Sunday, August 5, 2012




Get ready for one fantastic birthday bash come Wednesday, August 1, 2012READY, SET, GO!!!

For our AUGUST BIRTHDAY BASH we are giving away 10 books a day and announcing winners once a week. You’ll have all week to enter the daily featured contests.

Remember, winners will be picked once a week and announced once a week!
TBCN CEO, Nora St. Laurent is the CEO of The Book Club Network Incorporated. Nora and her husband run The Book Club Network . She runs two book clubs near Atlanta, Ga., Former ACFW On-Line Book Club. Nora currently writes a Book Club column for the Christian Fiction OnLine Magazine and is a Book Club Talk Columnist for Novel Rocket. You can read author interviews on her Finding Hope Through Fiction blog, located at, and reviews around the web at The Christian Pulse Mag, Title Trakk, Novel Reviews, and Suspense Zone.

“Inescapable” by Nancy Mehl (A Litfuse Blog Tour with Review)

Who Can Lizzie Trust?
Lizzie Engel is used to running away. At eighteen, she left her Mennonite hometown, Kingdom, Kansas, with plans never to return.

But five years later, the new life she built is falling apart. Lizzie knows she’s being followed, and she’s certain the same mysterious stranger is behind the threatening letters she’s received. Realizing she’ll have to run again, the only escape Lizzie can manage is a return to the last place she wants to go.

Once she arrives in Kingdom, Lizzie is confident she’ll be safe until she comes up with a new plan. In reacquainting herself with the town and its people–especially her old friend, Noah Housler–she wonders if she judged her hometown and her Mennonite faith too harshly. However, just as she begins to come to terms with her roots, Lizzie is horrified to discover the danger she ran from is closer than ever.

No longer sure who to trust and fearful for her life and the lives of those around her, Lizzie finds she has only one place left to run–to the Father whose love is inescapable.

Nancy Mehl, the author of 12 books, received an ACFW Carol Award in 2009 for her novel For Whom the Wedding Bell Tolls. She has a background in social work and is a member of ACFW and RWA. She writes from her home in Wichita, Kansas, where she lives with her husband, Norman, and their puggle, Watson.

Visit her website at

My Review:
Lizzie Engel’s father was a hard man in her eyes, harsh and unloving.  Upon getting pregnant out-of-wedlock, he seemed even harsher toward her.  She felt judged by the whole Mennonite community.  So she did what she felt was the only thing to do, leave and make a new life in Kansas City.  Five years later, however, her new life there is falling apart with allegations of theft and a stalker with threatening letters.

Lizzie returns to Kingdom with her daughter, Charity, with great trepidation.  Would they be accepted by her father and mother and those she was close to?  When she arrives, except for her father, she finds the people friendly and kind, open to helping her get reestablished. She wonders who was more judgmental.  She begins to feel safe here from her stalker, and reacquaints herself with her old friend, Noah Housler.

When the stalker finds her, she realizes she has no where else to run except to her real Father.  The author wove God’s unconditional love into Lizzie’s story in such a way that it opened up her heart to be less judgmental and more forgiving.  But she does wonder if she is putting the community in danger by staying in Kingdom.

I enjoyed Nancy’s full-bodied characters.  All the characters’ quirks and endearments stand out for you to get to know them intimately. The harsh situations were difficult to deal with at times, but the reactions were in character.  The danger was felt as the stalker returned.  The suspense was charged when they found him later on.  I found myself worrying about Lizzie and Charity when I broke to eat because they seemed so real.
Charity and Cora became my favorite characters.   Cora was her own woman.  She didn’t worry that much about what the elders thought of her restaurant and car.    Charity was precocious, yet innocently bold in asking the hard questions or telling it like it is.

For a genuine read about the difficulties of life, a love that never fails, suspense that keeps you intrigued, and insight into the changes in the Mennonite life, Nancy Mehl’s book, Inescapable, is a great book to pick up and read!

This book was provided free in exchange for my honest review from Amy Lathrop and Christen Krumm of the Litfuse Bog Tour.  No monetary compensation was exchanged.

“Lethal Legacy” by Irene Hannon (Interview and Review) Revell Blog Tour

A determined daughter…
A skeptical detective…
A deadly secret…
The police say her father’s death was suicide. Kelly Warren says it was murder—and she has new evidence to prove it. Detective Cole Taylor doesn’t put much credence in her claim, and nothing in his case review suggests foul play. But when Kelly ends up in the ER with a life-threatening medical condition, Cole digs deeper—and discovers a startling  information linking her to a long-buried secret, escalating the danger.  Is history repeating itself? And does someone want Kelly silenced?

Read Chapter 1:
Six Months Later
“So what was up with your solo act at Jake and Liz’s wedding on Saturday?”
At the question, Detective Cole Taylor stifled a groan. He did not want to start his week by rehashing his brother’s wedding. Especially with his colleague Mitch Morgan, who had gotten engaged to his sister at said wedding.
“What do you mean?” He didn’t look up from his desk. Maybe if he acted busy, Mitch would move on.
“I mean, where was the hot date you usually bring to social events?”
Coming alone had been a tactical mistake. One Cole had recognized five minutes into the reception. He should have brought someone. Anyone. With a woman on his arm, he would have avoided all the kidding from his relatives and the questions about when it was going to be his turn. The grilling had gotten so bad, he’d taken to hiding behind some potted plants—and drinking champagne.
Lots of champagne.
“I wasn’t in the mood to bring a date.”
“Yeah? How come?” Mitch settled onto the edge of his desk.
So much for getting rid of his future brother-in-law.
Resigned, Cole forced his lips into a cocky grin, swiveled his chair, and folded his hands across his stomach. “The pickings were slim for that night, and I’m particular. I want looks and intelligence.”
“Since when? That wasn’t exactly a rocket scientist you brought to the party at Doug’s house two weeks ago.”
“That sounds like something Alison would say.” Cole’s grin morphed into a frown. “Did my sister put you up to this?”
“Nope. But she was surprised you came alone too.”
“You know, I appreciate how everyone is taking such an interest in my social life all of a sudden.” He laid on a healthy dose of sarcasm. “But trust me, I have it under control.”
“I’m glad to hear that. I wouldn’t want you to lose out on the chance for wedded bliss.”
Cole snorted. “How do you know it’s going to be blissful? You only got engaged two days ago.”
“Because I know your sister.” He grinned at Cole. “And if you need more proof, ask Jake when he and Liz get back from their Bermuda honeymoon.” Standing, he stood and stretched. “So you want to go get some lunch?”
“No. Too busy.”
“Want me to bring you back a burger?”
“No. I’m not hungry.”
Mitch shot him a surprised look. “You’re always hungry.”
“Big breakfast.” He waved his colleague away and swung back to the desk. “I’ll hit the vending machines later.”
Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Mitch hesitate. Cock his head. Then, with a shrug, his fellow detective walked away.
Once Mitch exited, Cole leaned back in his chair and stared at the photo on his desk, a family shot taken at his mom’s birthday party not long after Jake had returned to St. Louis from a stint in Iraq with the U.S. Marshals Special Operations Group. It had been just the four of them since his dad died six years ago. But now there was a sister-in-law to add. Soon, there’d be a brother-in-law. And not long after that, Cole suspected nieces and nephews would come along. His sister and brother would be busy with their families. His mom lived in Chicago with her sister now; not that far from St. Louis, but far enough. He’d be the odd man out.
And playing the field was starting to lose its allure.
Annoyed by a sudden empty feeling in the pit of his stomach, Cole straightened up. Must be a case of weddingitis. It was hard not to think about the lack of romance in his life when he was surrounded by cross-eyed lovers and the air was filled with matrimonial vibes. But if it was supposed to happen, it would. No sense fretting about it.
No sense missing meals, either.
Debating what to get for lunch, he stood, snagged his jacket off the back of his chair, and slid his arms into the sleeves. Maybe he’d take Mitch up on the burger offer after all. If he hurried, he should be able to catch him at the elevator or in the lobby.
But he only made it two steps away from his desk before his phone rang.
As he paused, it rang again.
“You gonna get that or what?” Luke Adams looked up from a computer screen at an adjacent desk in the shared office, his expression frazzled. The man was a stellar detective, but he hated computers. And Cole didn’t relish being the outlet for his irritation.
“I’m getting it, okay?”
Luke grunted and went back to hunting and pecking while Cole returned to his desk and picked up the phone.
“Are you in the middle of anything?”
At his unit supervisor’s clipped query, Cole sank back into his chair.
He was now.
“Nothing that can’t wait.”
“Good. I need you to talk with a woman whose father died five months ago. We ruled it a suicide. However, the daughter claims she has new information that could change our minds.”
“Who handled the case?”
“Alan. But she doesn’t want to wait until he gets back from vacation. And FYI—she wasn’t happy with our resolution. Even though she couldn’t point us to any suspects or motives, she claims somebody was out to get her father and believes his death was a homicide.”
Cole stifled a sigh. Great. A conspiracy theorist. He’d run into them before. And since Alan had just left on a two-week trip to the Caribbean, this woman could be bugging him for fourteen days.
“Okay. I’ll meet her out front. What’s her name?”
“Kelly Warren. Her father’s name was John.”
“Got it.” Cole replaced the receiver, picked up a notepad, and stood.
So much for lunch.

