Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Mark of Distinction by Jessica Dotta (Review)

  • Series: Price of Privilege (Book 2)
  • Paperback: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. (April 18, 2014)
  • ISBN-13: 978-1414375564

London is said to be the glittering jewel of society, a world unto itself—but to Julia Elliston it is a city of shadows. Her life is swiftly dissolving into scandal. And in Victorian society, even a whisper of scandal—substantiated or not—can be the death of a young woman’s reputation.

Now under the watchful eye of Lord Roy Pierson, one of most influential men in England, Julia begrudgingly accepts his protection. But Chance Macy’s power is far-reaching as well, and he is eager to assert his claim over her.

Thrust into society as the Emerald Heiress, Julia is the toast of London, a celebrated curiosity. But in reality she’s trapped between the clutches of two powerful men. Aided only by a gentleman whose intentions she prays she can trust, Julia must finally take control of her own fate—but outwitting one’s foe rarely goes according to plan.

My Review:

Overall I thought this was a good Christian regency book. It was confusing in the beginning until I remembered what happened in the first book and put it together with what was happening in the current book. It is the second book in a series and cannot be read alone. The characters and plot are well developed. I could not turn the pages fast enough. I am so ready for the next book to come out. It has dark Victorian undertones like a Bronte book. I could feel the atmosphere created. There was not a strong Christian message and Julia seems weak at times. The book is somewhat told from Julia's point of view looking back on her life. Otherwise a good regency book if read in order.

Jessica Dotta has always been fascinated by England during the Regency and Victorian era. Her passion for British Literature fueled her desire to write in a style that blends the humor of Jane Austen and the dark drama of a Bronte sister. She lives in the Nashville area with her family and works as a freelance media consultant and publicist.

The Boy Who Came Back From Heaven by Kevin and Alex Malarkey (Review)

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Tyndale Momentum; Reprint edition (March 21, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1414390211
  • ISBN-13: 978-1414390215

In 2004, Kevin Malarkey and his six-year-old son, Alex, suffered an horrific car accident. The impact from the crash paralyzed Alex—and medically speaking, it was unlikely that he could survive. “I think that Alex has gone to be with Jesus,” a friend told the stricken dad. But two months later, Alex awoke from a coma with an incredible story to share. Of events at the accident scene and in the hospital while he was unconscious. Of the angels who took him through the gates of heaven itself. Of the unearthly music that sounded just terrible to a six-year-old. And most amazing of all . . . of meeting and talking to Jesus. The Boy Who Came Back from Heaven is the New York Times bestselling true story of an ordinary boy’s most extraordinary journey. As you see heaven and earth through Alex’s eyes, you’ll come away with new insights on miracles, life beyond this world, and the power of a father’s love.

 My Review:

I did not like this book. It was not well written at all. I felt alarmed several times throughout the book. It did not ring true. I researched it and Alex himself has said he had nothing to do with the book. He did not help write this book.  His mom, Beth, divorced her husband over what he wrote in the book. The proceeds from the book do not go to Alex. I do not recommend this book. A good lesson is to beware of false truths.

Kevin Malarkey is a Christian therapist with a counseling practice near Columbus, Ohio. He attended the College of Wooster and earned a graduate degree from Ohio State University. He and his ex wife, Beth, have four children (Alex, Aaron, Gracie, and Ryan) and attend a nondenominational evangelical church. 

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

The Trail by Ed Underwood (Review)

  • Hardcover: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. (July 16, 2014)
  • ISBN-13: 978-1414391120

From a popular and well-loved pastor comes this enchanting, beautifully crafted allegory exploring the mysterious process of discovering God’s will. Matt and Brenda feel trapped because they look for God’s guidance about major life decisions in completely opposite ways. Their friends Brian and Lindsey try to help by introducing them to a person who had helped them gain an unshakable confidence in God’s will.

After meeting Sam Lewis in the stunning High Sierras, the three hike together, Matt and Brenda learn that God’s good and perfect will is not a destination on the horizon of life where everything makes sense, but a place where your life is exposed to God’s power. One by one, Sam’s eight principles illuminate the path ahead. As the story builds to its stunning conclusion, all three characters desperately seek and experience God’s redemptive guidance.

