He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him. - Colossians 1:15-16

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Drawing Fire by Janice Cantore – Hits the Target

I love a good mystery filled with intrigue and interesting characters.  I hit the target with Drawing Fire by author Janice Cantore who is a former Long Beach police officer.  This is the first book I’ve read by Janice Cantore and I look forward to reading her earlier books. 

Drawing Fire is filled with suspense and lots of action, but not at the expense of character development.  I really liked the characters and learning about what drives them and makes them tick.  The story takes place in Long Beach, California.  Having lived in So Cal for many years it was fun to read about the various locations and visualize the scenes. 

I appreciate when a Christian author weaves their faith into the characters and storyline.  I thought that Janice did a good job in showing what a loving and supportive Christian community can be like.  It wasn’t contrived but flowed naturally as we learn about the characters and see them interact in everyday life and in crisis situations. 

At the end of Drawing Fire there are twelve discussion questions which can be used for a book club or the individual reader.  I found the questions compelling as I remembered the characters and storyline and wondered how I might have responded. 

When Drawing Fire concludes the readers will know who done it, but things aren’t neatly and perfectly tied up, which is kind of like real life.  It proves to be a good stopping off point because the characters will be continued in the next book of the Cold Case Justice series.  That’s a book I will want to read. 

I would like to thank Tyndale Publishers for the opportunity to read Drawing Fire by Janice Cantore in exchange for an honest review.  I was under no obligation to give a favorable review. 

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Give an Account

If I remembered that I will give an account to the Lord for the words I speak…how would that change what I say?  I need to remember that all is open and laid bare before the Lord, there are no secrets with God.  May that truth change me even down to the thoughts and intentions of my heart.  What I think effects what I feel.  What I feel will be reflected in what I say.  What I feel doesn’t change what is true. 

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Murder Freshly Baked by Vannetta Chapman – Mixed Emotions

I really enjoy reading mystery novels and like to discover good authors that are new to me.  Now that’s a win-win recipe that I like to try and why I selected Murder Freshly Baked by author Vannetta Chapman. 

Murder Freshly Baked is the third book in the Amish Village Mystery series and the first book I’ve read by Vannetta Chapman.  Overall I liked this book, but there were some things I struggled with especially early on.

I was lost at the beginning of the book because there were so many characters introduced right off the bat.  On the first page alone there were six characters carried over from the prior novels and four more were introduced before chapter one ended.  I would imagine that for people who have read the first two books it was like encountering old friends.  But for someone new to the series I had a hard time keeping everyone straight and understanding who’s who.  The first scenes had a lot going and with a character being murdered the story was off and running.  But I felt like I was back at the starting line just trying to figure out what was going on and who was involved. 

Something else I struggled with is that the author is very wordy.  She goes into a lot of detail and uses many adjectives to describe the scenes and what people are doing.  For me the wordiness was almost to the point of distraction.  I don’t know if I just got used to the writer’s style or if the excessive descriptions lessened as the novel progressed.

But there was a point that I started to connect with the characters and was able to figure out who’s who and wasn’t as distracted.  I liked the characters and how they really seemed to care about one another.  This is not a fast-paced novel, but one in which you get to know the characters and I like finding out what makes people tick. 

From a Christian perspective there were some things I appreciated about characters and how they interacted with one another.  However, I was surprised when the perfect opportunity for one of the characters to share the gospel message was missed.  Instead, practical advice was given on how to get out of a difficult situation.  Christian writers have a unique platform to share the Gospel message and Biblical truth.  When that opportunity is missed I don’t understand why. 

The author could have done a better job introducing the characters to the reader and not assume that people had read the earlier books in the series.  The first flashback scene came out of nowhere and was a bit confusing until I learned that the former military character suffered PTSD.    

At the end of the day, I liked Murder Freshly Baked, mostly because of the characters and I would recommend it with the caveat that people start with the first two books in this series.  It’s not a deep book, nor fast-paced, it wasn’t hard to figure out who committed the murder, but there was something appealing about the story, the people. 

I would like to thank the people at BookLook and Zondervan Publishers for the opportunity to read Murder Freshly Baked by Vannetta Chapman in exchange for an honest review.  I was under no obligation to give a favorable review. 

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Hiding in the Light by Rifqa Bary – An Excellent Read

I was privileged to read Rifqa Bary’s excellent book Hiding in the Light – Why I Risked Everything to Leave Islam and Follow Jesus.  I find it fascinating to hear the stories of people raised in Islam who have accepted Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior; people who have become Christians in spite of the great risk to their life. 