Irene Hannon is a bestselling, award-winning author who took the publishing world by storm at the tender age of 10 with a sparkling piece of fiction that received national attention.

Okay…maybe that’s a slight exaggeration. But she was one of the honorees in a complete-the-story contest conducted by a national children’s magazine. And she likes to think of that as her “official” fiction-writing debut!

Since then, she has written more than 35 romance and romantic suspense novels. Her books have been honored with two RITA awards—the “Oscar” of romantic fiction—and she is a five-time finalist for that prestigious honor. Her books have also won a Daphne du Maurier award, a Carol award, a HOLT Medallion and two Reviewers’ Choice awards from RT BOOKreviews magazine. One of her novels was also named by Booklist as one of the top 10 inspirational fiction books of 2011.

Irene, who holds a B.A. in psychology and an M.A. in journalism, juggled two careers for many years until she gave up her executive corporate communications position with a Fortune 500 company to write full-time. She is happy to say she has no regrets!

In her spare time, she enjoys cooking, gardening and singing.  A trained vocalist, she has sung the leading role in numerous musicals, including “South Pacific,” “Brigadoon,” “Oklahoma” “The King and I” and “Anything Goes.” She is also a soloist at her church.

When not otherwise occupied, Irene and her husband enjoy traveling, Saturday mornings at their favorite coffee shop and spending time with family. They make their home in Missouri.

Up Close and Personal with Irene Hannon

When did you realize you wanted to be a writer?
I can’t remember ever not being a writer. I really believe people are born writers. It’s a gift, just like any other talent. I did toy with the idea of becoming a psychologist, but in the end, writing won out. However, my psychology degree is a great background for writing about relationships—a key ingredient in romantic fiction!

Until 2009, you wrote contemporary romance only. Why did you branch into suspense?
The truth is, the very first book I ever wrote was a romantic suspense novella. It was SO bad, however, that I stashed it in the deepest, darkest corner of my closest, where it will forever remain. I just didn’t have the necessary technical background to make it work, and in those days (20+ years ago), it was far more difficult to do research. So I focused on contemporary romance. But as an avid Nancy Drew reader in my younger days, I guess it’s no surprise that I eventually found my way back to suspense!

What inspires you to write?
Writers write. They have to write. It’s almost a compulsion. I can’t imagine my life without writing in it. As for what compels me to sit down every day at my computer—I like how one well-known writer once responded when asked if he waits for inspiration to strike before he writes. He said (and I’m paraphrasing), “Yes, I do. And I make sure I’m inspired every day at nine o’clock.”

What is something your readers might be surprised to learn about you?
While researching my Heroes of Quantico series, I enrolled in the local Citizen Police Academy. As part of that experience, I did a heart-pounding ride-along with a patrol officer that included a tense domestic violence call and a high-speed burglary response. The poor guy had to practically peel my fingers off the dashboard when we finally stopped. What I quickly learned is that I prefer to experience my suspense vicariously—safely tucked in the pages of a book!

What is your favorite book?
I don’t have one favorite. I’ve read many books I’ve liked. A few that come to mind are Five Smooth Stones by Ann Fairbairn, Mila 18 by Leon Uris and A Woman of Substance by Barbara Taylor Bradford. I’ve also enjoyed the Mitford series by Jan Karon, as well as books by LaVyrle Spencer and Dee Henderson.

What is your favorite movie?
Again, no single movie. But I do like happy endings! And for pure enjoyment, it’s hard to beat a Cary Grant flick. The Bachelor and the Bobbysoxer is fabulous if you like romantic comedy. And it’s timeless. Of more recent vintage, I enjoyed While You Were Sleeping and Return to Me.

What is your favorite Bible verse?
Matthew 6:21—“For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”

Who has had the most influence on your life?
My parents. They have always been my ardent fans, encouraging me every step of the way in any venture I undertook. They believed in me, and because they believed, I believed, too. There’s an old saying about the two gifts parents can give their children—roots and wings. My parents gave me both. They created a home where I was accepted without question, loved without conditions and encouraged without restraint. With that kind of foundation, it’s easy to take on the world. I give thanks every day for the gift of their continued presence in my life.

Name one of the bravest things you’ve ever done.
Signing up for voice lessons in college—and going to auditions for musicals. I’d always wanted to sing, but had zero confidence in my abilities. Taking the first step of committing to voice lessons was tough…and going to those first auditions in front of a roomful of competitors who wanted you to fail was even tougher. But I wanted it badly enough to persevere—and it paid off. Kind of like getting published!

You juggled two careers concurrently for a long time. How did you manage that?
In the beginning, it wasn’t difficult. The demands of my entry level job in corporate communications were reasonable and I had regular hours. By the time I left the corporate world, however, I’d risen to the executive ranks. I was a senior group director in a Fortune 500 company, managing three departments and overseeing major projects like the annual report. I was also managing editor of the company’s worldwide magazine and the speechwriter for the CEO and president, as well as for other executives. When the job became 24/7, I knew I had to pick between the two careers. Winning the RITA award and being offered a three-book contract made the decision much easier, though.

Sounds like your corporate job was interesting—and a little glitzy!
It had its moments. My favorite memories include skimming over an Alaskan glacier in a float plane, flying first-class to a prestigious spa to get the full treatment as background for a magazine article I was writing, jet-setting with the CEO on the corporate plane to a cruise ship in the Caribbean for a business lunch, visiting a remote island in Ireland and soaring over the Grand Tetons in a hot-air balloon. Plus, I met some wonderful people along the way.

How did you make the adjustment from such an exciting, high-powered career to the rather solitary life of a writer?
The truth is, there was no adjustment. I’m perfectly happy spending my days with the fascinating characters who people my novels. And I definitely don’t miss the rush-hour commute, corporate politics or a relentless BlackBerry that never slept!

Any advice for aspiring writers?
Learn as much as you can about how the industry works. Read exhaustively in the genres that interest you. Target your work carefully. Join a professional writers organization like Romance Writers of America. Master the basics (spelling, punctuation, grammar, etc.). Listen to criticism with an open mind. Set aside time to write on a regular basis. Believe in yourself. And don’t give up your day job!

Have you received a particularly memorable reader response?
Every reader letter touches me, and many have been memorable. A few stand out. With my contemporary romances, I recall one from a very atypical romance reader—a 23-year-old man who stumbled across my book, read it because he was bored, and told me it inspired him, taught him some valuable life lessons and gave him the guidance he’d had trouble finding himself. And I love the reader who wrote, “No one but Nicholas Sparks can grab me and get my attention after reading only a few pages—until YOU!”
With my suspense books, I’m getting feedback from both men and women, and I’m loving the letters that contain lines like this one: “I bought your book this past Tuesday evening and spent the entire day today reading it! I did have to put it down a few times just to breathe.” And I was thrilled with this comment: “I have been a Nora Roberts fan for a few years now and have just worked my way through all of her romantic suspense books. Your book was just as captivating.”

Do you have a pet peeve about the writing business?
One of my biggest pet peeves is how commercial fiction—and the romance genre in particular—is often considered less worthy than “literary” fiction. Not long ago, I read a review about a romance novel that said readers must pick between mental nourishment and romance—snarkily suggesting that stories about two people working to overcome formidable obstacles in order to build a life together can’t engage the reader’s mind as well as the heart. The reviewer also denigrated what she called “the best romance tradition” of an ending suffused with “a sense of almost religious redemption and possibility.” What a sad commentary on our world when a hope-filled ending seems so implausible that it renders a book too unrealistic to be taken seriously.

What has surprised you most about being a published novelist?
I didn’t realize how much making that first sale would change the complexion of writing. When you’re seeking that first contract and writing for the pure joy of following your muse, all you have to worry about is creating your best story. Once you’ve landed that contract, however, you realize that publishers don’t want one-book wonders—they want authors who can produce regularly. The first sale isn’t the summit; it’s the start of a whole new journey. And in addition to being expected to continually create new books, you now also find yourself doing promotion, creating/maintaining a website, answering reader mail, keeping accounting records, proofing galleys…the list keeps growing. So the pressure is on, and writing becomes a business as well as a passion. It’s still fun, but it’s a job—with deadlines. Which means you now have to plunk yourself in front of the computer even when you’d rather be doing something else. And that’s an adjustment.
What is your average writing day like?
Long! I’m usually at my computer by 8:30 a.m. First I answer e-mail and check a couple of websites and writing loops. Then I edit the work I wrote the previous day. At lunchtime I take a walk, then I’m back at the keyboard. I write 5-10 new pages a day, minimum. In the first third to half of a book, I’m usually closer to five because the characters and plot are loosely formed and still gelling in my mind. And depending on the subject matter, research can also slow the writing process. But I’m a stickler for accuracy, so I don’t shortchange the research piece. Without distractions, I can hit my page count by 5 or 6 p.m. So that’s my ideal writing day. However, distractions are common. Galleys show up, publicity requests come in, prep has to be done for speaking engagements…you get the idea. So I’m often at my computer well into the evening. It’s a busy life!

