Sunday, January 29, 2017

Mark Of The King by Jocelyn Green

The Mark Of The King by Jocelyn Green is a Christian historical romance set in the French settlement of New Orleans in the 1720's. Julianne Chevalier is a midwife in France who loses a client, resulting in her imprisonment and branding as a murderer. When she hears of a shortage of women to help settle the new colony in Louisiana, she feels a surge of hopefulness at the prospect of maybe locating her long-lost brother and manages to exchange a life in prison for passage to the new land.

Julianne's relief at her perceived freedom is short-lived when all of the new colonists are forced to marry strangers - fellow prisoners - before being allowed to embark on the voyage. Once arriving at the young settlement of New Orleans, the colonists are forced to endure harsh weather, famine, and French soldiers with no respect wasted on the convicts and other lowlifes from this newly arrived vessel.

During the next two years, Julianne's world endures many upheavals and trials, forcing her to test the boundaries of who she can trust and rely upon in life's hardships. In the end, she is forced to commit herself to God's grace in the hope that his mercy and love can bring her the peace and happiness she so desperately craves.

Through her excellent story-telling, Jocelyn has brought to life a tale from a period in our history that is seldom told. She shows us not only what life was like in the early French settlement, but also the exchanges with the Chickasaw and Choctaw tribes in France's efforts to hold claim of the territory against the British. Jocelyn also reminds us very effectively that despite the judgments and edicts held against us within this world, God's grace and mercy is always ours for the asking.

This book contains lots of mid-chapter break points, making it a very easy and enjoyable read even with a hectic schedule. There are also discussion questions at the end, making this a great choice for a book club or reading group. Overall I'm giving it 4/5 stars, and would recommend it to anyone interested in the time period or needing a fresh perspective and a breath of God's grace in what can feel like dire circumstances.

*Disclaimer: I received a free print copy of this book from Bethany House for the purpose of an honest review. All opinions are my own.*

About the book's author (copied from inside book):
Jocelyn Green is an award-winning author of multiple fiction and nonfiction works, including Faith Deployed: Daily Encouragement for Military Wives and The Five Love Languages, Military Edition, which she co-wrote with Dr. Gary Chapman. Her first novel in the Heroines Behind The Lines series, Wedded to War, was a Christy Award finalist and the gold medal winner in historical fiction from the Military Writers Society of America. She and her husband live in Cedar Falls, Iowa, with their two children and two cats. Her goal with every book is to inspire faith and courage in her readers. Visit her at
Purchase Links:
     Bethany House
     Christian Book

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

The Real God by Chip Ingram

The Real God: How He Longs For You To See Him by Chip Ingram is a study focusing on seven attributes of God - His goodness, sovereignty, holiness, wisdom, justice, love, and faithfulness. The purpose of this book is to shatter whatever preconceived notions you may have as to who or what God is, both in your life and in the universe, and to replace these concepts with a more accurate view of God, based on His holy scripture.

Ingram starts by explaining why and how so many of us have partial or inaccurate views of God, how this affects our world and those around us, and what we can do in order to try to realign our view with the view God wants us to have of Him. Ingram goes on to share personal stories, vivid examples, and lots of scriptural references to help us get a more refined and in-tune image, while stressing that we should not try to limit God to our earthly and human notions of what is - or is not - possible.

In this intense study, Ingram also weaves in suggestions, prayers, and action plans that will help us live out these seven main attributes in a more Christ-like and God-honoring fashion in our everyday lives. Our ultimate goal is to have a closer relationship with God, and honor him by assisting others in their relationship with him. This can only happen if we are open to seeing the real God - the God that is full of goodness, rules with absolute sovereignty, encompasses all holiness, has unlimited wisdom, yields perfect justice, and loves us unconditionally with endless faithfulness.

Each of the seven main attributes is designed to be a week-long focus, making this perfect for individual or small group study. This book is great for anyone who longs to have a closer personal relationship with God, or to better relate to, understand, and demonstrate any of the covered attributes. 5/5 stars.