My Review:

This was an interesting book. It is a fiction tale but imparts 8 principles to help find God's will. Each of the eight principles also has a bible verse attached to it. It felt like the principles and plot line were forced in parts. The fiction part on its own was a good story. Matt and Brenda are a married couple who need help figuring out whether they should move to a new town and job with their children. Sam is a rustic self described mountain man who leads couples through the mountain trails and imparts biblical truths along the way. It turns out he has a rough family situation in the past that has not been healed. Their stories bleed together as things come to alight. The principles focus on trusting in God's strength, a relationship with Jesus, intimacy with God, living expectantly, protection from God, encouragement along the way, community, and grace. I think the book was a good idea but I was disappointed with the finished product. The conclusion to the fiction part was just okay. If you like this type of book then you might like this one.

I write about life in Christ from a unique perspective.

I wasn't raised in a religious home. Jesus ran me down with his love during the Jesus Movement of the 60's. I was a 60's radical who became a Jesus Freak.

I spent the years of my youth fighting fire in the Sierras as a member of the Fulton Hotshots. I served as an Army Officer. And then I decided to get some training at Dallas Theological Seminary.
Review copy provided by Tyndale Blog Network in exchange for an honest review.

Monday, July 28, 2014

The Vanishings by Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins (Review)

  • Age Range: 10 - 14 years
  • Grade Level: 5 and up
  • Series: Left Behind: The Kids (Book 1)
  • Mass Market Paperback: 160 pages
  • Publisher: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. (July 1, 1998)
  • ISBN-13: 978-0842321938

This series is based on the best-selling adult Left Behind series. Readers will see the Rapture and Tribulation through the eyes of four kids who have been left behind.

My Review:

 This is the first book in the Left Behind teen series. It sets up the background for the rest.
 The Vanishings introduces us to Judd ("The Runaway") and his three companions: Vicki ("The Rebel"), Lionel ("The Liar"), and Ryan ("The Skeptic"). There was not enough plot and it just stops. It is not a stand alone book even though its book one in a series. I was really hoping for more since the first book in the adult series was so good. Also parents need to be careful and read the book before they give it to their kids. There are mature topics inside. I really think its more appropriate for age 13 and up.

Jerry B. Jenkins, former Vice President for Publishing and currently Writer-at-Large for the Moody Bible Institute of Chicago, is the author of more than 150 books, including the best-selling Left Behind series. Sixteen of his books have reached the New York Times best-seller list (seven in the number one spot) and have also appeared on the USA Today, Publisher's Weekly and Wall Street Journal best-seller lists.

Tim LaHaye is an internationally known author, teacher, and expert on Bible prophecy. He is married to Beverly, who is the founder of the largest women's organization in America, Concerned Women for America. The LaHayes live in southern California.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Saving Amelie by Cathy Gohlke (Review)

  • Paperback: 464 pages
  • Publisher: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. (May 16, 2014)
  • ISBN-13: 978-1414383224

Increasingly wary of her father’s genetic research, Rachel Kramer has determined that this trip with him to Germany—in the summer of 1939—will be her last. But a cryptic letter from her estranged friend, begging Rachel for help, changes everything. Married to SS officer Gerhardt Schlick, Kristine sees the dark tides turning and fears her husband views their daughter, Amelie, deaf since birth, as a blight on his Aryan bloodline.

Once courted by Schlick, Rachel knows he’s as dangerous as the swastikas that hang like ebony spiders from every government building in Berlin. She fears her father’s files may hold answers about Hitler’s plans for others, like Amelie, whom the regime deems “unworthy of life.” She risks searching his classified documents only to uncover shocking secrets about her own history and a family she’s never known.

Now hunted by the SS, Rachel turns to Jason Young—a driven, disarming American journalist and unlikely ally—who connects her to the resistance and to controversial theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Forced into hiding, Rachel’s every ideal is challenged as she and Jason walk a knife’s edge, risking their lives—and asking others to do the same—for those they barely know but come to love.

 My Review:

I thought this was an okay Christian historical fiction book. The subject matter is not an easy one to read about. I think we forget how a lot of the German people were normal and scared. Rachel and Jason are technically Americans. Rachel has dual citizenship because her father is a scientist but then she discovers she is also part of a big German experiment to create a perfect race. The main plot revolves around Rachel's friend Kristine's deaf daughter, Amelie. Keeping her safe and away from her father is Rachel and Jason's main goal. Along the way Jason becomes champions of other refugees. I liked Jason but Rachel was a little harder to like. She is a spoiled entitled American girl who thinks the world revolves around her. We spend a good portion of the book wondering about her. The book felt too long and drawn out. Some parts felt disjointed. The ending was good but left some loose plot ends. Overall a good book with more potential. If you are drawn to books set in this part of history recommended.