What do you hope readers take away from your books?
I have three goals with every book I write. First, I want to entertain. People need wholesome ways to unwind in today’s stressful, fast-paced world, and I do my best to write books that help them put aside their cares for a few hours. Second, I want to leave people with hope; with a belief that no matter how tough life gets, a happy ending is always possible. And finally, I want people to close the last page with a better appreciation for the tremendous power of love—both human and divine—to change lives. To sum up my goal in three words: entertain, enrich, uplift.

Are your books available in other countries?
Many of my novels are available in English-speaking parts of the world, including Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand. I’ve also had books translated into German, Dutch, French and Afrikaans.

How do you integrate faith into the stories and lives of your characters?
For me, the faith element is organic to the story because at least one of my main characters has a strong faith that guides his or her life. But my books aren’t preachy. The faith content is subtle and reflected more in characters’ actions than in words. I prefer to show characters living their faith rather than talking about it.

Any parting words?
I’d like to say a few words about Christian fiction. For years it’s had a reputation as being too preachy and heavy-handed in terms of evangelizing. In truth, some of that is deserved. But the genre has changed considerably over the past few years. Now, Christian fiction refers more to books with a certain worldview. As a result, any reader who likes fiction that features traditional values would enjoy many Christian fiction books. I would love to find a way to convince more secular readers to wander into the Christian fiction aisle at their local bookstore. I think many of them would be very pleasantly surprised.


My Review:
Kelly Warren’s father, John Warren, died five months ago, and it was ruled a suicide by sleeping pills and alcohol overdose.   Kelly was never able to accept that ruling.  What she received in the mail was the proof that she was right.  She wanted to approach Detective Alan Carlson with her new evidence, but he was on vacation.

Detective Cole Taylor was thus assigned to Carlson’s case.  He’s attracted to Kelly’s wavy, russet-colored hair, emerald green eyes …, but gets caught looking at her when she questions him about what’s wrong. Cole determines to keep business separate from his social life.  At least that has always been his rule of operation so he stays sharp and alert.

The evidence Kelly brought in was a box of tulip bulbs she received in the mail with a note from her dad about planting them together for her birthday, a note dated one day before he died.  That note shows that Jack wasn’t suicidal, but Cole needed to check the case notes. Given the usual police comment–’I'll be in touch,’ Kelly returned home.  However, upon checking the case notes, he determined that the probable evidence didn’t change the ruling, and Detective Cole had to break the news to Kelly.  Was he keeping business and social commitments separate by going to her house to give her the news personally?

When an attempt on Kelly’s life occurs shortly after she starts digging into her father’s death, Detective Cole digs deeper and finds a long-held secret, and the danger escalates.  Why does someone want Kelly dead?  What’s the motive?

Ultimate suspense writer, Irene Hannon, in Lethal Legacy, brings us another high energy, double twisted set of circumstances, and additional evidence that indicates more is involved than first recognized.  She does a great job of interweaving the threads of the evidence pointing to murder along with the additional action that is taking place behind the scenes that is initially covered up until further examination.

Irene has compelling characters that seem to take over every page, whether romantically or through perilous situations.   Neither Detective Cole and his partners nor Kelly will rest till they find out the truth.  Suspects are gleaned through the investigations, but proof is non-existent until a well-known name pops up.   I was thrown for a loop when I found out about John Warren’s background.  Never saw it coming.  Though we know a lot of information, Irene is keenly able to keep up the suspense of proving any connection before Kelly’s life is in danger.

Police procedures, APBs, BOLO alerts, investigations, and sting operations were written with precise detail.  Details of the well-know individual are played out superbly and yet painfully when it came to an estranged and strife-filled family relationship.

Kelly’s faith is a major part of her life, and though she is attracted to Detective Cole, she knows he must be a believer if she wants to pursue the relationship, but he has an angry, estranged relationship with God.  How the author brings Cole back to his faith is done in such a manner as to expose the reader to the love and mercy of God.

Some of the action seemed to slow down at times, which was a little difficult to keep me interested, but Irene was able to pick up the pace again with new and critical circumstances.

This book was provided free by Donna Hausler of Revell Publishing in exchange for my honest review.  No monetary compensation was exchanged.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Kregel Publication’s Blog Tour (with review): “Son of the Underground” by Isaac Liu with Albrecht Kaul

Son of the Underground: The Story of Isaac Liu, Son of the “Heavenly Man,”  released on June 1 here in America.  It  focuses on the life of Brother Yun’s son, Isaac—himself an evangelist. Written by Isaac with Albrecht Kaul, this story tells the tale of Isaac’s path and struggles with his decision to follow in his father’s footsteps.

After a miracle birth, he was mostly raised by his grandmother while his father sat in prison and his mother worked the fields. Young Isaac was exposed to great faith and dedicated Christians throughout his rural Chinese town and surrounding villages. He accompanied his grandmother—or Nai Nai—as she traveled to secret house church meetings, often many miles on dangerous roads, to spread the good news of Jesus. Her telling of Bible stories became legendary in the village square, and Isaac soon knew them all by heart as well. But more than stories, he learned true faith from his family, and saw the power of prayer and the name of Jesus firsthand.

After years of persecution, and the knowledge that they could not stay in China, Brother Yun’s family fled to Burma, where Isaac met his friend Ming. Raised as a Buddhist, Ming became the first person Isaac evangelized to—and led him to a life in Christ. It was a life-changing moment for both boys. Eventually, the family followed Brother Yun to Germany. Isaac struggled not only with the new language, but with his awakening desire to become an evangelist and to lead others to Christ as his father does. It was his mother’s most fervent prayer that this would never be the case, but even she understood the power of God in her son’s life, and how powerful his message could be in the lives of others.

Son of the Underground is a beautiful story of struggle, hope, and the ability of faith to overcome obstacles. Not only is it the story of the coming to faith of a Chinese boy, one whose life was already made more difficult by the role that faith had played in his early life, but it exposes the struggles of an entire nation of believers who have made the dangerous commitment to a life of Christ.

BOOK INFO:  Son of the Underground: The Story of Isaac Liu, Son of the “Heavenly Man”/Isaac Liu and Albrecht Kaul/9780857211996 /$11.99/Paperback/Monarch Books, distributed by Kregel Publications

Authors:  Isaac Liu is a pastor in Germany.   Albrecht Kaul, an experienced writer and editor, has traveled extensively in China and knows the country and its people.
His father was an enemy of the state.
His mother was told to have an abortion.
His teachers mocked him.
He first met his father when he was four years old.
He and his family lived for years on the run.
Yet Isaac Liu, son of Brother Yun, survived to develop his own faith and character, and today is serving the Lord from his home in Germany. This is his story …

Pictures of Isaac Liu and his family:

My Review:

Here in America we have little personal comprehension or experience of physical persecution or death for the sake of our faith in Jesus Christ.  Son of the Underground, the story of Isaac Liu, his parents and his sibling, Yiling, is told in first person about their life in China, before they escaped with their very lives to Germany, for preaching the Gospel in China between the years of 1950 and the early 2000′s.

We know from the New Testament that when persecution becomes extreme, the Gospel spreads and flourishes.  You will learn firsthand from Son of the Underground how God used persecution to grow Isaac’s own personal spiritual life, as well as his family’s, in the midst of these circumstances.  The times were horrific, scary, and sometimes discouraging.  Yet God worked behind the scenes through fellow believers to bring them through.  The dangers were real, personal and frightening, but the grace of God moved them forward.

The underground churches had to hide in order to worship and study the Bible.  Sometimes they shared pages of the Bible to get the Word out to fellow believers. Isaac, himself, memorized the whole Bible in order to preach without being caught with a Bible.  When their hiding places were found out, the leader/preacher was usually taken to prison.  This happened often with Isaac’s father, Brother Yun.  So frequently, in fact, that Isaac did not meet his father until he was four years old and saw little of him until 2001.

Son of the Underground is also an encouraging book, full of hope and faith in Jesus Christ to overcome persecution and struggles while preaching the Word of God, whether individually or as a group of believers.  Isaac preached his first message at the age of thirteen without the aid of a Bible in hand.  Though he later questioned his decision to become a preacher due to the horrific obstacles, he eventually surrendered his life to the Lord’s will and committed his life to preaching the Gospel.  How Isaac came to this decision, after all the struggles of persecution and being on the run, is the meat of this book.  Let it encourage you in your walk!

Isaac’s book will also show you specific ways to pray for the persecuted Church in other countries, as well as how to get involved in helping financially to fund the many underground churches and children’s homes.  Though American believers currently live in a free nation, we are held accountable to help the persecuted churches through prayer, finances, and even personal involvement.

This book is a challenge to each of us to do God’s will whatever the cost—to live out the New Testament command to preach the Gospel to the ends of the earth.  This English translation was done in early 2012.  You may find a few subtle sentence structure errors, but the message comes across loud and clear.  God reigns!

This book was provided by Cat Hoort of Kregel Publications in exchange for my honest review.  No monetary compensation was exchanged.