*Disclaimer: I received a free print edition of this book from Baker Books in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.*

About the book's author (back cover copy): Chip Ingram is the senior pastor of Venture Christian Church in Los Gatos, California, and teaching pastor and CEO of Living on the Edge, an international teaching and discipleship ministry. A pastor for over thirty years, Chip has a unique ability to communicate truth and challenge people to live out their faith. Chip is the author of many books, including Culture Shock, The Real Heaven, The Invisible War, and Love, Sex, and Lasting Relationships. Chip and his wife, Theresa, have four grown children and nine grandchildren and live in California.
Purchase Links:
     Christian Book

Saturday, January 14, 2017

GIVEAWAY TIME: Enter to win a copy of Starting Over by Dave Ferguson & Jon Ferguson

We're starting the new year off with a new tradition. Each month, I'll be giving away my copy of one book that I've read and reviewed recently. This month's giveaway is a book I reviewed back in October, entitled Starting Over: You Life Beyond Regrets by Dave Ferguson & Jon Ferguson.

This giveaway is open to all U.S. residents over age 18 at the time of entry. The winner will be contacted via email on February 5th and will have to provide a valid U.S. shipping address in order to receive their book, which will be mailed via U.S.P.S. media mail after the end of the giveaway.

To enter, just read my review of this book and tell me who in your life could benefit from reading the book. Do more actions for more entries, and you can tweet about the giveaway once each day for additional entry points!

a Rafflecopter giveaway
In an effort to get readers more involved, I also plan on asking for your thoughts as to which books I should read and review next. So, take a look at these three titles and leave a comment letting me know which one you'd like me to review next. Thanks for your input!

1) Nothing To Prove: Why We Can Stop Trying So Hard by Jennie Allen

2) Moving From Broken To Beautiful Through Forgiveness by Yvonne Ortega

3) 60 Days Of Happiness: Discover God's Promise Of Relentless Joy by Randy Alcorn

I look forward to hearing from you, and hope that you'll join me for future reviews and giveaways!

A Martyr's Grace by Marvin J. Newell

A Martyr's Grace: 21 Moody Bible Institute Alumni Who Gave Their Lives For Christ is a collection of short biographies by Marvin J. Newell. Telling the stories of these martyrs as best as can be compiled through journal entries, first-person accounts, public records, and personal correspondence, Marvin shares with us glimpses into their lives, teachings, and the examples that they have put forth to share the message of the Lord with those who would otherwise not be exposed to it.

What first drew me to this book was the D. L. Moody quote on the back, which states:

     "Have you grace to be a martyr?" D. L. Moody was once asked.
     "No," he replied, "I have not. But if God wanted me to be one,
          he would give me a martyr's grace."

The first chapter of the book goes on to explain the following:

     A martyr's grace is a special gift granted to a select few. Of the thousands of graduates
     of the Moody Bible Institute who have entered Christian service, less than two dozen
     have been granted this grace. Whereas scores of graduates have died while doing
     ministry, only a few have died a "martyr's death."

These 21 martyrs served in countries all over the world, and died between 1898 and 2002. Their ages ranged from 27 to 63, and they consist of both men and women. They were teachers, nurses, pilots, church planters, Bible translators, and administrators - ordinary people with ordinary vocations. The only things all of these people had in common was a history with Moody Bible Institute and their heartfelt love and devotion for sharing Christ with others. When the time came, they all willingly gave everything of themselves in order to further serve God.

Marvin dedicates around 7 pages to each of the names that most of us have probably never heard of, taking the time to show us their childhood, upbringing, how they came into the Lord's service, and the manner in which they left this world. For most of them, he also goes past their death to demonstrate the impact their life and martyrdom had on the community in which they served and the world as a whole.

The two stories that had the largest impact on me personally were that of John Cornelius Stam and his wife, Elizabeth (Betty) Alden Stam. While their lives were tragically taken by Chinese Communists in 1934, God made provision for their baby girl to be rescued and returned to her grandparents.

This book does have graphic details pertaining to each death, although it does not go beyond the necessary facts. My intentions upon receiving this book were to use the included stories to further illustrate a weekly study of Christian persecution (past and present) that my family has set forth on this year, and I personally have no problem sharing this stories with my almost-teens in a family setting where questions can be asked as they arise.

I would highly recommend this book to anyone who wants to learn more about Christian history pertaining to martyrs, or who needs a reminder that God chooses and calls ordinary people to live - and sometimes die - in extraordinary ways, and that no life is ever truly wasted. 5/5 stars.

