Monday, July 27, 2015

Thriving in Babylon by Dr. Larry Osborne

About the book:
Thriving in Babylon (David C. Cook, April 2015)

Meet a man forced to live in a fast changing and godless society. He faced fears about the future, concern for his safety, and the discouragement of a world that seemed to be falling apart at warp speed.

Sound familiar? His name was Daniel, and with the power of hope, humility, and wisdom, he not only thrived, he changed an empire while he was at it. Though he lived thousands of years ago, he has a much to teach us today.

Even in Babylon, God is in control.

In Thriving in Babylon, Larry Osborne explores the “adult” story of Daniel to help us not only survive – but actually thrive in an increasingly godless culture. Here Pastor Osborne looks at:

·       Why panic and despair are never from God
·       What true optimism looks like
·       How humility disarms even our greatest of enemies
·       Why respect causes even those who will have nothing to do with God to listen
·       How wisdom can snatch victory out of the jaws of defeat

For those who know Jesus and understand the full implications of the cross, the resurrection, and the promises of Jesus, everything changes—not only in us, but also in our world.

About the author:
Dr. Larry Osborne has served as a senior pastor and teaching pastor at North Coast Church—one of the ten most influential churches in the country—since 1980. Dr. Osborne is the author of numerous books, including Accidental Pharisees. He and his wife live in Oceanside, California. They have three grown children.

Margie’s Comments: Thriving in Babylon by Dr. Larry Osborne is one the best books I’ve read about living successfully in an increasingly pagan world. Not a book to read in a hurry, I had to pace my reading in order to absorb the truths Dr. Osborne teaches from the story of Daniel. One of the main things we learn from Daniel is the importance of our choices, even to those that might seem insignificant at the time. By laying a foundation of godly choices based on the truths of God’s Word, we are assured a life that will gain in significance and influence. But we might never know the extent of that influence until we are in eternity with the Lord.
                  The story of Daniel has always been fascinating to me. He and his friends withstood many obstacles in their exile, but because of their unwavering faith in God they earned the respect of the Babylonian and Persian kings they served. Dr. Osborne does a great job of applying the circumstances of Daniel’s life to the world we live in today—something I really appreciate. Over and over, the author emphasizes the importance of obedience to God’s principles as the building blocks of life. When we make good choices in seemingly insignificant areas, the challenges and tests get increasingly harder. Still, once the pattern of right living is established, even though the temptation is stronger to walk away, the pattern of obedience should be so ingrained in us there is no other option.
                  If you struggle with the increasingly pagan society we live in, I’d encourage you to get a copy of Thriving in Babylon and to read it, prayerfully and thoughtfully. 

*I received a copy of the book from the publisher through LitFuse Publicity in exchange for a review.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Shadows of Ladenbrooke Manor by Melanie Dobson

About the Book:
Shadows of Ladenbrooke Manor (Howard, June 2015)

When Heather Toulson returns to her parents’ cottage in the English countryside, she uncovers long-hidden secrets about her family history and stumbles onto the truth about a sixty-year-old murder.

Libby, a free spirit who can’t be tamed by her parents, finds solace with her neighbor Oliver, the son of Lord Croft of Ladenbrooke Manor. Libby finds herself pregnant and alone when her father kicks her out and Oliver mysteriously drowns in a nearby river. Though theories spread across the English countryside, no one is ever held responsible for Oliver’s death.

Sixty years later, Heather Toulson, returning to her family’s cottage in the shadows of Ladenbrooke Manor, is filled with mixed emotions. She’s mourning her father’s passing but can’t let go of the anger and resentment over their strained relationship. Adding to her confusion, Heather has an uneasy reunion with her first love, all while sorting through her family’s belongings left behind in the cottage. What she uncovers will change everything she thought she knew about her family’s history.

Award-winning author Melanie Dobson seamlessly weaves the past and present together, fluidly unraveling the decades-old mystery and reveals how the characters are connected in shocking ways.

Set in a charming world of thatched cottages, lush gardens, and lovely summer evenings, this romantic and historical mystery brings to light the secrets and heartaches that have divided a family for generations.

Learn moreand purchase a copy.

About the Author:
Melanie Dobson is the award-winning author of thirteen historical romance, suspense, and contemporary novels. Two of her novels won Carol Awards in 2011, and "Love Finds You in Liberty, Indiana" won Best Novel of Indiana in 2010. Melanie lives with her husband Jon and two daughters near Portland, Oregon.

Visit her here

Margie’s Comments: I love books that are both historical and contemporary, tying together events in the past and how they affect the future. Melanie Dobson does this well in Shadows of Ladenbrooke Manor. John Donne’s poem “No Man Is an Island” came to mind frequently while I read Libby’s story as her sibling, Heather, discovered it when she went to clean out her parents’ home in England. The story, for the most part, flowed smoothly. There were a couple of places where I felt it dragged a little, especially in the beginning historical sections. The characters are well-defined, making it easy to follow their “stories.” Overall, Shadows of Ladenbrooke Manor is a satisfying read, one I can highly recommend. 