Win a $350 “Glam” Visa Card Prize Pack from @LisaTBegren & RSVP for 6/27 Facebook party! ["Glamorous Illusions" by Lisa T. Bergren]

What is our “true” identity?
Join the conversation at Lisa Tawn Bergren’s
Glamorous Illusions Author Chat Facebook Event Page. On the evening of 6/27 we’ll gather to talk about our spiritual journey, share our stories and a few laughs.
In the meantime, celebrate with Lisa by entering her Glamorous Illusions Giveaway Between Today, 6/7 and 6/26!!
One “glamorous” winner will receive a “Glam Prize Pack”:
  • A $350 Visa Cash Card (Oh … think of what you could do: treat yourself to a mani/pedi, a fabulous new dress, dinner for two, or even a two-night escape in a lovely hotel – you’re only limited by your imagination!)
  • Glamorous Illusions (by Lisa Tawn Bergren)
Enter today by clicking one of the icons below. But hurry, the giveaway ends 6/26/12!
Winner will be announced at Lisa’s “Glamorous Illusions” Facebook Party on  6/27 {Fun begins at 5pm PDT / 8pm EDT}. Lisa will be hosting an evening of meaningful chat, fun trivia, laughter, and encouragement – bring your friends! She’ll also be giving away some GREAT prizes: gift certificates, books, and a Book Club Prize Pack! (Ten copies of the book for your small group or book club and a live chat with Lisa via video or phone.)
So grab a few of your friends and your copy of Glamorous Illusions and join Lisa on the evening of June 27th for an evening of fun.
Don’t miss a moment of the fun! RSVP TODAY and tell your friends via FACEBOOK or TWITTER and increase your chances of winning. Hope to
see you on the 27th!
This entry was posted on June 7, 2012 and tagged , , , , .

Gilbert Morris “The River Rose” Giveaway and Q & A

Life hasn’t been easy for Jeanne Bettencourt, a widow approaching thirty and struggling to provide for her eight-year-old daughter. But hope arrives in the form of the Helena Rose, a steamboat she unexpectedly inherits from a distant, departed relative. Jeanne’s father had captained a similar vessel and taught her how to pilot a steamer along the banks of Memphis. She’s looking forward to a renewed livelihood on the mighty Mississippi.
However, as plans are made, news comes of another heir to the Helena Rose – a tough man named Clint Hardin – and a clause in the will that says claimants of the estate must live aboard the boat. Jeanne, a Christian woman, makes it clear she won’t stay with a man who is not her husband. But both are desperate for work, so they agree to keep their distance as Clint occupies the lower deck and Jeanne takes the captain’s quarters.
As they restore the Helena Rose, the slowly softening Clint becomes attracted to Jeanne – who is now being courted by a wealthy plantation owner. With her family and future at stake, the desires of Jeanne’s heart are duly complex. Only her simple faith can navigate her through what’s about to happen.

Gilbert Morris is among today’s most popular Christian writers, his books having sold over seven million copies worldwide. A former pastor and English professor, he specializes in historical fiction and won a 2001 Christy Award for the Civil War drama Edge of Honor. Morris lives with his wife in Gulf Shores, Alabama.

Q & A with Gilbert Morris:

What is your writing method? Do you write in the morning? At night? All day? How long do you write in a single session?
I have no set schedule for writing a novel. While I am working on it, sometimes it goes easily, and I just pour on the coal. If it goes badly, I have to spend more time on the text. Naturally, I love it when the words seem to flow!
How do you do your historical research?
I think it can be easy to do too much research, just as it can be a mistake to do too little. Some writers are so anxious the give the historical background, that they forget the story. My own problem is to do a good job with research and with the story.
How do you manage to keep your dialogue true to the time period without allowing it to sound stilted?
Reading a great deal of Dickens, for example, will carry over into the writer’s work. There is a danger that all of a writer’s characters will sound alike, which makes for bad fiction. I always try to find some characteristic that will set a character apart, perhaps bad grammar or a pronounced regional accent.
You used to follow the same storytelling technique of the late Sidney Sheldon—told your stories on tape to get the rough draft down, and then had them transcribed to start your writing process. Are you still using this technique for your current books?
Yes, I do dictate all my books. I take the outline and the list of characters, and put each chapter on a cassette. Then I have a lady take the tapes, type them out, and send them to me. Of course, when I get the hard copy, that’s usually when the hard work of revision rears its ugly head! My daughter Lynn, who has written some fine novels, helps me with this stage, for which I am profoundly grateful.
In many of your books, you feature a strong female main character that suffers from flaws and weaknesses. Why do you write about women in this way?
I try to give all characters, both male and female, young and old, flaws and weaknesses. That is human, and if a character is perfect that is totally unbelievable!
Look at the great classic novels by the great novelists. All of them set forth characters, who, in one way or another, are flawed. It is the job of the novelist to dramatize the characters as they attempt to overcome these flaws.
Your novels have a number of female characters with red hair and green eyes. Is that based on a real person?
Got lots of red hair in my family, so I always like redheads! No green eyes. I just get tired of trying, in a book with forty characters, to give them eyes that differ. Blue, brown, green. What other colors can eyes be?
I did say of one shady character, “He had eyes the color of spit.” Now, really, that character had to be evil!
What fascinates you most about 1850s Mississippi?
It was a dramatic time in American history. The Civil War, the rise of modern transportation, the beginning of our industrial growth.
How did you decide to set your story on a steamer?
When I was a boy, I lived for a time in Helena, Arkansas. The river then was still thick with the sternwheelers, and I would sit for hours on the bank of the river and watch them, and riding on one was a thrill.
When you’re writing a series such as the Water Wheel series, how do you decide which characters to carry over into the sequels?
I usually make this decision before I begin the first novel in the series. Some generational sagas lend themselves to stepping from one book to another, others I like to confine to one book.
I have a signed a contract to do a trilogy about San Francisco in the 1850s. That opens up the door for a family to go through (1) the gold rush of 1849, (2) the rise of rich people and how they are brought down, and (3) the earthquake and how the family survives and strengthens.
What book project are you working on next?
I am working on Book #2 of a series called Western Justice. These three westerns are set in Oklahoma Territory shortly after the Civil War. Judge Isaac Parker had 200 marshals to keep order, and many of them were killed in line of duty. The most famous of these is Heck Thomas, but if you’ve seen TRUE GRIT, you get the flavor of the series. Romance, action, Christian doctrine!
What is the one thing that you want to leave readers of The River Rose pondering over?
As in all my books, I want my readers to see how vital it is to serve God no matter how difficult that might be.
Do you have a long-term plan for your novel-writing? Are you planning to retire, or can we eagerly anticipate dozens more Gilbert Morris stories?
I am working on three series at the present time. One will deal with the men and women who serve in different branches of the service.
Another is the second novel about a young woman, Jordan Lee, who serves in the military, then in the House of Representatives.
The work I most enjoy is a series of mysteries featuring a man and a woman—and two cats. I’ve written three of these, and have had a blast! They are my favorite novels. The next one will be entitled Desperate Housecats.
And no, I will never retire!
How can readers find you on the Internet?
My website and blog are at
Subscribe to my blog’s feed:
Sign up for my e-newsletter (for subscriber-only giveaways and advance notice of my upcoming novels):
Twitter: @gilbert_morris!/gilbert_morris
GIVEAWAY!                 GIVEAWAY!                  GIVEAWAY!
*Begins June 8, 2012, 12:01 am, EST, ending June 25, 2012, at midnight, EST*
DRAWING:  One paperback copy of “The River Rose” by Gilbert Morris (United States only)
Since I received an additional copy from B&H Publishing Group, I’ll be sending the winner their copy. You must provide a non-P.O. Box address in the United States for delivery. The winner will be announced here on the day after contest ends. You can provide your address by email after that.  The more items you perform, the more entries!  You must leave your email address.  Please use this format   “theriverrose at gmail dot com”  to prevent spamming.
Entrants get one entry for each of the following.  Please leave a message saying which items you performed:
1. Question: If you were to travel on a paddle wheeler during the 1850s, what would you pack?
2. Tweet this message:
 Sign up for @gilbert_morris subscriber-only giveaways and advance notice of upcoming novels:
3. Follow Gilbert on Twitter: @gilbert_morris
4. Like Gilbert on Facebook:
I received an extra complimentary copy of this book for the purpose of this giveaway from B&H Publishing Group.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

Monday, May 14, 2012

7 Hours: “Rearview” by Mike Dellosso

Professor Dan Blakely has it all . . . until a false accusation leaves him in financial ruin with nothing to fall back on and little hope.

In a moment of desperation, he decides to do the unthinkable. But when he loses control of his SUV and careens down the side of a mountain, his plans take another turn.

Trapped beneath the frame of his mangled vehicle, Dan is visited by a mysterious stranger who offers him three choices. Filled with regret, Dan makes a decision . . . but little does he know that his troubles have only just begun.

The clock is ticking. What will you do with the time you have left?

Buy a copy now:
Currently $1.99

Born in Baltimore, Maryland, Mike Dellosso now lives in Hanover, Pennsylvania, with his wife, Jen, and their three daughters. In addition to his novels of supernatural suspense he writes a bi-weekly column for his local newspaper and is an adjunct professor of writing at Lancaster Bible College. He received his BA degree in sports exercise and medicine from Messiah College and his MBS degree in theology from Master’s Graduate School of Divinity.

