Monday, September 21, 2015

The Finishing School by Valerie Woerner

About the book:
The Finishing School: How One Book Nerd Began Living What She Learned (Nyree Press, August 2015)

Are you tired of waiting for change to happen in your life? Do you feel stuck, even though you want to live more intentionally?

In today’s world, our most precious pursuit of a life well lived gets squeezed out by the silliest of things: binging on Netflix or ice cream, shopping trips for things we don’t need, bad habits we can’t seem to get a handle on, and so much more. Valerie has been there despite knowing what she wanted for her life. Actually do it? That’s the challenge.
After gobbling up all the non-fiction and self-help books her donut-filled belly could handle, she decided it was time to put her knowledge to good use and start actually living it out. You will hear about her journey through victories and plenty of failures and find practical tips to apply to your own pursuit of holiness. You will find homework at the end of each chapter that includes a worksheet to put real change in motion for your own life as well as recommended books to further study those topics that really test you.

About the Author:
Valerie Woerner is passionate about inspiring women to live a life of peace and joy. She is owner of Val Mari Paper and design prayer journals and other products inspired by her own desire to connect with God in a real way in everyday life. She was born and raised in Lafayette, Louisiana, and resides in a sweet, simple bungalow with husband Tyler and daughter Vivi Mae.

Margie’s Comments: I am very impressed with Valerie Woerner’s The Finishing School. Based on the concept of young ladies being sent to finishing school to refine their social skills, Valerie has come up with a “program” of learning about and seeking refinement in our spiritual lives. After a chapter of introduction, she begins the study by focusing on the foundation of our relationship with the Lord: prayer and Bible study.

At the end of each chapter, she has a section entitled “Homework.” Here, she sends you either to the workbook that accompanies this book —you can order from her online shop (—or to her website to download the chapter worksheet. She also lists resources to read for more information. Also in her shop are journals of all kinds, for both men and women, if you like having everything together in one place.  

She suggests at least three ways to read The Finishing School, tailored to each person’s learning strengths and abilities, knowing that some topics may come easier to some than for others. After discussing prayer and Bible study, the author also covers other topics, such as setting goals, dealing with distractions, learning self-control, and many more. Each chapter is short, easily read in just a few minutes, but depending on your desire for gaining victory in each area, she suggests you take as much time as you need in digging deeper into each topic. Her southern way of talking adds to the easy conversational style, making you feel like you’re sitting in her living room having a nice chat over tea or coffee.

The Finishing School is a great individual study or small group study, one that I highly recommend for anyone who is seeking a deeper, more intimate relationship with the Lord. I especially like the chapters on living more simply, setting boundaries, and getting enough rest, living within margins. I plan to re-read the book at a slower pace, so that I can work through each chapter to gain as many benefits as possible from this study. 

(I received a copy of The Finishing School from the author and LitFuse Publicity in exchange for an honest review.)

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Until My Name Is Known by Sonya Contreras

About the book:
Until My Name Is Known (Bull Head Press, July 2015)

The Exodus of the Jews from Egypt is a love story between God and His people. God woos His people to Himself as He prepares them to leave. Before leaving, God must fight Pharaoh for possession of His people. See how God changes all people: some for the better, others not. None stay the same. How will He change you? Can you trust a God who destroyed a nation before your eyes? Would you want Him as your Friend?

See God free His people from Egypt’s bonds before a watching world. Trace His finger in the lives He touches. The time: 2450 BC. The Place: Old Kingdom of Egypt where Pharaoh is god. His people worship him. Israel’s God arrives. He challenges Pharaoh. His power touches all people. They must change. Some do not concede. They suffer. Others yield. They find freedom.

Until My Name Is Known brings all to see the one true God. Read it to see Him. Today’s historians and archaeologists puzzle over the fall of the Old Kingdom of Egypt, but the world at that time heard of God. The world knew that He is the Lord. His Name was proclaimed in all the earth.

Learn more and purchase a copy.

About the author:
Growing up with five sisters, Sonya Contreras asked God many questions, even when she did not like His answers. Graduating from Cedarville University and Institute for Creation Research with a Masters Degree in Science Education did not stop her questions. Marrying her best friend and homeschooling their eight sons, she found that dreams do come true, in spite of unanswered questions. Trusting God, who knows all answers, she shares questions that matter weekly at

