Sunday, July 20, 2014

Dear Son by Dave Bruskas (Review)

  • Series: Christian Theology
  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Resurgence (April 18, 2014)
  • ISBN-13: 978-1414389714

Today’s culture doesn’t encourage men to grow up. Everyone from pastors to op-ed columnists have described a crisis of masculinity, fostered by a media culture that uniformly make men the butts of jokes. Men are much more likely to give up on life than women. One indicator of this is the large gender difference in suicide rates—men are four times more likely than women to drop out of life. This points to a profound lack of effective mentoring of men, especially in the church. Dave Bruskas seeks to fill in this gap with this book. Two decades ago, Dave lost his only infant son to a congenital heart defect. That devastating loss fueled his desire to provide effective mentoring to young men. Dear Son contains the guidance and insights Dave would have given his son if he had lived through the milestones of growing up: from first dates to first jobs, from weddings to births, from friendships to funerals. Dear Son contains heartfelt wisdom for life’s journey, especially for guys—and for those who want to strengthen them.

My Review:

 I did not particular enjoy reading this book. I am definitely not the target audience. That said it might appeal as a book for religious unmarried men. It is an advice book to them. Each chapter begins with a letter to his son that died in infancy and what he would hope for him as an adult. Each chapter also has some bible verses in it. There were several statements that I did not agree with or like including him putting down jobs like being a movie theater manager. He said they do not make enough money to properly support a family and good men should not want jobs like that. He points out do this and be a great husband/father or stink at it. I would not recommend this book.

 Pastor Dave is one of three Executive Elders at Mars Hill Church in Seattle, WA. Pastor Dave earned a masters degree in Theological Studies from Dallas Theological Seminary. His Acts 29 church, City On A Hill, in Albuquerque, NM became the first out-of-state Mars Hill Church in 2009. He currently serves as the Teaching Pastor at Mars Hill Church, where he overseas all 15 Mars Hill Church locations and the Lead Pastor Residency Program. He will also be a teacher at Mars Hill Schools, teaching both Corban University and Western Seminary courses. He is married to Kara and together they have four daughters. He's a lifelong Dallas Cowboys fan, no matter how down in the dumps their season may be

Review copy provided by publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Oath of the Brotherhood by C. E. Laureano (Review)

  • Series: The Song of Seare (Book 1)
  • Paperback: 448 pages
  • Publisher: TH1NK (April 18, 2014)
  • ISBN-13: 978-1612915876

In a kingdom where the Old Ways hold fast and a man’s worth lies entirely in his skill with the sword, Conor Mac Nir is a scholar, a musician, and a follower of the forbidden Balian faith: problematic for any man, but disastrous for the son of the king.

When Conor is sent as a hostage to a neighboring kingdom, he never expects to fall in love with the rival king’s sister, Aine. Nor does he suspect his gift with the harp (and Aine’s ability to heal) touches on the realm of magic. Then his clan begins a campaign to eliminate all Balians from the isle of Seare, putting his newfound home in peril and entangling him in a plot for control of the island that has been unfolding since long before his birth.

Only by committing himself to an ancient warrior brotherhood can Conor discover the part he’s meant to play in Seare’s future. But is he willing to sacrifice everything—even the woman he loves—to follow the path his God has laid before him?

My Review:

I was entranced by this book. I could not read fast enough. The author does a great job at description and developing the characters. I felt like I was there with Conor and Aine. The plot was unique and though confusing at times it is the first book in a series. This would be considered a YA Christian fantasy although I really think it goes beyond that. The ending has a huge cliffhanger and I almost wish the book would have just kept going for a long time. I can't wait for the next book in the series. I am going to get a copy to give to my 17 year old girl cousin who loves books like this. It is reminiscent of Narnia and Lord of the Rings. Highly Recommended. :)

 C.E. Laureano's love of fantasy began with a trip through a magical wardrobe, and she has never looked back. She's happiest when her day involves martial arts, swords, and a well-choreographed fight scene, though when pressed, she'll admit to a love of theater and travel as well.

Appropriately, she's the wife to a martial arts master and mom to two boys who spend most of their time jumping off things and finding objects to turn into light sabers. They live in Denver, Colorado with a menagerie of small pets.

Review copy provided by publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Real Men Don't Text by Ruthie and Michael Dean (Review)

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. (September 3, 2013)
  • ISBN-13: 978-1414386676

 Welcome to dating in the digital world—where phone conversations followed by dinner and a movie have been replaced by last-minute texts, ambiguous relationships, and vague group hangouts.

While technology makes it faster and easier to connect than ever before, it has also created confusion . . . And heartbreak.

Ruthie and Michael Dean have heard the same story from thousands of women: the disappearing men, the cryptic messages, the disappointing relationships, and the false intimacy of on-screen connection.

In a no-holds-barred narrative style, the husband-and-wife team chronicles their dating mishaps, hilarious attempts to find love, and many mistakes—helping women understand just what men are thinking and how to attract Mr. Right.