In the meantime, check out the . . .
Video Book Trailer
7 Hours Landing Page

In each installment of 7 Hours, a character is visited by the enigmatic Thomas Constant, who makes a heart-stopping statement:
“You are about to die.”
“But you may choose from one of three options:  Live seven more hours, travel back in time and relive seven hours, or accept the inevitable and die now.”

My Review:
Dan Blakely is at the peak of his world.  He’s a professor at Boone College Campus teaching English Literature.  He’s ready to receive an additional PhD and a promotion, which includes a higher salary.  In fact, in anticipation, he’s already bought a new car and house.

The higher status and salary evaporate when he is accused of sexual assault and subsequently fired from his job.  He’s desperate and makes a poor choice in how to handle the financial mess he’s in.  Ultimately, he finds himself under the mangled mess of his car on the side of the mountain.  The choice Dan made may seem ‘reasonable’ considering the fact that he is far away from the Lord, yet not so because of his professionalism and the fact that his family relationships were close and were of great importance, though he had some regrets there.

While trapped, a mysterious stranger, Thomas Constant, offers him three choices.  Frantically, Dan makes his choice, but it’s a choice that will cost him dearly.

This was such a haunting ride of a book.  Mike has you guessing whether he’s dreaming, hallucinating, or is actually going through the experiences he is going through.  It didn’t matter how I looked at the book at the end, Mike still had we wondering how much was real and how much was too mysterious to comprehend.

I was intrigued by the analogies that mirrored Dan Blakely’s life.  Here are just a few:
  • Lead glass windows distorted the view of campus–like the upcoming meeting
  • Dark sky hung dark and foreboding–like his life after his firing
  • Breaking car tumbling down the mountain–like his life tossed in a tumbler
  • Minutes and hours ticking away–like his life fading as an ebb tide
Dan’s life, like all of our lives, is made up of choices.  Some lead to great rewards, others lead to regrets.  Dan had regrets.  How about your own life?  Who or what is more important?  This is something that you will be contemplating throughout Rearview.  A lifetime won’t make up for time squandered, leaving you with regrets. Make your life count, but make sure it also counts with the Lord.

In Rearview, I found a side of Mike I was familiar with.  He’s a great storyteller that just never quits!  This book is no different.  Like his previous books, this one will also have you on the edge of your seat!  Buckle up for a superb ride!

This PDF copy was provided by the author in exchange for my honest review.  No monetary compensation was exchanged.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

“Spirit Wars” by Kris Vallotton (A Bethany House Tour)

Just as enemies fought Joshua in the Promised Land, and Nehemiah faced opposition as he rebuilt the walls of Jerusalem, our enemy will fight us as we approach the spiritual terrain God has promised us. Most Christians retreat at the first sign of conflict because they fail to recognize the true nature of the battle. But you can prevail in freedom and joy.
Sharing his deeply personal story of demonic bondage, torment and ultimate deliverance, pastor and bestselling author Kris Vallotton turns the idea of spiritual warfare as we know it on its head. He reveals the diabolical lies and strategies of the enemy–attacks and traps so subtle and deceptive that we may find our souls and hearts imprisoned without even knowing it.
No more! Now you can win the invisible battle against sin and the enemy. Victory is within your grasp. Will you take hold?
BIO:  Kris Vallotton is the author of several books including two brand new books entitled Heavy Rain and a book I co-authored with my son, Jason, entitled The Supernatural Power of Forgiveness. Check out the Amazon reviews on all our books. I think you will really enjoy what we have written.
I’m the co-founder and leader of a full-time ministry school called Bethel School of Supernatural Ministry. The school has more than 1600 full-time students enrolled from more than 30 nations. My life’s mission and the purpose of the school is to see every nation in the world positively impacted by the Kingdom of God. This school began 13 years ago with just 37 students. It is experiencing explosive growth.
I am also the founder and CEO of an organization called Moral Revolution. The Mission of Moral Revolution is to inspire a revolution that redefines the post-modern mindsets of the global masses resulting in a culture that favorably views virginity, the marriage covenant between a man and a woman, moral purity, and values the dignity of women, men and children. You can learn more about the revolution at
I travel all over the world speaking at conferences on leadership, supernatural living, cultural transformation and sex. I have discovered that people everywhere are tired of religion, but they are hungry for true spiritual encounters. The occult has capitalized on this intense desire, which has led many people into a spiritual cesspool. I believe that Christians owe the world a real encounter with the living God. This has become my personal obsession, mission and mandate.
I have been married for 36 years to my childhood sweetheart, Kathy. We have 4 grown children and 8 grandchildren. For more information about us check out our website at and/or follow us on our KV Ministries Facebook page.
My Review:
We live in the realm of two different worlds, the visible one we see with our earthly eyes and the invisible spiritual one that isn’t always visible, the one we sometimes see with our spiritual eyes.  God created both worlds, and He has omnipotent power over both!  Whether one believes in the invisible world or not, it still exists.  It’s the evil entity of the invisible world that we war against in the power of the Holy Spirit. (Read the 6th chapter of Ephesians for a better understanding.)
Kris tells us his life story of bondage and torment to exemplify the two worlds clashing, and how the battle was won.   It’s a story that is believable and horrific.  It’s also believable in how his life was changed.   He goes into detail about the lies, tactics and traps the devil uses, ones that everyone will go through at one time or another in their lives.  His book is pertinent and relevant.  Each chapter is vital to understand the battle we are in, and Kris is thorough in his teachings in each area.
Winning the invisible wars that haunt people is addressed in these chapters:
  • Fighting for Peace
  • Are You Living in a Haunted House?
  • Rules of Engagement
  • The Wilderness
  • The Flesh is Weak
  • Treat Yourself Kindly
  • Serious Joy
  • The Armor of God
  • Casting Out Demons
  • Generational Curses
  • On-the-Job Training
  • For the Love of God
Kris Volloton’s book, Spirit Wars, is the first book I’ve read about Spiritual Warfare on this level since the teachings I received about seventeen years ago.  I can easily say I agree with 99.99% of what is in Kris’s book!  It’s Scriptural, forthright, and necessary for everyone’s spiritual life if they want to win the invisible war and bask in God’s joy, love and abundant life.
I would recommend this book for a Bible study group, a Sunday School class or personal study.  Whichever way you decide, please decide to read it!
This book was provided by Jim Hart of Bethany House, a division of Baker Publishing Group, in exchange for my honest review.  No monetary compensation was exchanged for my review.

Thursday, May 17, 2012~~Bible Study Expo presented by Sandy Ralya

On Thursday, May 17, 2012, Kregel author, Sandy Ralya, will kick off the 2012 Bible Study Expo.
Sandy will reveal the story behind her book The Beautiful Wife and share how the book became a full-time marriage mentoring ministry, Beautiful Womanhood. Sandy’s testimony will be shared at 1:00pm (CST). Shortly thereafter, listeners will have a chance to hear and interact with other authors and speakers, including Pam Farrel, Sheila Walsh, Babbie Mason, Cindy Jacobs, and more.  Visit for more information and to attend the event!
Hosted by Marnie Swedberg, the mentor to thousands of ministry leaders from over 30 countries, the expo is completely free and completely online. Visit for more information and to attend the event! 
There was a time when author Sandy Ralya’s marriage was in trouble. She needed help but she was afraid to ask for it. At the time, she didn’t know that hundreds of other wives were struggling with the same issues she was. Though Sandy eventually sought guidance from godly mentors and Christian counselors, other women remain silent. Many churches lack ministries and resources to reach out and help these women.
Sandy Ralya founded Beautiful Womanhood in 2003 to provide the same nurturing and mentoring that changed her life and her marriage and began to speak to hundreds of women each year. Hearing the stories of women like herself, Sandy realized the need for resources based on practical teaching, sound research, and real-life experiences. The Beautiful Wife uses these inspiring stories along with biblical principles to guide and encourage any wife looking for God’s best in her marriage. The Beautiful Wife answers serious questions women have about their roles as wives. Discussing everything from romance and money to beauty, communication, and sex, Sandy challenges women to open up and share their journeys so that together they can see God’s plan for their marriages. “It is my passion to help women discover God’s heart for their marriage, just as other women helped me,” writes Sandy. “When women share with each other the details of their journeys with God as wives, it’s a beautiful thing indeed.”
Information provided by Kregel Publications.