Note: The publisher and Litfuse Publicity furnished me with an Advance Reader's Copy of the book in exchange for a review. 

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Jack Staples and the RIng of Time by Mark Batterson and Joel Clark

This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

Jack Staples and the Ring of Time

David C. Cook (September 1, 2014)


Mark Batterson and Joel Clark


Mark Batterson serves as lead pastor of National Community Church ( in Washington, DC.  One church with seven locations.  NCC is focused on reaching emerging generations and meets in theaters throughout the DC metro area.  NCC also owns and operates the largest coffeehouse on Capitol Hill.  Mark holds a Doctor of Ministry degree from Regent University and is the New York Times bestselling author of 11 books, including The Circle Maker, In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day, Wild Goose Chase and the two most recent, The Grave Robber and Jack Staples and the Ring of Time.  Mark is married to Lora and they live on Capitol Hill with their three children: Parker, Summer, and Josiah.


Eleven-year-old Jack's ordinary life is upended when mysterious creatures attack his hometown and he is whisked into a fantastical adventure filled with danger at every turn.

Jack learns that most live in a shadow of the world, their vision blinded by invisible scales that have covered human eyes since the beginning of time. But the Awakened experience the world as it truly is, where war rages between good and evil—and Jack is at the heart of it. The Awakened are searching for The Child of Prophesy who will both save the world and destroy it. When Jack joins in their epic battle he must learn to trust his friends and face his fears if he is to make his life count.

If you'd like to read the first chapter of Jack Staples and the Ring of Time, go HERE.

Margie's Comments: I love fantasy, and some of the best fantasy I've read are written for children and teens. Jack Staples and the Ring of Time is one of those "best" books. Facing fear isn't easy, even for adults. Jack learns some valuable lessons when his "ordinary" life goes completely haywire! I love the characters and the story. The only drawback was when the story jumped back or forward in time. I had a little difficulty keeping up at those times. However, when I did finally get things straightened out, I enjoyed the read. 

Monday, July 13, 2015

A Picture Perfect Love by Melissa McClone

 About the Book:
Picture Perfect Love (Zondervan, May 2015)

When image becomes everything, it’s up to love to refocus the heart.

Photographer Jenna Harrison wants every bride and groom to look picture perfect on their special day, putting her heart into every wedding to give the couple memorable images of their love. But her own heart is still broken, the unworn wedding dress hanging in her closet a reminder that relationships aren’t always as perfect as they look through her camera lens. But Jenna has faith that she will find true love. Until then, she must be patient and trust in God’s plan and His perfect timing.

Attorney Ashton Vance is the one that got away. When an embarrassing Photoshopped picture put an end to his political aspirations, he blamed Jenna. So what if the photo led to his being offered a dream job and changing his life for the better? Jenna betrayed his trust, and two years later, Ashton’s heart still hasn’t recovered.

It was me. His younger sister’s three words turn Ashton’s world upside down. He must ask Jenna’s forgiveness, but can he risk his heart a second time? Even if Jenna can forgive him, dare he hope for a second chance at her love?

About the Author:
Melissa McClone has published more than thirty novels with Harlequin and Tule Publishing Group. She has also been nominated for Romance Writers of America’s RITA® award. She lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband, three school-aged children, two spoiled Norwegian Elkhounds and cats who think they rule the house.

Find Melissa online: website, Facebook, Twitter  

Margie’s Comments: I read Melissa McClone’s Picture Perfect Love last week, on my way home from vacation. Part of HarperCollins’ Christian A Year of Weddings novellas, I found it a delightful read! The characters were believable and fun, and I was drawn into their lives so that my heart ached with theirs when dealing with issues of betrayal and forgiveness. For the most part, the story moved quickly and was well developed. For a quick summer read, the length was perfect. Picture Perfect Love is the first book by Melissa McClone that I have read, but it won’t be the last.

Monday, June 22, 2015

A More Christlike God by Bradley Jersak

About the book:
A More Christlike God (April 2015)

What is God like? A punishing judge? A doting grandfather? A deadbeat dad? A vengeful warrior?

Believers and atheists alike typically carry and finally reject the toxic images of God in their own hearts and minds. Even the Christian gospel has repeatedly lapsed into a vision of God where the wrathful King must be appeased by his victim Son. How do such good cop/bad cop distortions of the divine arise and come to dominate churches and cultures?

Whether our notions of 'god' are personal projections or inherited traditions, author and theologian Brad Jersak proposes a radical reassessment, arguing for A More Christlike God: a More Beautiful Gospel. If Christ is "the image of the invisible God, the radiance of God's glory and exact representation of God's likeness," what if we conceived of God as completely Christlike---the perfect Incarnation of self-giving, radically forgiving, co-suffering love? What if God has always been and forever will be cruciform (cross-shaped) in his character and actions?