Real Men Don’t Text offers game-changing perspectives, bringing a fresh approach to love, sex, and dating. You don’t need to spend one more night staring at a phone screen. It’s time to take back your love life.

My Review:

This was an interesting book about the effect of text messaging on dating relationships. The authors are basically saying its a lazy way to communicate in a romantic relationship. Text can be misleading and the other person is not there for you to read their body language and other signals. I agree with them although I really do not like talking on the phone. It is easy to read and understand. The husband and wife team that wrote take turns giving their point of views from their s*x although it ends up geared more toward females. There were a few statements that bothered me. I thought some of Michael's comments were a little sexist. Also the faith aspect does not show up until the second half and then the author's tell people to skip that part if it makes them uncomfortable. They share a little from their own relationship throughout the book. If you like this genre then you might like this book.

 Ruthie and Michael Dean grew up just down the street from one another, but not being fans of convenience, they fell in love long-distance while Ruthie lived in China and Michael lived in Germany. Now happily married, the Deans love to run, take advantage of Sunday coffee dates (without technology), and can often be spotted driving around Nashville in Michael's classic Ford truck. You can learn more about Michael and Ruthie, and share your own stories of dating, love, and romance on Ruthie's blog,, or on Twitter @MichaelDean10 or@Ruthie_Dean

Annison's Risk by Paul McCusker (Review)

  • Age Range: 8 - 12 years
  • Grade Level: 3 and up
  • Paperback: 158 pages
  • Publisher: Focus on the Family (November 1, 2010)
  • ISBN-13: 978-1589976344

A game of hide-and-seek takes Maddy Nicholaivitch to Marus, where she is taken in by a beautiful princess who has just married the conquering king. After overhearing the secret plans of the king’s most trusted advisor, Maddy must decide if her loyalty to the princess is worth the price of her life. Based on the biblical story of Esther, Annison’s Risk takes readers on a journey with a queen who is willing to risk her life in order to save her people. Any fan of Tolkien will appreciate this fantasy story, and with a new cover and interior graphics, it’s better than ever!

 My Review:

I enjoyed this children's retelling of the bible story Esther. The book starts in the familiar town of Odyssey then Maddy is transported to the alternate land of Marus. She ends up being an assistant to the queen. This is book is part of the passages series but can stand alone. The plot and characters are well developed and interesting. I think this would be good especially for upper elementary girls although boys will like it too. Recommended.

 PAUL McCUSKER is the Peabody Award-winning writer and director of the audio drama "Bonhoeffer: The Cost of Freedom," along with the multiple award-winning audio dramatizations of "The Chronicles of Narnia," "The Screwtape Letters," "A Christmas Carol," his original series "The Luke Reports: The Life of Jesus" (honored as Best Audio Drama by the prestigious Audie Awards) and "The Father Gilbert Mysteries" (also an Audie Award nominee), all for Focus On The Family Radio Theatre.

Apart from dramatizations of C.S. Lewis' "Narnia" and "Screwtape," he also scripted the original audio drama "C.S. Lewis At War" and written the companion book "C.S. Lewis & Mere Christianity: The Crisis That Created A Classic." His work has extended to writing the detailed footnotes for "The Annotated Screwtape Letters" for HarperOne. (It is the first authorized annotated edition of any book by C.S. Lewis.)

McCusker is also a writer and director for the long-running children's audio program "Adventures in Odyssey," scripting over 250 episodes as well as 2 of the animated video series, authoring 18 spin-off novels, and serving as the general editor for "The Imagination Station" chapter books. For adults, he has written the Gold Medallion-nominated "Epiphany," "The Mill House" and, with Dr. Walt Larimore, "The Gabon Virus" and "The Influenza Bomb." His plays and musicals have been performed in churches and community theaters across the country. One, "A Time for Christmas," was a Dove Award nominee. His lyrics have been put to music by the Grammy Award-winning Michael W. Smith.

Passages Volume 1: The Marus Manuscripts by Paul McCusker (Review)

  • Age Range: 8 - 12 years
  • Series: Passages (Book 1)
  • Paperback: 464 pages
  • Publisher: Focus on the Family (May 17, 2013)
  • ISBN-13: 978-1589977501

Arin’s Judgment: One minute, Wade Mullins is at home, attempting to destroy top-secret drawings for the atomic bomb. The next minute, he’s in an alternate world staring at a strange prophet who says Wade is the final sign, an end-time omen of a culture on the verge of annihilation.

Darien’s Rise: Anna wanted superpowers, but now she’s not so sure after being transported to a new planet. She sees visions of the future. And her brother Kyle is a bodyguard who can’t fail. But both of their powers are only used to help Darien, the rightful heir to the throne of Marus. Darien is being held by a man so evil, not even Anna and Kyle can save him.

Annison’s Risk: Maddy finds herself in a strange new land called Marus where a conquering king is about to marry a princess. The king’s most trusted adviser is hatching an evil plot to stamp out followers of the “old faith,” and Maddy discovers that plan includes the new princess. Should Maddy reveal the truth and usher in political chaos? Or will the princess have to give up her life to bring peace?