“Unashamed to Bear His Name” by R.T. Kendall (A Bethany House Tour)

Embracing the Stigma of Being a Christian Today
In our increasingly secular society, being a Christian carries a cost. Whether through public criticism or the quiet loss of respect, it is hard–and becoming harder–to be known as a Christian. Even as believers try to follow the will of God, they are often misunderstood and left to deal with the awkward, sometimes painful results of feeling disconnected from their fellow man–or even stigmatized.
Beloved Bible teacher R. T. Kendall offers hope. Turning the idea of stigma on its head, he shares his own story of rejection and embarrassment in the name of Christ–and how it became the source of unimaginable blessing. With warmth and understanding, he urges readers to embrace the offense that comes from their commitment to Jesus Christ, showing that when they do, the Lord will unleash into their lives incalculable blessing.
Bio: Born and raised in the USA, Dr. R. T. Kendall has recently retired as Minister at Westminster Chapel, London, where he served for 25 eventful years. Still in huge demand as a writer and speaker around the world. He is one of the best-known and respected Christian leaders and teachers in the UK.
He and his wife, Louise, have two children – son Robert Tillman II (TR), married to Annette, a baby on the way (first grandson); daughter Melissa Louise.
He has degrees in A.B.  Trevecca Nazarene University of Nashville, Tennessee,
M.Div. Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Louisville, Kentucky, M.A.  University of Louisville, Louisville, Kentucky, D. Phil.  Oxford University 1977,
D.D., Trevecca Nazarene University, Senior Minister, Westminster Chapel, February 1, 1977 to February 1, 2002, and has authored fifty books.

“A book that every serious Christian must read.” — Mr. Michael Youssef, founding pastor, Church of the Apostles, Atlanta, Georgia; founder, Leading the Way
“Dr. R. T. Kendall’s insightful teaching and writing have had a significant impact on my own thinking.  I respect Dr. Kendall greatly and am honored to call him my friends.”  –Dr. James Dobson, founder, Focus on the Family
“Sobering words you will thank God for.” — Colin Dye, senior minister, Kensington Temple, London, England
My Review:
As one hears from some of the news media and reports from missionaries from around the world, as well as watching the decline of our own country, R. T. Kendall, in his book, Unashamed to Bear His Name, deliberates on the stigmas of being a Christian in today’s world.  There are persecutions, beatings, death, ridicule, and offense from sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  Dr. Kendall shares his own life history as a Christian that include the rebuffs and name-calling he himself has endured.
When one comes to Christ, we are to ‘count the cost.’  From reading Dr. Kendall’s book, that includes the choice to embrace:
  • the shame of the Name of Jesus
  • being called names
  • being an offense to other people
  • standing up for the truths of the Bible despite rejection from others
  • enduring the ‘narrow-minded stigma’ for believing Jesus to be the only way to heaven
  • belittling for our beliefs in the one true God and Creator
  • the ridicule of the Holy Spirit’s move in one’s life
  • public/private criticism
  • quiet loss of respect
  • plus several other issues
Dr. Kendall insists that these issues and stigmas are not anything to back away from.  In fact, we are to embrace these issues to the glory of God without grumbling and complaining.  He does stress the issue, however, that we shouldn’t be the cause of unnecessary scandal by our lifestyle, thus suffering for the wrong reasons.
Dr. Kendall gives you multiple, insightful teachings to chew on in regards to the above issues mentioned in his book and how we are to embrace them.  Though I don’t agree with all his doctrine and some of his church-bashing, I found his book to be a great reminder of ‘counting the cost’ and the glory we will receive if we hold fast to the truth.  We are to live in joy despite the trials we face.
As in the words of Colin Dye, Dr. Kendall’s book presents ”Sobering words you will thank God for.” And then Dr. Michael Youssef’s comment, “A book that every serious Christian must read.”
This book was provided by Jim Hart of Bethany House in exchange for my honest opinion.  No monetary compensation was received for my opinion.

My Review and a Giveaway Party: “Beyond Hope’s Valley” by Tricia Goyer (A Litfuse Blog Tour)

Win A Custom Amish Prize Pack at ‘All Things Amish Party’ 5/21/2012!~~”Beyond Hope’s Valley” by Tricia Goyer

Win a Custom Amish Prize Pack from @TriciaGoyer in her Beyond Hope’s Valley Giveaway! RSVP (Below) for All Things Amish Party {5/21}!
Celebrate with Tricia and enter to win a custom-made Amish Wall hanging in the colors of your choice … and much more!
One fortunate winner will receive: 
  •  Custom Amish Wall Hanging {You choose the colors!} 
  • An Amish Doll {Sweet.} 
  • Amish-made basket {It’s picnic season!} 
  • Doilies, potholder and an Amish cookbook {All items form Bird-in-Hand, PA!} 
  • Three book Big Sky Amish series {Be swept away by this captivating series.} 
Enter today by clicking one of the icons below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on May 20th. Winner will be announced at “All Things Amish” Author Chat Facebook Party on 5/21. Tricia will be hosting an author chat (on Facebook and Live from her website) and giving away books, gift certificates and more!
So grab your copy of Beyond Hope’s Valley and join Tricia on the evening of the May 21st for a fun chat, trivia contest (How much do you know about the Amish?) and lots of giveaways. (If you haven’t read the book – don’t let that stop you from coming!)
Enter via E-mail Enter via Facebook Enter via Twitter
Don’t miss a moment of the fun. RSVP today and tell your friends via FACEBOOK or TWITTER and increase your chances of winning. Hope to see you on the 21st!
About the Book: After an extended stay in Montana, where Amish traditions are different from  her home state, Marianna Sommer returns to Indiana for two reasons, first to help her brother and his girlfriend prepare for a baby and their wedding. Second, to plan her own wedding to Aaron Zook — a marriage she’s been dreaming about ever since childhood. And yet, although she had missed the idyllic farms and families of her upbringing, Marianna is surprised that Indiana is somehow making her long now for Montana.As months pass, secrets that were hidden in winter’s frozen grasp thaw and take on a life of their own. The truths about a child, about a past relationship, and about God’s plans are being revealed. Walking through a valley of questions, Marianna must hold on to hope as she decides where and with whom her heart truly belongs.
My Review:
Get ready for a heart-pounding rush of emotions as Marianna returns to Pennsylvania with the love of her life, Aaron Zook.  Her mother had invited him to Montana to steer her away from Ben Stone, an Englisch man from the area. Upon arrival, Aaron was in a car accident, and ended up recuperating at the home of Marianna’s parents.
After spending time with Aaron there, Marianna chooses to marry Aaron, her childhood love.  They hope for a quick wedding once her brother Levi and Naomi are wed. What they find is Naomi pregnant before marriage.  Marianna and Aaron’s hopes of a quick marriage come to a halt, at least until Naomi’s baby is born, and Levi and Naomi are allowed to marry.
As Marianna is courted by Aaron, strange behaviors and attitudes shoot forth from Aaron, something Marianna hasn’t ever seen before.  Surely it’s because they have been apart for so long. Right?
As secrets and rumors are exposed, a whole new dilemma occurs, sending Marianna into upheaval.  The return of her parents for Levi and Naomi’s wedding stirs up additional rumors and innuendos, as Ben is with them with a large trailer.
Trisha’s characters are real, deep and complex, and the emotional roller coaster rides in Beyond Hope’s Valley are real, difficult and exhaustive.  Trisha really digs into the meat of the issues and they are presented in a way that she truly masters.  Twists and turns keep you wondering how anything can work out. Love is tested.  Suspicions reign. The storyline keeps the pages turning!
Having given her heart to the Lord in Montana, Trisha has Marianna traveling the fine line of Pennsylvania Amish life and truly following the Lord.  Her exuberance in sharing her newfound joy isn’t always accepted, though the Amish ways are delicately woven in her life. With this rejection, Trisha brings out the travesties of Marianna’s friends back in Pennsylvania.
You will want to read Beside Still Waters and Along Wooded Paths to get a better feeling for the angst in Beyond Hope’s Valley.  Trisha has written books in several genres, and I’ve loved them all.  These included.  You won’t be disappointed with her Montana Big Sky Amish series!
This book was provided by Amy Lathrop of Litfuse Group in exchange for my honest review.  No monetary compensation was received.