Rifqa’s story is unique; she became a Christian when she was 12 years old and managed to keep it a secret from her family for four years.  At the age of 16, she faced a very real threat to her life when her parents found out that she was a Christian.  That night Rifqa had a life changing decision to make; should she stay and risk death at the hands of her very angry father, or face the possibility of being sent back to Sri Lanka against her will or should she leave and abandon it all for Christ. 

Through the courageous help of friends and strangers Rifqa found safe haven.  But her new found peace was not to last for long.  A battle ensued; Rifqa’s parents wanted her back home, but her new found friends and allies were willing to risk much to help her find the freedom she wanted to worship God in safety. 

This book is riveting and Rifqa is open and transparent and reveals what was happening with her mind, will and emotions as she struggled to live out her faith and how her family responded when they discovered she was no longer a Muslim.  I was shocked to hear of Rifqa’s experiences with the juvenile detention system, child protective services and foster care.  But the Lord always seemed to bring someone across Rifqa’s path to sow hope and encouragement into her turbulent life.  I was heartened to learn of those who are gifted and called to help children in crisis. 

After reading Hiding in the Light, I have a better appreciation for what it takes for someone to make the courageous choice to believe in Jesus Christ and openly choose to live for Him when coming from a Muslim background. 

I highly recommend Rifqa Bary’s new book Hiding in the Light.

I would like to thank the people at Blogging for Books and Water Brook Publishers for the opportunity to read Hiding in the Light in exchange for an honest review.  I was under no obligation to give a favorable review.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

The Case of the Sin City Sister by Lynne Hinton – Mixed Emotions

I love a good mystery and finding a writer whose work is new to me.  That’s why I chose The Case of the Sin City Sister by Lynne Hinton. 

In some respects I liked this book.  I found it interesting and thought that Lynne did a good job weaving the characters, from different times, places, and backgrounds into an intriguing storyline that takes place in New Mexico and Las Vegas.  I found myself looking forward to digging in and seeing what happened next and learning about what made the characters tick.

I appreciated that the book did not have the characters engaged in filthy language or sexual immorality. 

There were some things I wish the author had handled differently since she is a Christian and has a Masters of Divinity degree.  As a Christian, when I’m reading a book by a Christian, and published by a Christian company, I hold it to a different standard than I do a secular book.  I look at the theology that’s in the book and compare it to the Bible.

In chapter one, the main character Sister Eve is speaking with Oliver, the Monk in charge of the monastery where she lives.  Eve’s been struggling to decide if she should remain a nun or return home and do the work she loves and has an affinity for, private detective work.  Oliver says to her, “If you are a true disciple, Sister, and I believe you are, then Christ lives in you.  If this is so, then the desire that is in your heart can be trusted.  It is the truth for you to live by.”  While that may be true to the degree a person is truly a Christian and obedient to Christ, that’s not complete and sound Biblical counsel regarding following our heart. 

Starting on page 74 and the following pages references were made to telepathic communication, people being connected in their spirits and psychic energy.  This conversation was from a character who professed to be a believer in Jesus Christ.  The Bible is very clear and unambiguous in its condemnation psychic phenomenon.  It shouldn’t have any place in the life of a Christian. 

I was puzzled by Eve’s impression of Las Vegas.  The character is a nun, someone who is supposedly sanctified.  Yet, Eve didn’t seem overly concerned or disturbed by the blatant sin that was on display in Las Vegas.  Some of her comments include, “There’s nothing that you can’t find or do or try.  It’s like anything’s possible there.”, “It was like living on stage.”, and “It’s like Disney World for grown-ups.”

There were a few references to Eve taking her rosary beads and reciting a prayer.  I think that the opportunity to model prayer, show the power of prayer and affirm that God hears and answer our prayers was missed by a long shot.

The main character Eve, seem more concerned about her sister’s physical safety rather than her eternal security.  I don’t recall any reference made to Dorisanne’s salvation nor the other characters in the book. 

So why am I making such an issue of the theological concerns I raised?  Christian authors have an incredible opportunity to impact both believers and unbelievers with the Gospel message and infallible truth from the Bible.  To not take that opportunity is one thing.  But when the religious and theological references don’t line up with Scripture that’s a more serious concern.

I have a mixed review on this book.  It was well-written and had some interesting and likable characters.  It kept me guessing.  But from a Christian theological perspective I think it missed the boat.  If you choose to read this book, read it for the storyline not the theology. 

I would like to thank the people at BookLook and Thomas Nelson Publishers for the opportunity to read The Case of the Sin City Sister by Lynne Hinton in exchange for an honest review.  I was under no obligation to give a favorable review.