stars.


In a small Texas town ruled by gossip, Fawn Blaylock believes others are justified in condemning her untimely pregnancy. Stifled by guilt, she yearns for grace while the local football coach treats her with gentle respect.

Justified perfectly captures the rhythm and romance of life in a small town, telling the unforgettable story of a woman searching for renewal, a man looking beyond what others see, and a community torn between judgment and love. It is the unforgettable story of broken dreams, second chances, and relentless hope.


Together with You by Victoria Bylin


Fascinating study of how a father who determines to be a father travels from point A to final destination of being a father. As Carly says, "It's ... love."

The two main characters have so much in common in that they beat themselves up for what they did in the past. Frankly, this author, Victoria Bylin, seems to think there is merit in "forgiving yourself." I've studied that, and don't believe that is a biblical principle. When you self-recriminate you are buying into one of Satan's guilt tactics and that builds a wall keeping you away from God and His forgiveness. Whoever thinks something you have done is unforgivable is listening to a lie, and is being colossally arrogant thinking that you are better and bigger than God in this forgiveness business.

Setting that aside, I think Bylin did an excellent job with research. I commend her for highlighting the fetal alcohol syndrome to America's women. The lasting effects of it are devastating! Great job in weaving this storyline around a special needs child.

Characters are very well done, While we are subjected to the inside thinking of a 13-year-old boy and a 16-year-old boy along with his girlfriend, Bylin does an excellent job of building their characters through the eyes of their father and the nanny, Carly. Superbly done. Joy to read. Brought back memories of my nephews. We do take a trip or two into the head of Ryan's special needs daughter. Quite interesting to get a view of how a child with FAS thinks and assimilates information. (Like I said, this chick did some excellent research.)

The two main characters' development is also well done. A bit on the whiny side when they keep beating themselves up over the past. I get the panic thing with Carly, and the guilt thing with Ryan's adultery, but seriously--enough already with the rehashing of information. There is just so many ways you can beat yourself up and Bylin did it all those many ways. I was black and blue by the last page. However, I did read to the last page.

Ryan's agnosticism was a good relief to Carly's faith. It was a good study in how a believing woman can touch the heart of an unbeliever setting attraction aside. I have seen men "see the light" just because they were attracted to a woman. But this was different in several ways. However, after reading hundreds of books where women authors try to really get inside their male characters' heads, I never sure they actually ring that bell correctly. Men depict male characters so differently than women do, and women depict women characters differently than men do... It's that Venus and Mars thing, I guess. All that to say that Bylin did a pretty good job inside the head of Ryan.

5 of 5 stars. Worth the money!


Ryan thought hiring Carly Mason as nanny was a key move in reconnecting with his children, but will the attraction between them send his plans into chaos?

Blood of a Stone by Jeanne Gassman


This is an excellent walk through some interesting biblical places following a couple of Roman slaves. They suffer quite a bit before one kills the master, and they both run away. [Not a spoiler because this happens early on.]

What happens next is similar to a camel ride. Up and down, round and round as the plot unfolds. People you meet are interesting including their own agendas, and with some key historical facts as well. The character development is very well done. The two main characters develop in different ways. The older slave (the Jew) seems to be one of the Sower's seeds out of Matthew 13. I won't say which one, that would be a spoiler. The younger one is also a seed. His character is so well woven, I almost prayed for him!

The storyline is well done. The flow is good and keeps the pages turning. There is a twist at the end that I should have seen coming, but did not. The book is quite good.

The book gets 5 of 5 stars. Well worth the money.


Set in the first century on the edges of the Roman Empire and the Jesus movement, Blood of a Stone is a sweeping story of murder, betrayal, love, and the search for redemption.
Faced with the brutality of slavery, Demetrios confronts his master and flees by the blood of a stone. Determined to escape his past, he struggles to create a new life and a new identity with his friend and fellow escaped slave, Elazar.
However, freedom has its price. Secrets cannot remain secret forever. A chance for love is lost. Elazar betrays Demetrios to a so-called prophet named Jesus of Nazareth. Fearing the Roman authorities and Jesus, Demetrios risks everything to silence those who would enslave him again. His quest leads him to startling discoveries and dire choices.
Demetrios must answer the question we all ask: Can we ever be free of our past?

Five Days in Skye by Carla Laureano


Top notch, A#1 love story. Gripped me from the very first page. There are places, though, that made me want to shake Andrea because of her thought processes. I get the fact that some people get hurt and that makes them put up walls. Sure, lots of people do that especially when they don't know God very well.

The faith factor in this book is interwoven very well, and because of the lack of faith the characters do some wallowing that is very believable. It makes me wonder how people live without God, and that thought makes me shudder.

The development and flow of the story is very good. Just the right amount of tension, humor, and add a few touches of self-recrimination then pour in some of God's redeeming love, and you've got a great recipe for a very good story.

No story flow barricades, no characters acting unbelievably, and that makes a wonderful story. One thing that made me jump for joy was the lack of head hopping. One or two places of head jumping from Andrea to James as very well done transitions from one scene to another. Mostly, however, the characters stayed in their own heads, not much speculation of what the other was thinking--superior writing. The story was from the two main characters point of view, and no head hopping to various supporting characters. Yea!

Very well done. 5 of 5 stars. Well worth the money. This one is a keeper.