Find Sonya online: website, Twitter

Margie’s Comments: 
Until My Name Is Known by Sonya Contreras is a well-researched biblical fiction, retelling the story of Moses’s call to set God’s people free from slavery in Egypt. The events of this first book in a series covers the burning bush through the crossing of the Red Sea and the Egyptian nation’s destruction when the water closed over the army following the Israelites. While the story is historically accurate, I had trouble getting into it because of the author’s lack of sentence structure variation, which is an indication of telling rather than showing. Also, several times through the book, I questioned the choice of POV character. For example, instead of experiencing the burning bush through Moses’s eyes and ears, we read of it after the fact through Zipporah’s extreme bias against her husband’s God. Instead of making the characters come alive and be “real,” these POV choices in most cases made them wooden and static. Finally, as a Christian and a strong proponent of God’s Word and its importance in the life of the believer, I like to see a strong spiritual thread in fiction. But it needs to be such an integral part of the story that it flows naturally out of the characters themselves. I don’t need to be hit over the head with the “theme” over and over again. In Until My Name Is Known, the theme of God's name being known throughout the world is inherent in the biblical story and in Moses's life, so having it spelled out for the reader, even to the very end, is redundant and frankly insults the reader's intelligence. As a freelance editor who has worked for several traditional CBA publishers, i couldn't help noticing several technical issues with the typesetting, mostly with word breaks and capitalization choices that could easily have been avoided by checking with the industry-standard dictionary and style manuals. However, once I acknowledged these deterrents to reading the story for enjoyment, I was able to skim through the book, appreciating the author's research and how she wove it into a fictional account that is accurate to the Scripture and the time in history. 

Monday, August 31, 2015

The Reckoning by MaryLu Tyndall

 About the book:
When Morgan Shaw crept into the hold of an old pirate ship replica at San Diego’s Annual Tall Ship Festival, her only intention was to avoid the guy who had just dumped her and who was now boarding the ship with two women on his arm. What she didn’t expect was to wake up aboard a real pirate ship three-hundred years in the past. But of course, it wasn’t real. Her wealthy father had obviously staged it all in an effort to get her mind off her upcoming chemo. Or had he?

Pirate Rowan Dutton seeks enough treasure to repay a debt to his sister and reinstate the Dutton name among British Jamaican Society. He is but one major haul away from accomplishing his goal when a strange woman appears on his ship and causes him to lose his prey. Despite his anger, he is enthralled with the little minx, her strange clothing, odd speech, and her insistence that they are all actors playing a charade paid for by her father.

Yet when the brazen little lady divulges Rowan’s secret to a longtime nemesis, events are triggered that could cost them both their lives and change the course of history forever.

 About the author:
Award winning and best-selling author, MaryLu Tyndall dreamt of pirates and sea-faring adventures during her childhood days on Florida's Coast. After obtaining a degree in Math and working as software engineer for 15 years, she decided to test the waters as a writer. With now more than seventeen books published, she makes no excuses for the deeply spiritual themes embedded within her romantic adventures. As a follower of Christ, her stories often reflect her own journey and walk with God. Her hope is that readers will not only be entertained but will be brought closer to the Creator who loves them beyond measure. In a culture that accepts the occult, wizards, zombies, and vampires without batting an eye, MaryLu hopes to show the awesome present and powerful acts of God in a dying world. MaryLu makes her home with her husband, six children, two grandkids, and three cats on the California coast, where her imagination still surges with the sea.

Margie’s Comments: I've read many of MaryLu Tyndall's books over the years, ever since I reviewed for an agent a manuscript she had sent in. Even then, when I saw that her male hero was a pirate, I wondered how the author could pull it off in Christian fiction. But she did! And she is still doing it ten years later. The Reckoning is the best yet. I love the added twist of the time travel which leads to many humorous scenes between the heroine and the pirate captain. Time travel done well results in a satisfying ending that makes sense, and, without giving anything away, the author did a superb job. One other item I look for in Christian fiction is the spiritual thread and how it is handled throughout the story. Again, MaryLu does not disappoint. Without beating the reader over the head with spiritual truths, she makes it an integral part of the characters so that coming to faith and/or renewing faith in a God that seemingly disappoints and doesn't care is a satisfying journey in itself. I highly recommend this book to all readers of historical romance.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Glory Days by Max Lucado

About the book:
Glory Days (Thomas Nelson, September 2015)

The wilderness. Maybe you know it well.

The Israelites sure did. After all, they spent forty years wandering the desert. Victories were scarce. Progress was slow. They were free from Pharaoh but not free from fear. Saved but stuck.

Sounds a lot like midlife misery. Caught in a rut. Stalled out. Running on empty. Are you mired in the same?

You can name the day you became a Christian and escaped Egypt. But you can't remember the last time you defeated a temptation or experienced an answered prayer. You're fighting the same battles you fought the day you came to Christ. You're out of Egypt, but Egypt's not out of you.

Isn't the Christian life supposed to be better than this?