 Cathy Gohlke is the two-time Christy Award-winning author of the critically acclaimed novels Saving Amelie, Band of Sisters, Promise Me This (listed by Library Journal as one of the best books of 2012), William Henry Is a Fine Name, and I Have Seen Him in the Watchfires (listed by Library Journal as one of the best books of 2008), which also won the American Christian Fiction Writers' Book of the Year Award.

Cathy has worked as a school librarian, drama director, and director of children's and education ministries. When not traipsing the hills and dales of historic sites, she, her husband, and their dog, Reilly, divide their time between Northern Virginia and their home on the banks of the Laurel Run in Elkton, Maryland. Visit her website at

Friday, July 25, 2014

Annie's Stories by Cindy Thomson (Review)

  • Series: Ellis Island
  • Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. (June 20, 2014)
  • ISBN-13: 978-1414368450

The year is 1901, the literary sensation The Wonderful Wizard of Oz is taking New York City by storm, and everyone wonders where the next great book will come from. But to Annie Gallagher, stories are more than entertainment—they’re a sweet reminder of her storyteller father. After his death, Annie fled Ireland for the land of dreams, finding work at Hawkins House.

But when a fellow boarder with something to hide is accused of misconduct and authorities threaten to shut down the boardinghouse, Annie fears she may lose her new friends, her housekeeping job . . . and her means of funding her dream: a memorial library to honor her father. Furthermore, the friendly postman shows a little too much interest in Annie—and in her father’s unpublished stories. In fact, he suspects these tales may hold a grand secret.

Though the postman’s intentions seem pure, Annie wants to share her father’s stories on her own terms. Determined to prove herself, Annie must forge her own path to aid her friend and create the future she’s always envisioned . . . where dreams really do come true.

 My Review:

This was an okay Christian historical fiction book. It is the second book in the Ellis Island series. It can stand alone although some characters repeat and you see more of their story. The focus of this story is Annie and Stephen. Annie comes over from Ireland from bad circumstances and becomes the housekeeper for a small boardinghouse. Stephen is the postman for that route. He admires her from the beginning and flirts each time he sees her. She is not interested and is still recovering from her recent past drama. The romance does not quite ring true and the characters fall a little flat. The plot was interesting. It is set right when the Wizard of Oz comes out and they are both readers. Annie's father was a travel story teller in Ireland and left her a stack of stories he wrote. There are two mysteries that come together in the end and a twist. I liked the first book Grace's Pictures and look forward to reading the next book in the series.

 I'm a full-time writer dedicated to telling the legacy left to us by those went before.

I write historical fiction, genealogy-related articles, history articles, and short stories. I'm also a baseball fan. My favorite team is the Cincinnati Reds, but I have a soft spot for the Cubs who haven't won a World Series since my cousin pitched for them in 1908.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Penny Wise by Neta and Dave Jackson (Review)

  • Series: Windy City Neighbors (Book 3)
  • Paperback: 316 pages
  • Publisher: Castle Rock Creative, Inc. (May 22, 2014)
  • ISBN-13: 978-0982054468

PENNY WISE (Book 3 in the Windy City Neighbors series) introduces us to yet another family in "the neighborhood"-the Jaspers, busy with demanding jobs, busy with church, busy volunteering, parents of three active teenagers, juggling sometimes crazy schedules. All good things. Until all those "good things" feed into a series of crises that affects the whole family. Something's gotta change! PENNY WISE is a contemporary peek at an urban family wrestling with the spiritual and practical challenges of real life. The series employs the innovating storytelling technique of "parallel novels," each with its own drama and story arc, but whose characters' lives become intertwined with their neighbors and affect one another. Welcome to Beecham Street-a typical, isolated American neighborhood that is beginning to come out of its shell . . . for better or worse.

 My Review:

I thought this was a good contemporary Christian fiction book. It is the third book in the Windy City Neighbors series. I have read and liked all of them. This series is written in "parallel novel" format which means the characters repeat. It can be read alone but if you are reading the series its nice to see the other characters interact more. I related more to the first two books in the series but this one still had good character and plot development. I felt the stress of the Jasper's busy lives. The parents have work, children, church, and other life issues that create a hard cycle to get out of and rest. This book points out that although being active in church is good too much is a bad thing. It also tackles a later in life pregnancy and the issues that come with it. The book started slow but picked up. I did not like the ending and thought a different one might be more suitable. I can't wait for the next book in the series.

Dave and Neta Jackson are award-winning authors living in the Chicago area where their parallel novels from the Yada Yada House of Hope and Harry Bentley series are set.
As a husband/wife writing team, Dave and Neta Jackson are enthusiastic about books, kids, walking with God, gospel music, and each other! Together they are the authors or coauthors of over 100 books.

Find out more about Dave and Neta at

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