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Monday, November 23, 2015

BOOK REVIEW: A Walk in the Woods

A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail, by Bill Bryson, taps into something that probably lurks deep in the hearts of most people. At some level, there is, I believe, something in each of us that wants to walk away from the crazy cacophony of life for awhile and connect with the simplicity of nature. Bryson did just that, and because of the adventures he records we are able to connect as well.

This book combines detailed information on each section of the Appalachian Trail, such as plant and animal life, historical background, and interesting anecdotes, with Bryson's personal experiences while hiking it. His overweight friend and co-hiker, Stephen Katz, offers comic relief as he struggles to keep up. Together the two of them meet some remarkable characters; in fact, one is so remarkable they may or may not have ditched her along the way. The constant threat of a bear attack lends background suspense. And although Bryson does not hike the trail through from one end to the other, he samples enough of it to give readers a thorough overview. 

Bryson's dry humor had me chuckling many times. His quirky perspective on the adventures he encountered on the AT was refreshing, and it made the wilderness come alive. If you've ever wanted to get out in the open and away from it all but can't quite quit your job and leave your living room, you will enjoy A Walk in the Woods

For more on the book, go here. I received this book for free from Waterbrook Multnomah Publishers in exchange for a fair review. 

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

BOOK REVIEW: God and Churchill

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Having recently homeschool-journeyed through World War 2 with my preteen, this book was a perfectly timed read. I have always been struck by Winston Churchill's strength, as evidenced in his courageous leadership during the war, and welcomed the chance to get to know him better through this book. "God and Churchill: How the Great Leader's Sense of Divine Destiny Changed His Troubled World and Offers Hope for Ours," by Jonathan Sandys (the great leader's great-grandson) and Wallace Henley, was not what I expected...but it was a valuable book nonetheless, and I do understand his life more for having read it.

Two caveats. First, I did not find detailed information about God and Churchill, in the sense I expected from the title. Coming from an evangelical point of view, I thought I'd hear more testimonial about his Christian life, faith struggles, prayers for others, etc. What I found, rather, were the author's assurances that God was foremost in Churchill's life and in the background of all his decisions, quietly and stolidly--and quotes from Churchill to that evidence. Second, I also didn't find detailed accounts of battle strategies, pivotal political decisions, or even life events after he came to the office of Prime Minister. This book is not a biography, per se.

This book reviews Churchill's early life and how he came to the position of Prime Minister. It then contrasts, in detail, his worldview with that of Adolf Hitler's, highlighting Churchill's reasons for stepping up to the fight against the Nazis and never backing down. The final section of the book examines how Churchill "kept calm and carried on" to victory--again, not with detailed accounts of events, but rather by describing the personality qualities he possessed. It concludes with what we need in this day and age to do the same, against perhaps even more formidable foes.

I found most amazing about Churchill's life the fact that he had prophetic understanding, from a young age, that he was destined to save Britain from a terrible enemy. He also knew that God would be his help, and that assurance never seemed to flicker even through the darkest times. He was stalwart and steady, and I admire him more for having read about him in this book.

For more information, go here.

I received this book free of charge from Tyndale Publishers in exchange for an impartial review.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

BOOK REVIEW: Luther and Katharina

"Luther and Katharina," by Jody Hedlund, was not what I expected. I don't care for sappy Christian romances that are predictable in their tension and resolution, and I was a little hesitant to read this book, thinking that might be what I found between these pages. Not so!  This is a delightful book, historically accurate and detailing the unlikely love between Martin Luther and Katharina von Bora.

The famous leader of the Protestant Reformation and a nun on the run from an abusive convent abbot should never have met, let alone fallen in love and married. However, God showed each of them necessary truths about their faith that led to a permanent relationship---despite multiple obstacles and near-death experiences.

Most surprising to me in this book were the accounts of horrific violence by Catholic leadership against those who did not agree with them--and vice versa. Although I am familiar with the "big picture" events of this time period, I had never before known the details of the depravity involved on both sides.

If you enjoy historical fiction, you will enjoy this account of a nonfiction couple. It is not only wonderful enrichment reading for anyone interested in the is also a beautiful love story!

For more on Jody Hedlund and this book, go here,

I received this book for free from Waterbrook Multnomah Publishers in exchange for a fair review.

Thursday, August 27, 2015


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Old-time evangelist Billy Sunday used to say, based on Hebrews 7:25, that God could save "to the guttermost"--meaning that no matter how deeply entrenched in sin you are, Jesus can and will meet you there and save you. Dimas Salaberrios, in his book, Street God, tells us how Jesus did that for him.

A major drug dealer on the streets of New York while still a teenager, Salaberrios envisioned a future as a "street god"--a player so powerful and unrivaled that he would get all the glory. However, after several stints in jail (including the infamous Rikers Island), he lost some of his traction and began using the drugs he sold. One night, during a frightening descent into drug-induced madness, three elderly women prayed over his soul for three hours; prayers that resulted in deliverance from demonic possession and unto salvation.