Andrea Sullivan is so consumed by her hospitality consultant job that she's forgotten what brings her life. She travels the world yet shields herself from the exotic locales or another chance at love. She dreads her new assignment—a last chance to snag a high-profile client in Scotland. Yet the lush Isle of Skye transcends her preconceptions. As does the man she came to interview—the rugged, blue-eyed Scotsman James McDonald.

James is passionate about cooking but after six restaurants, four cookbooks, and his own television show, he has no desire to be a celebrity chef. Andrea and James begin to sense these five days in Skye may just be God's wild invitation into deeper life ... and truer love.


Randy Ingermanson's craft advice

Research is one of my ALL-time pet peeves when reading. If the author has not done research, then there are all kinds of story-stopper "facts" that frustrate readers. It seems that Randy seems to agree with me in this article about asking questions...

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2) Organization: The Power of Asking for Help

A lot of people go through life afraid to ask for help when they have a question. They’re afraid they’ll look stupid. Nobody wants to look stupid. So they don’t ask. 

But there’s a way to ask for help that won’t make anyone think you’re stupid.

Ask Google. (Or any search engine of your choice. For simplicity in this article, I’m just going to talk about Google, but you can use whichever search engine you like.)

Let's look at a few examples of questions you can ask Google and the kinds of answers you can get.

How do you add more memory to a 2012 MacBook Pro? There’s a YouTube video that will show you how. 

What’s the difference between an S corporation and an LLC? There are many articles on this. Here’s one. 

How do you install a new plugin for your WordPress blog? WordPress has a page that discusses plugins, how to install them, and much more.  

If you’ve got a “how-to” question, Google almost certainly can find you an answer. Probably a whole page full of answers.

If you think about it, that’s pretty amazing. No matter what your question, no matter how stupid you feel, there’s a machine you can ask that will give you answers and will never try to humiliate you.

Some caveats are in order.

Caveat 1: Not All Answers Are Created Equal 

Some answers are better than others. Some of them are right. Some are almost right. Some are dead wrong.

Just because it’s on the internet doesn’t make it automatically true. You have to decide whether you trust the authority of any page you read. Which means you need the critical skills to determine who is trustworthy and who isn’t. But you’ve probably spent a lifetime developing your critical skills already, so this is nothing new for you.  

Caveat 2: You Might Not Understand the Answer

Some questions are hard. That means some answers are going to be complicated. If you don’t understand the answer, then try again with a question about the part you don’t understand. Google doesn’t get tired of answering your questions.

Caveat 3: Not All Answers Are Known

Of course there are plenty of questions that nobody knows how to answer. If you ask Google a hard question, you might get articles that claim to answer the question, but don’t. Or you might get articles that explain why the question is hard to answer. It can be useful to know that nobody knows the answer.

Caveat 4: Not All Questions Have Unique Answers

Which is prettier, red or blue?

How far is up?  

But Some Questions Google Can Answer

Despite the caveats above, Google can answer an amazing number of questions that come up in your writing. Here are a few examples:

What does your setting look like?
If your setting is on planet earth, Google Maps can show you a map of how it looks today. It can show you satellite images. It can show you pictures taken from ground level. Even if you’re writing a historical novel, this may be enough. It’s a lot cheaper than flying there.

Who was that company who just called you with an offer that sounds too good to be true? Are they a scam?

Check their Caller ID and enter it into Google along with the word “scam”. If there’ve been any complaints, you’ll find what people have said about them.

Is there anybody on the planet with the same unusual name as your villain?

Maybe you think your villain’s name could never belong to anyone real. Maybe you’re wrong. If it matters, you can find out pretty quickly. 

Is it plausible that your heroine could swim a mile in the open ocean in twenty minutes?

Look up the world record for a woman swimming a mile.

What’s the best way to disable a Ferrari and what tools would you need?

For extra credit: How long would it take? Could you hide the tools in your tuxedo? How quickly could the damage be repaired to make the car drivable?

If your hero breaks a leg in Chapter 1, how long will it be until he can run again? 

Sure he's tough, but he's not immortal. 

How far away can you plausibly kill your bad guy with a rifle if you’re a good shot?

For extra credit: What about with a 9-mm handgun? What about with a shotgun? 

If you’re trapped in a cave without water, what’s your best option while you wait for rescue?

For extra credit: Is it true you should drink your own urine, or is that a horrible mistake? How long can you survive in the absolute best case without water?

Build a New Habit

For the next 24 hours, keep track of the number of times you have a question. Don’t walk away from the question, even if it’s trivial. 

Ask the question. Ask Google and see what kind of answer you get. 

Get in the habit of asking Google whenever you have a question. It’ll make you a better writer. 

And you won’t feel dumb when you ask. You’ll feel smart when you learn the answer.
This article is reprinted by permission of the author.
Award-winning novelist Randy Ingermanson, "the Snowflake Guy," publishes the free monthly Advanced Fiction Writing E-zine, with more than 12,000 readers. If you want to learn the craft and marketing of fiction, AND make your writing more valuable to editors, AND have FUN doing it, visit


Review: From the Start

From the Start
From the Start by Melissa Tagg

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a great premise, and nicely done novel. I admire the editing, too.

Great character development. We've got a somewhat backslidden Christian and a Christian who wants to believe she's gungho Christian, but there are some questionable motivations. Put that together with a bit of romantic tension, and you've got a truly good premise.

Next layer in some excellent writing, and insightful observations from the heart, and you've got a truly good read.

I highly recommend this book.

View all my reviews


April 1 - April 15 free book for review!

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