FIRST Wild Card Tour: Loving Well by William P. Smith

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old…or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!
You never know when I might play a wild card on you!
Today’s Wild Card author is:
and the book:
New Growth Press (February 1, 2012)
***Special thanks to Rick Roberson, The B&B Media Group for sending me a review copy.***
William P. Smith, M.Div., Ph.D., is the director of counseling at Chelten Baptist Church, Dresher, Pa., the author of the book Caught Off Guard: Encounters with the Unexpected God; and the minibooks How Do I Stop Losing It with My Children?; How to Love Difficult People?; Should We Get Married?; Starting Over; When Bad Things Happen; and Who Should I Date?. Bill is regularly invited to speak at other churches and lead weekend retreats. He and his wife, Sally, are the parents of three very active children.
Visit the author’s website.
Distance. Resentment. Avoidance. You want to love your family, your neighbors, and your coworkers well. But something goes wrong when you reach out to them, and you find yourself tearing down the relationships you wanted to build. Are you doomed to repeat this cycle forever?
For most of us, certain unhealthy reactions feel natural and even inevitable. Unconsciously, we cling to what 1 Peter 1:18 calls the “empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers.”
But you are not doomed to repeat this cycle, according to William P. Smith, since Jesus came to redeem his people from such things. The destructive relationship patterns you learned before you met Christ no longer need to control how you live and interact with others. Instead, you can exchange the empty ways for new ones that promote deep unity and peacefulness—patterns that create satisfying and God-honoring relationships. A rich, practical relationship with Jesus enables you to develop rich, practical relationships with others in spite of your brokenness and theirs. Through Christ, you no longer have to do what you have always done. In short, you can learn to love well.
“Loving Well”/List Price: $15.99/Paperback/304 pages/New Growth Press (February 1, 2012)/English/ISBN-10: 1936768291/ISBN-13:978-1936768295
My Review:
What a powerful book, teaching us how to love like Jesus and the Father do even if we haven’t been! The author, William P. Smith gives a comprehensive review of love in his book, Loving Well: Even If You Haven’t Been.
As people, we try hard to love our neighbors, family, co-workers, and church family.  Depending on how love was dysfunctionally demonstrated to you growing up, you more than likely will model the same type of love in your relationships–distance, resentment, silent treatment, avoidance, outburst of anger, etc.
The author brings us hope from God the Father through Jesus Christ.    A relationship with Jesus Christ can help you overcome your destructive methods of relating by seeing in Scripture how God loves us.  It also allows Him to help us love others like He loves us.
The book is divided into three parts:
  1. Love That Responds to a Broken World–Comforting, Sympathetic, Struggling, Forgiving, and Long-suffering Love
  2. Love That Reaches Out to Build Others Up–Partnering, Pursuing, Communicating, Serving, and Providing Love
  3. Love That Enjoys Heaven on Earth–Welcoming, Humble, Celebrating, Peaceful, and Hospitable Love
I am overwhelmed (in a good way) for all the different lessons about and methods of loving that the author expounds on and what they look like.  He is straightforward in each chapter, giving multiple examples to show you the destructive way versus the constructive way to demonstrate love.
This is a great resource book to keep on hand as a good reminder when one is stuck in a relationship.  I’d recommend this book to every person living here on earth.  It’s helpful to ascertain the different situations and how assimilate what you have learned.