Now pastor of Infinity Bible Church in New York, Salaberrios now goes after drug dealers and users to win them to Jesus. Desiring now that God get all the glory in his life, he lives as a surrendered servant to the very community he used to rule in intimidation and violence.

I got chills reading about Salaberrios' deliverance and his immediate, on-fire, Spirit-filling for the kingdom of God. To see God's true purposes in his life as he grew in his knowledge of the Bible and searched for a church home was exciting.

If you would like to learn more about this book, go here. Visit Salaberrios' site here.

I received this book for free in exchange for an unbiased review.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

BOOK REVIEW: 'Til We Meet Again

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What a beautiful love story!

Set against the backdrop of European combat during World War II, this simple but riveting account of Ray and Betty Whipps' life stories is precious. Unexpectedly finding himself on the ground with the U.S. Army instead of in the air with the Navy Air Corps, Ray meets Betty--who had unexpectedly found herself an Army nurse instead of a Navy one--during a 30 day stay in the hospital for a combat injury. Their nearly instant attraction to each other became a proposal of marriage before Ray headed back to the battlefield...where he was promptly captured by the Germans. Thank goodness we know from the outset that this couple has now been married for nearly 70 years!

I enjoyed most about this book the reminder that truly, though man plans in his heart, the Lord directs his steps. Both Ray and Betty had plans for their lives that the Lord changed, much to their initial disappointment. After finding each other, both realized that had He not interrupted their ideas of what was best, they would never have experienced what He had to give them, which was ultimately so much better.

I was inspired by the faith of these young people, holding onto their faith through the incredible proving ground of a world war. Neither wavered; both prayed.

If you are looking for a sweet, page-turning love story, this is it!

I received this book for free from Tyndale Publishers in exchange for a fair review.

If you'd like to know more about the book and see an interview clip of Ray and Betty, go here.

Monday, August 17, 2015

BOOK REVIEW: Called For Life

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We all watched the headlines as the Ebola epidemic hit West Africa last year. For the first time, we had an Ebola patient leave Africa and step out of an ambulance onto American soil: one of our own. The now-iconic photo of the man in the protective suit is of Dr. Kent Brantly, medical missionary to Liberia. In "Called for Life," Dr. Brantly describes his experience as a victim of the deadly virus.

Dr Brantly and his wife Amber, a nurse, moved to Liberia in 2012 with their children to serve God as medical missionaries with Samaritan's Purse. Loving the people and serving them as best possible given limited medical supplies and equipment, they were front and center when the worst outbreak of Ebola hit in the summer of 2014. Serving in a supportive role alongside her husband and the rest of the team, Amber and flew back to the United States, with the kids, for a planned vacation just three days before Kent woke feeling "just not right."

When Kent's positive Ebola result came a few days later, he faced it with courage and steadiness. Even at his sickest, he did not question God but, rather, leaned on the prayers of family and friends. His teammates at the Liberian hospital took care of him while the decision was made to not only use an experimental medication on him (one never used on humans), but also to fly him back to the United States for treatment.

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If you followed the headlines, you know that Dr Brantly survived the Ebola virus. This book, however, tells you what it was like to suffer from the disease as family, friends and the world watched.

I enjoyed reading the book because, like most of us, I was curious about what it was like to have gone through this virus. It truly is a terrible disease, yet hopefully, because of Kent's positive reaction to the experimental medication--and the likewise positive reaction of Nancy Writebol, Kent's coworker and fellow Ebola patient in the hospital in Atlanta--progress will be made so that people can be protected from its high fatality rate. Dr. Brantly tells his story with the professionalism of a medical doctor yet tempered by the very real human viewpoint of a husband, father and friend.

I was particularly struck by the commitment of his coworkers in Liberia and the medical team at Emory University, caring respectfully and compassionately for him despite the very real possibility that they too could become infected.

I received this book free of charge in exchange for an impartial review. If you would like more information about the Brantlys and "Called for Life," go here.

Friday, July 17, 2015

BOOK REVIEW: Drawing Fire

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I really enjoy getting in on the ground level of a new book series, and this one is no exception. Drawing Fire, by Janice Cantore, is the first in the "Cold Case Justice" series. Cantore, herself a 22-year law enforcement veteran, knows how to create an absolutely compelling landscape of characters and plot lines.

As a child, Abby Hart lost her parents in a fire that claimed not only their lives but the restaurant they owned. Devoting her life to police work in the secret hope that someday she will be able to find her parents' killer, Abby has distinguished herself as an investigator. When her life collides with that of Luke Murphy, a private investigator, the sparks fly...and the cold case of her parents' murders re-ignites.

This is not a predictable detective drama. You won't be able to figure out whodunit, and the plot will keep you guessing most of the way through the book. Cantore does a great job creating believable, complex characters who interact in a way that brings them off the pages and into your living room. In fact, you may not want to leave your living room (or wherever you most love to read a book) until you've turned the last page. One thing that is easy to predict: you will love this book.

I received this book free of charge from Tyndale Publishers in exchange for an impartial review.

For more about Janice Cantore, go here.