My Review:

 I love this series. This is three separate books packaged together in this edition. They are set in the town of Odyssey and then the main character is transported to a land called Marus. Each book is a retelling of a well known bible story. The characters are well developed and interesting. There are a few mature scenes like people dying or orders being given for people to die. On that note I would recommend these to upper elementary upward. Each story can stand alone although the books began and end with two familiar Odyssey adults researching these stories. Even as an adult I can appreciate these books and enjoyed reading them. Recommended.

  Paul McCusker is the creative content director for Focus on the Family. He has been a writer of fiction, nonfiction, and drama since 1979. His work includes over forty published novels, full-length plays, dramatic sketch collections, and song lyrics. For the Adventures in Odyssey series alone, he has written over 200 half-hour radio episodes, eighteen novels, and two screenplays for the best-selling animated videos. He has dramatized many classics for Focus on the Family Radio Theatre, including A Christmas Carol and Jan Karon's At Home in Mitford. He also wrote and directed the Peabody Award–winning Bonhoeffer: The Cost of Freedom and created the highly acclaimed Father Gilbert Mysteries series. Paul lives in Colorado Springs, Colorado, with his wife, Elizabeth, and their two children.

Firewall by Diann Mills (Review)

  • Series: FBI: Houston (Book 1)
  • Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. (June 20, 2014)
  • ISBN-13: 978-1414389936

After a whirlwind romance, Taryn Young is preparing to board a plane at Houston International Airport, bound for a dream honeymoon, when a bomb decimates the terminal. Injured but still alive, she awakens to discover her husband is missing and they’re both considered prime suspects in the attack. Further, the FBI is convinced her husband isn’t who he appears to be.

Agent Grayson Hall’s number-one priority is to catch those responsible for the day’s act of terror. All evidence is pointing to Taryn and her new husband. But his instinct tells him her pleas of innocence are genuine. Is her naiveté just for show, or could she truly be another victim of a master scheme, possibly linked to the software she recently developed for her company?

With both their lives and reputations on the line, and the media outcry for justice increasing with each passing minute, Taryn and Grayson have no choice but to trust one another . . . and pray they can uncover the truth before they become two more casualties.

 My Review:

I thought this was an okay debut to the FBI Houston series. It had mystery, suspense, romance, and faith which I like. The romance between Grayson and Taryn was a little weird considering the circumstances. She had thought she was just married then her world falls to pieces and she discovers it was fake. He is an FBI agent who mostly believes she is innocent in the whole mess. They connect to try and solve the mystery and stay alive. I liked his father who is a retired agent a lot. He risks his life helping them. The characters and plot were well developed. Recommended to fans of this genre.

Award-winning author DiAnn Mills is a fiction writer who combines an adventuresome spirit with unforgettable characters to create action-packed, suspense-filled novels. DiAnn's first book was published in 1998. She currently has more than fifty books published.

Her titles have appeared on the CBA and ECPA bestseller lists and have won placements through the American Christian Fiction Writer's Carol Awards and Inspirational Reader's Choice awards. DiAnn won the Christy Award in 2010 and 2011.

DiAnn is a founding board member for American Christian Fiction Writers and a member of Inspirational Writers Alive, Romance Writers of America, and Advanced Writers and Speakers Association. She speaks to various groups and teaches writing workshops around the country. DiAnn is also the Craftsman mentor for the Jerry B. Jenkins Christian Writers Guild.

She and her husband live in sunny Houston, Texas. 

Monday, July 14, 2014

The Antelope in the Living Room by Melanie Shankle (Review)

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. (February 4, 2014)
  • ISBN-13: 978-1414385549

Welcome to the story of a real marriage.

Marriage is simultaneously the biggest blessing and the greatest challenge two people can ever take on. It is the joy of knowing there is someone to share in your joys and sorrows, and the challenge of living with someone who thinks it’s a good idea to hang a giant antelope head on your living room wall.

In The Antelope in the Living Room, New York Times best-selling author and blogger Melanie Shankle does for marriage what Sparkly Green Earrings did for motherhood—makes us laugh out loud and smile through tears as she shares the holy and the hilarity of that magical and mysterious union called marriage.

My Review:

 I thought this was a good memoir that focuses on marriage.There were lots of hilarious moments. I have never been married or close to it and still enjoyed the book. I have also read her first book Sparkly Green Earrings and enjoyed it too. It seems to me that younger married couples might appreciate the book more than older. Some parts of the book feel a disjointed in the stories told otherwise the writing was easy to read. This book is heavy on religion especially toward the end so Christian women might like the book more.

 Melanie Shankle writes daily on her blog, Big Mama. She is a graduate of Texas A&M and loves writing, shopping at Target, checking to see what's on sale at Anthropologie, and trying to find the funny in every situation.

Most of all, she loves being the mother of Caroline and the wife of her husband, Perry. The three of them live in San Antonio, Texas.

Review copy provided by publisher in exchange for an honest review.