I n t r o d u c t i o n
Escaping an Empty Way of Life

I stood outside, shivering in the cold, “talking” to God. Venting would be the more honest description. I had just thrown down the papers I was working on and stalked out of the room after unloading on one of my children, who had been repeatedly interrupting me every few minutes. My parting words were, “I am so frustrated right now. It doesn’t matter what I say or do, you don’t get it. It doesn’t matter if I speak gently to you. It doesn’t matter if I ignore you. It doesn’t matter if I explode! You just keep coming. I don’t know what to do with you.”
I hate those times. I have no interest in verbally bashing my kids, making them feel like I’m never satisfied with them. And yet, I also don’t want them to grow up believing that the world is all about them. What I’d just done wasn’t terribly loving (I get that), but in that moment I didn’t have any idea what else to do, so I ended up doing something that broke down the relationship instead of building it.
Ever been there? That place where, despite the fact that you really do want to love the people around you, somehow it all goes south? Either you do something to shred the friendship or you face something you don’t know how to handle. You’ve tried everything you do know, and nothing seems to help. As a pastoral counselor, I have lots of friends who share those feelings.
Friends like Tasha and Maurice. Tasha is unhappy with her job and would really rather stay home with the baby, only they can’t afford to have her do that. So every time she comes home, she com- plains to Maurice about how bad work was.
Maurice, however, doesn’t know what to do with her complaints. His preferred role of being the funny, lighthearted guy just doesn’t seem to work like it used to with her. So he prefers to switch on the TV during dinner and watch it into the night, or play card games with her, or do some other activity that safely insulates him from an intimidating conversation.
She likes him, but feels alone and abandoned. So guess what she does about her loneliness? She complains about it, adding it to the complaints about her job. And when she complains, he feels more helpless and confused, so he finds new ways to ignore her. And ’round and ’round they go. You wouldn’t say he’s a bad man or she’s a miserable woman, but they don’t know how to engage each other in a helpful way.
Most of the time, my friends and I don’t set out trying to hurt anyone, especially those we really care about. We’re relational creatures, made in the image of the great communal, three-in-one God. We long for relationships. Intentionally undermining our closest relationships would be counterproductive to our whole nature and desire. And yet we do just that. We watch them slip through our fingers—or worse, we see ourselves actively poisoning them simply by doing what feels right in the moment.
Because you’ve picked up this book, you probably know what broken relationships feel like. You see yourself damaging your closest friendships or not knowing how to bring healing when someone else harms them. Sometimes these unhealthy patterns and reactions can feel so natural that you don’t even think about how they came about. You might not even realize how many of them you’ve adopted from other people. You may only be aware that, in the moment, the strategy seems to get you what you want.
Patrice pulls away from situations she doesn’t like by withdrawing from people and refusing to talk to them. Her reaction makes complete sense when you learn that for her whole life she witnessed her father controlling her mother with the silent treatment. You probably wouldn’t be too surprised to discover that this was the example he had while growing up in his home. Each generation learned how to relate to others from the generation before, even if those ways soured the closest relationships they had.
We are all fully responsible for the ways we mistreat each other, and we have all learned from the bad examples we’ve had. Nature (your own sinful inclinations) and nurture (the things you’ve experienced from others) join forces to undermine your relationships. They produce what the apostle Peter refers to as “the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers” (1 Peter 1:18, NIV).
Some people have more “empty way of life” quotient than others, but every person has embraced a legacy of emptiness—patterns of relating that seem right in the moment, but that ultimately tear friendships apart. These patterns are truly insane. What else can you call it when you repeatedly engage your children, spouse, parents, or friends in the same destructive ways even though you realize you’re driving them away?
For someone like Patrice, the empty ways she deals with are primarily identified by the ongoing presence of evil. People in those positions experienced an aggressive negative relational style and had to react to it. Some become comfortable adopting the model as their own by taking the junkyard dog approach. They relate to others with the belief that, “If what wins arguments and protects me in this family is being loud, sarcastic, or insulting, then I will be the loudest, meanest, most caustic person in the room!” Others who have no interest in competing at that level develop self-protective strategies that keep everyone else at arm’s length.
Empty ways of life, however, are not always defined by the active presence of evil. Just as often they are characterized by the absence of positive elements that would foster healthy relationships.
Nick’s wife noted that his parents essentially ignored him after providing for his physical needs. Robert’s family was more extreme. He didn’t know what a hug felt like growing up. No one touched in his family nor wanted to. They didn’t own a couch, only a collection of individual chairs. Walking through his living room daily reinforced the relational message “you are on your own in this life.” That lack of physical connection mirrored the lack of intimacy at all other levels. Little wonder that these men struggled to know how to connect with their wives and kids.
Other families are not as dramatic in their dysfunction but still leave out many crucial relational elements. Some people never heard a parent say “I’m sorry; please forgive me.” Others don’t know what it is to hear “I love you. I’m proud of you. I’m so glad to see you!” Still others didn’t experience someone pursuing them, inviting them back to relationship when they’d strayed, or simply affirming their feeling that life isn’t very nice sometimes.
Without experiencing a healthy way of relating in your life, it’s really hard to know it’s even missing, much less that it’s an essential element to give someone else. The absence of positive relational interactions gets passed on just as surely as the presence of negative patterns.
Spend just a little bit of time with God’s people and you’ll quickly learn that empty ways of life abound even in the middle of the redeemed community. Small home fellowship groups don’t know how to embrace the quirky single guy who comes for a few weeks, so he quietly drops off the radar. Warring factions break out in the congregation over what style of music we sing or how we decorate the building. Elders approach their congregation with a heavy hand or back way off with no hand. Leaders fail, like they have all the way back to Noah, and no one knows how to put Humpty Dumpty together again.
People are lured into church by hearing the language of intimacy, authenticity, and genuineness, but when they experience their absence, they are left feeling even more hurt than before. They had hoped finally to find a safe place where they could experience being loved, only to realize that Christians are not really all that good at it. Instead of being welcomed and embraced, often they can end up isolated and alone.
So they walk away discouraged and cynical— with good reason.
Does any of this resonate with your own experience? Over the past twenty-five years of professional and volunteer ministry, I have yet to meet the person who doesn’t struggle at some point in his or her relationships.
Maybe you find yourself undermining the relationships that are most important to you. Or maybe someone else is hurting you and you don’t know how to invite that person to something better. Or maybe you just find your relationships stagnate and don’t grow richer.
If that’s you, you’re not alone. And you don’t have to settle for these empty ways of life. You can exchange those patterns for others that promote deep unity and peacefulness—patterns that offer a satisfying and rich relationship to the people around you.
In short, you can learn to love well.
Jesus Loves us out of Emptiness
Peter draws our attention to the empty ways of life only in order to highlight that we have been redeemed from them by the precious blood of Christ (1 Peter 1:18–19). God cares about the hold these destructive patterns have on you, and he made a way to free you from them. They don’t have to control how you live and react in your relationships.
Now you may expect me to fill the rest of this book with lists of helpful hints and biblical principles for maximizing the positive things and minimizing the negatives in your relationships. But escaping an empty way of life does not rely on principles—it relies on a person. And not just a person who comes and does things for you or is an example outside of you, but a person who comes and relates to you.
I’m afraid that too many times we hold up Jesus as though he were simply a model of brilliant living—one who would inspire us to live a holy life in the same way that we extol the virtues of George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Mahatma Gandhi, and Mother Teresa. The problem with that thinking is that models alone are un- able to make you want to follow their example. They point out the way for you to go, but they don’t empower you to walk down that path. They might inspire you, but inspiration alone is not enough to actually move you.
Over the years I have heard a number of great stories of people who have done amazing things or overcome incredible obstacles—a father who enters marathons, pushing his wheelchair-bound son; a married couple who adopts 19 children with special needs over the course of their lifetime; or the concert musician who plays at Carnegie Hall because of the countless hours of practice she spent with her instrument. Those examples are stirring. Inwardly I cheer for those people and wish them the best.
Though I am inspired by their stories, however, my own lifestyle has not changed in the least. It takes far more than inspiration to escape an empty way of life. I’ve not yet been driven by these examples to take up jogging, adopt even one child, or pick up an instrument. They truly are praiseworthy examples, but they’re outside of me. Therefore, by themselves, they are insufficient to move me.
Jesus is different. His examples of loving and serving are not things that happen outside of me–things I dispassionately observe. Far from being an uninvolved spectator to his reconciling work, I’m a recipient of his gracious actions. He is my example, but he is also my experience. In experiencing him, I not only develop a personal sense of what he calls me to, but I also gain the power to live out that calling with others.
God understands that you don’t always know how to love people, so he does not insist you figure out how to bootstrap yourself into relationships. Instead, he makes sure you already know exactly what love is before he requires you to love others. As the apostle John put it, “In this is love, not that we have loved God, but that he loved us . . . if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another” (1 John 4:10 –11, in larger context of vv. 7–21). It’s only after having been loved that you respond with love. You love him back, and you reach out to share with others a tiny portion of the love that you yourself have received.
In my relationship with God, what’s always been most important is the quality of his love for me, not the quality of my love for him. It’s only as the reality of his love becomes my present experience that I will be more concerned about expressing my love to others than insisting they express theirs for me.
Too often I get this order backward with my children, like when I blew up at my child earlier. Those are the days when I keep careful track of all the ways it seems they don’t care nearly enough about me. I become consumed with how they don’t consider the pressures of my schedule when they want me to chauffeur them to their next sports game or to the store. I grumble about how they don’t respect my property as they trample through the garden or slam the doorknob through the drywall. And I fume over how they’re more interested in my money than my friendship. I confess, I have a hard time being greeted at the door after a long, hard day with “Hi, Daddy—can I have my allowance?”
In those moments, I get caught believing that what most needs to change in my family is them. They need to be more considerate, more respectful, and more grateful. In other words, I wrongly believe that our relationship is dependent on the quality of their love for me.
That’s backward from the way I experience Jesus. The way he treats me, both historically and in the present, gives me the experience of being loved. And it is that experience that allows me to respond to him and extend myself to others, which is the real need of the people I live with. My family needs me to pursue them like Jesus pursues me. They need me to forgive them like Jesus forgives me. They need me to like them, engage with them, and share myself with them just as Jesus likes me, engages with me, and shares himself with me.
And that’s where there is a disconnect for many people. They don’t have a sense of the risen Christ relating to them in real time in a helpful, positive way. Whether I’m serving in my home church or traveling to others, I regularly interact with people who can explain historically what Jesus has done for them and who genuinely look forward to what he will do in eternity. But his present activities in their lives remain a cloudy mystery.
In turn, they struggle to communicate love to others in any tangible, recognizable form. This recognition forms the working thesis of this book: only through a present, rich, practical relationship with Jesus will you be able to develop rich, practical relationships with each other.
Your Human relationships Flow from the god You Worship
The way I live out my relationships with people is one of the clearest indicators of how healthy my relationship with the Lord is. If I live knowing that God moves toward me all day long and invites me to move toward him, then I will engage people positively in their lives. But if I wait for others to give themselves to me first, then I show that I really don’t believe or regularly experience this God who is reconciling people to himself. Either way, I live out the truth that you become whatever you worship.
Sadly, there are so many bad gods waiting to take Jesus’ place. There’s the false notion of God as a deity who sits in heaven, vaguely interested in your life, but who keeps himself pretty detached and aloof. Or there’s the god who is only disengaged until you do something wrong. Then he springs into action, pulling out a long list of your failures and threatening you if you don’t shape up. Or worse, maybe you’ve found the god who smiles at you a lot, but is too weak to challenge you or help you when you need it. The hard reality is that if your god is distant, critical, scary, or impotent then you will mimic that quality about him in the ways you treat those around you.
Thank God he doesn’t leave you to those gods. Jesus came to redeem you from living out those empty ways of life handed down to you by your forefathers.
Throughout Scripture you see one overarching storyline: a good Father welcomes homeless orphans into his family by searching for them, rescuing them, embracing them, providing for them, and nurturing them. With that experience of life, you now have reason to hope for something different in the way you live with others. And hope is exactly what I need every day of my life.
My kids and I had a really rough week that felt like every inter- action turned into a half-hour argument that I didn’t handle very well. As the week wore on I became increasingly out of control, and I responded more harshly and critically each time. It was not a good week. Ironically, a few days later I was scheduled to give a radio interview for a booklet I had written entitled How Do I Stop Losing It with My Kids? I felt like such a hypocrite. I reread the booklet and kept thinking, Hmm, that’s a good idea. I wonder who wrote that? Or, Oh! Wish I had remembered to try that.
At the end of the program, the interviewer asked one final question. He said, “Okay, this has been helpful, but what about the person who has been losing it—maybe for years? Who has been failing over and over again? What hope does that person have?”
I replied, “Well, honestly, that’s me this morning. And my hope is that not only am I a parent in my family, but I’m also a child in a better family with a much better Father. And my Father is absolutely committed to being involved in my life, parenting me so that I can be the parent that he always meant me to be.”
I need that hope. And I need even more than hope. It’s easy to say we need to love others well, but that statement can feel pretty vague when I face a particular challenge with caring for a real, flesh-and- blood person in the smaller, practical moments of life. For instance, what does loving others well look like when I need to restore a relationship that I just damaged? At times like that, I need to know specifically what love looks like.
Dazzling Love
I find it helpful to think of love as a large jewel with many facets. Each facet gives you a glimpse into the jewel’s essence because each is part of the same jewel. But every viewpoint has a sparkle and radiance all its own.
Throughout this book we’re going to investigate fifteen facets of the love we experience from God because it is in these ways that he invites you to mature as you relate to other people with love. While there are many more that we could explore—and we will as eternity unwinds—these fifteen form a solid toolkit that, as you grow in them, will affect the quality of relationships you currently have.
You can love other people only out of your own experience of being loved. Or, to say it in reverse, you cannot pass along what you yourself have not received. Does that sound limiting to you or maybe even completely demoralizing? Like you’re fated never to rise above the inadequacies other people have passed down to you?
That’s where a relationship with Jesus is intensely practical. Because you are his, you are not beyond hope—nor are your relationships. Missing out on being loved well by other humans does not doom your present relationships. In your present, ongoing relationship with Jesus, you can receive from him all the love you need to give to others.
He can give you what you never received, and then you can pass it to those around you who need it.
We’ll approach our topic in three parts. In Part I, “Love That Responds to a Broken World,” we’ll look at those aspects of love that help you move toward your friend as she experiences sin or suffering so that she knows she is not alone.
Part II, “Love That Reaches Out to Build Others Up,” focuses on aspects of love that show someone else you’re more interested in helping him be all God ever meant him to be, than using him to make yourself feel good.
And in Part III, “Love That Enjoys Heaven Now,” we’ll look at the kinds of love that allow people to see and trust your heart for them so that you can enjoy being together now.
Let me offer one caveat before we dive in: please be careful not to fall into a mindset that looks for quick, immediate results when you reach out to love well. Learning these fifteen aspects will improve the overall tone of your relationships, but they are not part of a guaranteed formula that works like this: if you do ________, then everyone else will respond to you with ________. Rather, you can expect to receive these elements from Jesus, and as you practice them you will find yourself moving in harmony with the way he runs his world rather than against it. In that sense your life will be better, you will be more satisfied, and your relationships will change for the better.
As a friend, lay leader, counselor, seminary professor, conference speaker, and pastor I have seen many people turn away from destructive patterns and enter into the freedom of healthy relationships. That’s been quite a privilege. Beyond all those instances of seeing people love well, however, I’m most encouraged to believe you really can escape your empty ways of living because of the way relationships in my own home have grown healthier over the years.
Remember that I told you how hard my child and I worked to ruin our relationship? Sadly, there are still plenty of times when we collectively rip at the fabric of our relationship. That’s the product of real people in a really fallen world. But even more significant is what we do with those destructive moments. By God’s kindness, we continue to learn how to repair the rips we create and celebrate the greater number of times when we move closer without damaging our friendship.
That’s the product of being loved by a gracious God in a grace- infused world. If Jesus can help free me and my family from being stuck in bad patterns, and teach us to create beneficial ones, then I know he can help you too.
As you are introduced to each way he loves us, I think you’ll be surprised by how intimately involved God is with you. I know I have been surprised. After seeing and re-experiencing him in new ways, I suspect you’ll hardly be able to wait to give that experience to someone else!