Jesus offers abundant joy. Yet you live with oppressive grief. The epistles speak of grace. You shoulder guilt. You are more than a conqueror yet are commonly conquered by temptation or weaknesses.

But there's good news. With God's help you can close the gap between the person you are and the person you want to be. Like Joshua and the Israelites, you can move from a wilderness existence into a promised inheritance.

This is God's vision for your life. You, at full throttle. You, as you were intended. You, as victor over the Jerichos and giants. You, minus the stumbles, hurts, and hate.

You and your Promised Land life.

Purchase a copy:

About the author:
More than 120 million readers have found comfort in the writings of Max Lucado. He ministers at the Oak Hills Church in San Antonio, Texas, where he lives with his wife, Denalyn, and a sweet but misbehaving mutt, Andy.

Find Max online: website, Facebook, Twitter

Margie’s Comments: In Glory Days, Max Lucado takes us through a study of Joshua as he led the Hebrew nation into their Promised Land. The author contends that believers are all called into their personal promised lands, and he discusses the principles of faith and obedience exhibited by Joshua and the Hebrews that enabled them to embrace all that God was giving them. As I read this book for review, I realized once again that God’s timing is perfect. The study of the book of Joshua is exactly what I needed right now. The author’s emphasis on the importance of the Word and the character of God and God’s desire that we each claim the inheritance He has given us through Jesus Christ in salvation are reminders of how I am to live each day. Glory Days is a book that I will read more than once in order to absorb the biblical principles the author emphasizes. I want to live each day to the fullest, knowing that no matter what circumstances and trials I may face, these are truly God’s Glory Days here on earth.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Grin with Grace by Kathy Carlton Willis

About the Book:
Have you ever felt the need to bite your tongue or grit your teeth? Grin with Grace explores ways to genuinely smile in the face of adversity and challenging circumstances. Sometimes, we just need to grin with grace! God blesses us with His grace, and it impacts our relationship with Him and with others.
 Each chapter features five sections:
• Grin with Grace contains real-life stories and observations. You’ll laugh at the humorous confessions and wacky insights, and relate to Kathy’s transparent honesty. Be inspired to see grace in your everyday life.
• Grow with Grace features a grace word study. Kathy examines Bible verses and personalizes the meaning to your situation. Workbook prompts allows you to write down your thoughts as you read along.
• Go with Grace offers life application. Pick one action step and make it work for you, or pick all of them—but do something to live out your grace-walk.
• Give with Grace advances life application further, equipping you to become an instrument of God’s grace to others. You’ll be inspired to take what you’ve learned and give it away to others. This is when faith becomes ministry—when your focus expands to see the needs of others.
• Your Grin with Grace Challenge describes a grace-challenging scenario to give you an opportunity to exercise your newfound grace. It allows for speculation and judgment calls, to prepare you for the what-ifs that happen in life.

About the Author:
Kathy Carlton Willis writes and speaks with a balance of funny and faith—whimsy and wisdom. Not many funny girls also have Bible degrees! Kathy is a pastor’s wife, which gives her plenty of opportunities to grin with grace. She shines the light on issues that hold women back and inspires their own lightbulb moments. Almost a thousand of Kathy’s articles have been published in books, magazines, newspapers, and online publications.

She’s affiliated with several Christian writer and speaker organizations and serves as a consultant in the industry. Kathy’s tagline describes her best: Light and Lively: His Reflection/Her Laughter. Learn more at:

Margie’s Comments:
When I received the opportunity to post a review** of Grin with Grace by Kathy Carlton Willis, I accepted because the topic of grace is one that is dear to me. As I learned over twenty years ago in Christian counseling for clinical depression, not only have I been saved by grace, I have also been called to live in grace.

Kathy has written Grin with Grace for individual topical Bible study, but as a Bible study leader, I’m excited about recommending this for any group Bible study. (Grin with Grace DVDs will be available for personal or group use in a few weeks.) There are twelve chapters, perfect for a 12-week study. But Kathy includes a seven-week schedule that can be modified to fit your group. There’s a Study Guide at the back of the book that gives leaders suggestions in guiding a group discussion each week.

Kathy’s conversational style makes it easy to identify with her stories of learning to Grin with Grace and to clearly see what Scripture has to say on each week’s topic. The chapters deal with various aspects of living in grace. My favorites are “The Sufficiency of Grace,” “The Freedom of Grace,” and “The Strength of Grace.”

Now that I’ve read the book, I plan to go back through it at a much slower pace, filling in answers to questions and challenges throughout the study. I look forward to sharing this study with others, and finding new Grace-Gal Pals. (I already have several, but there’s always room for more!)

**I received a free copy of Grin with Grace from the author in exchange for a review.

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.