*I received a free print edition of this book from Moody Publishers for the purpose of an honest review. All opinions are my own.*

Purchase links:
     Moody Publishers
     Christian Book

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Conspiracy Of Silence by Ronie Kendig

Conspiracy Of Silence is the first book in a new series by Ronie Kendig. Not having read any of her previous books, I really didn't know quite what to expect other than the back cover info, which was rather vague.

According to his family and the world at-large, Cole Russell (aka Tox) died three years ago after a secret mission went terribly wrong. However, when the US government has need of a ghost for a new mission, he's called back into play; with the promise of a full pardon from his mysterious past.

Reuniting with his old Special Forces team, Tox finds himself working alongside FBI agents to track down an assassin. Led on a global chase, Tox and his team meet up with an archaeologist searching for answers to a recent robbery at a dig site. A deadly plague has been unleashed during the robbery, and it quickly becomes apparent that the assassin and the robber are on the same side.

The group has to work under constant surveillance and lethal danger to figure out who stole the archaeological artifacts and how to get them back, how to stop the plague, what the ties are to the assassin, and how to stop the assassin before he strikes again.

I found the plot to be very confusing at times, especially concerning the artifacts and the plague. Also, several of the characters are referred to by different names, depending on who is talking to/about them. This took several chapters for me to get used to, although I was still second-guessing myself in later chapters. Then there's the sense of time that is lost between the chapters. I often had to check the previous chapter title page's date and location to find out if the new chapter was occurring five minutes later or the next day. While the main story behind Tox and his team chasing down an assassin was well written, the side-story of the plague just didn't seem to really fit into it.

I'm giving this book 3/5 stars. It wasn't bad, but it wasn't the fast-paced military action novel I thought it'd be. Also, I usually find some sort of "take-away" - a lesson learned, part of the story I really relate to or want to share, something that touches me personally. But that didn't happen with this book. Based on other reviews I've read, I'll give some of Ronie's other books a read but this is not one that will find a place in my permanent collection.

*Disclaimer: I received a free print edition of this book from Bethany House publishers for the purpose of an honest review. All opinions are my own.*

About The Book's Author (copy from inside book):
Ronie Kendig is an award-winning, bestselling author who grew up an Army brat. She's penned over a dozen novels, including The Quiet Professionals series and the Breed Apart series. She and her hunky hero hubby have a fun, crazy life with their children and a retired military working dog in Northern Virginia.

Purchase Links:
     Christian Book

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Sabbatical Of The Mind by David L Winters

Sabbatical Of The Mind: The Journey From Anxiety To Peace by David L. Winters is the record of David's personal 5-month sabbatical from work and the busyness of his daily life in order to find peace. Anxiety attacks, health problems, and multiple phobias start David on a mission to find healing - physically, mentally, and spiritually. As David recounts the adventures and lessons learned during his sabbatical, he also walks us through the process of preparing for a sabbatical. Making sure that financial concerns and social obligations are taken care of, setting goals for the path toward healing, and mapping out a rough itinerary in order to help himself stay focused and on track.

The sabbatical planning process was the most interesting part to me, as David takes the time to explain how he came to the decisions he did about what to focus on, how to do this, and how to measure his progress during his break. After returning to work, he also shares how this time off has affected him long-term by changing his responses to specific situations. There's also an appendix listing the books that David Winters read during his sabbatical, as suggestions for helping you along your own journey.

The book is written in a very easy-to-read format. However, most of it reads as though being excerpts from journal entries, lacking the flow of a natural time progression. Memories from the distant past are combined with present-day experiences, which can leave you kind of wondering what order the events are actually happening in.

I'm giving this book 3/5 stars. While it would be an interesting read for anyone wanting to learn more about David's personal journey, there isn't a lot that can be pulled from it for your own path to healing from the overwhelm of the daily grind. Maybe it will encourage you to take your own leave of absence (if able), but you've probably already been contemplating "taking a break" if you pick this book up just based on the title/cover.

*Disclaimer: I received a free print edition of this book from the publisher through BookCrash, in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.*

About the book's author (from back of book): David Winters is an author, speaker, and worshiper who lives in the suburbs of Washington DC with a small bird named Birdie. His dreams include working his way up to owning a dog at some point. He retired from a long career with the Navy and a three-letter government agency, where he managed people, money, and his emotions.

Purchase on