A More Christlike God suggests that such a God would be very good news indeed---a God who Jesus "unwrathed" from dead religion, a Love that is always toward us, and a Grace that pours into this suffering world through willing, human partners.

Purchase a copy:

About the author:

Brad Jersak (PhD) is an author and teacher based in Abbotsford, BC. He is on faculty at Westminster Theological Centre (Cheltenham, UK), where he teaches New Testament and Patristics. He also serves as adjunct faculty with St Stephen's University (St. Stephen, NB). He is also the senior editor of CWR (Christianity Without the Religion) Magazine, based in Pasadena, CA.

Find Brad online: website, Facebook, Twitter

Margie’s Comments: I wasn’t sure what to expect when I started reading A More Christlike God by Bradley Jersak, but as I read and processed what I was reading—this is not a “quick-read”—three scriptures came to mind:

[Christ] is the exact likeness of the unseen God [the visible representation of the invisible]. Colossians 1:15 amp

[Christ] is the sole expression of the glory of God [the Light-being, the out-raying or radiance of the divine], and He is the perfect imprint and very image of [God’s] nature. Hebrews 1:3 amp

 For God so greatly loved and dearly prized the world that He [even] gave up His only begotten (unique) Son, so that whoever believes in (trusts in, clings to, relies on) Him shall not perish (come to destruction, be lost) but have eternal (everlasting) life. John 3:16 amp

The author begins the book by revealing some of the false images of God mankind has created. Then the discussion moves on to how Jesus is the exact image of God. He is the flesh that allows us to “see” God. Finally the images of a judgmental, even cruel, God that many of us have formed from the Old Testament are held up to the light of Jesus Christ’s character and shown to be false or, at least, misinterpretations of a whole.

While many of the conclusions Jersak comes to are mine as well, it was interesting to ponder the different means God uses to teach us more of Him, to give us a complete picture rather than a distortion based on too few facts. To understand more of why Bradley Jersak wrote A More Christlike God, read this interview that Litfuse did with the author:

When I finished reading the book, I came away with a sense of awe and a renewed belief in God’s love, mercy, and grace as revealed in His Son, Jesus Christ. I know that these truths about God will remain with me for a very long time. Of course, no one will ever fully comprehend the enormity of God’s love in our short lifetimes, but then we will have all of eternity to rejoice in Him.

Friday, April 24, 2015

A Sparrow in Terezin by Kristy Cambron

About the author:

Kristy Cambron has been fascinated with the WWII era since hearing her grandfather's stories of the war. She holds an art history degree from Indiana University and received the Outstanding Art History Student Award. Kristy writes WWII and Regency era fiction and has placed first in the 2013 NTRWA Great Expectations and 2012 FCRW Beacon contests, and is a 2013 Laurie finalist. Kristy makes her home in Indiana with her husband and three football-loving sons.

Find Kristy online: website, Facebook, Twitter

About the book:
A Sparrow in Terezin (Thomas Nelson, April 2015)

Bound together across time, two women will discover a powerful connection through one survivor's story of hope in the darkest days of a war-torn world.

Present Day---With the grand opening of her new art gallery and a fairytale wedding just around the corner, Sera James feels she's stumbled into a charmed life---until a brutal legal battle against fiancé William Hanover threatens to destroy the perfectly planned future she's planned before it even begins. Now, after an eleventh-hour wedding ceremony and a callous arrest, William faces a decade in prison for a crime he never committed, and Sera must battle the scathing accusations that threaten her family and any hope for a future.

1942---Kája Makovsky narrowly escaped occupied Prague in 1939, and was forced to leave her half-Jewish family behind. Now a reporter for the Daily Telegraph in England, Kája discovers the terror has followed her across the Channel in the shadowy form of the London Blitz. When she learns Jews are being exterminated by the thousands on the continent, Kája has no choice but to return to her mother city, risking her life to smuggle her family to freedom and peace.

Connecting across a century through one little girl, a Holocaust survivor with a foot in each world, these two women will discover a kinship that springs even in the darkest of times. In this tale of hope and survival, Sera and Kája must cling to the faith that sustains and fight to protect all they hold dear---even if it means placing their own futures on the line.

Purchase a copy:

Margie's Comments: Kristy Cambron's A Sparrow in Terezin is the second book in her debut series, Hidden Masterpieces. I haven't read the first book, but I didn't find that an issue as I started to read this one for review. (But I will go back and read The Butterfly and the Violin now.) I certainly do understand the hype about the author's excellent debut novel and the corresponding publicity and excellent reviews this second book is now getting. Cambron's characters are well rounded, likeable, and immediately put into situations that evoked my sympathy right from the start. The book jumps from early World War II Poland to contemporary California, but the similarities of the battles Sera and Kaja face in fighting for their families bind them together. The theme of faith and hope and love is strong in both story lines, and I love the way the story jumps from the present time to the historical and back again. Cambron shows excellent facility in handling this type of novel and brings off a great and satisfying story. I loved this book, and I highly recommend it. I look forward to reading more books by this author.
(I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for a review.)