Friday, October 5, 2012

‘New International Version Rock Solid Faith Study Bible for Teens’ – Book Review

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One of my favorite books to review is the Bible. The latest is the ‘New International Version Rock Solid Faith Study Bible for Teens.’  

Here is the synopsis of this (Holy) book:

Feeling uncertain about your life? The world? Your future? Looking for something secure to hold onto in turbulent and confusing times? Wanting to know more about God?
Address your questions and build a steadfast foundation for your faith with the NIV Rock Solid Faith Study Bible for Teens. Find traction for your beliefs and promises for your future. Discover constant and concrete truths rooted in the unchanging love and promises of God.

Features include:

·         Rock Solid TRUTHS: examine Christian beliefs and explorations of other religions
·         Rock Solid PRINCIPLES: applies the Bible to daily decisions and challenges
·         Rock Solid PROMISES: calls out what is (and is not) promised in the Bible
·         Rock Solid PLANS: explores God’s plan and will for your life
·         Unshaken PEOPLE: provides scriptural examples of overcoming difficulties
·         Unshaken GOD: points out God’s unyielding attributes

Reading plans, 8 pages of color maps, book introductions, and more!

I decided to focus on a favorite book of mine from the Old Testament and from the New Testament – Ecclesiastes and Romans. Here is the introduction to Ecclesiastes:

Ecclesiastes studies the meaning of life. The Teacher looks at wisdom, pleasure, work, power, riches, religion and other things. All of these have some value and are useful in the proper time and place, but they have lasting value only if God is at the center of a person’s life. Reverence and respect for God and a real devotion in serving God are the most important to make life meaningful. Without God, the Teacher says, “Everything is meaningless” (1:2) (p. 784)

Each book includes all of the ‘Rock Solid’ and ‘Unshaken’ components. In Ecclesiastes, in the ‘Unshaken GOD’ section is helpful for people of all ages:

God is satisfying.
Solomon would have fit well in our world. The richest guy of his day (1 Kings 3:13), this king of Israel wrote about nonstop pressure to get more. And you know how it goes. You buy something…anything…and before long you realize there is a must-have list of accessories, add-ons, and upgrades. That pressure to get more often comes from your surroundings, but much of it starts inside of you. Once you fall in love with money and material stuff, you won’t ever be satisfied with what you have. The problem isn’t owning or enjoying things, but is instead loving them more than people and God, the most important things ever.
So…How can you tell the difference between enjoying things … and loving them too much? (p. 789)

Very thought-provoking!

Here is the introduction to Romans:

This letter was written by Paul to the church in Rome in AD 56 or 57 as he was finishing his third missionary journey. Since Paul hoped to go to Jerusalem and then to Rome and Spain, he probably wrote this letter in preparation for his visit.
The theme of this letter is righteousness. Paul teaches in this letter that: (1) no human being is righteous; (2) Jesus Christ is perfectly righteous; (3) if we have faith in Jesus, we are freed from the power of sin, given a new life, and returned to a right relationship with God; (4) we should live Christian lives that are “holy and pleasing to God.” (p. 1331)

Under ‘Rock Solid PRINCIPLES,’ there is a good point that is made:

        Show respect.
Garrett thought his safety-freak shop teacher was as dumb as a stump, like the blocks of wood he and his classmates were crafting into little foot stools. Garrett had spent endless hours with his dad sawing and hammering to renovate their old house, and he still had all his fingers. Even though Garrett hadn’t used all the big machines in the school shop, he didn’t feel any need to listen during his teacher’s demonstrations. One day Garrett dropped a plank of wood on a table saw and shoved it toward the blade. An instant later the wood shot back like an overgrown spear, barely missing him before it cracked loudly into a wall.
You know it is right to submit to people in authority over you, from parents and police to teachers and bosses. That doesn’t make obedience easy. So remember it was God who created the chain of command and put people over you. You can count on them to help you, even if they don’t seem to deserve your respect. Every authority in your life “is God’s servant for your good” (Romans 13:4) (p. 1347)

Overall, I found this particular Bible to be terrific for teens – perhaps even for pre-teens. The version I reviewed is hardcover; it would make a great gift! And the NIV translation is reader-friendly, so it will be easy to digest for a young person. Overall, I give it a glowing recommendation!  

This book was published by Zondervan Publishers and provided by The B & B Media Group for review purposes.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

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Thomas Nelson Author and Hoops of Hope founder, Austin Gutwein, to host September 6 online event to focusing on themes his latest release, Live to Give. On September 6 at 8 PM EDT, Austin Gutwein will be hosting a live Facebook web event to encourage participants to conquer their fears and use their talents to help others. The webcast will center on the themes Gutwein writes about in his latest release “Live to Give: Letting God Turn Your Talents into Miracles(Thomas Nelson/August, 2012). At the conclusion of the webcast, the winners of a month-long social media fueled “Get and Give” contest will be announced, including the winner of a Kindle Fire and $250 donated to the winner’s charity of choice. Join Austin on the evening of Thursday, September 6th as he shares about his own experiences and encourages others to conquers their fears and “live to give”. Austin will also be taking audience questions and interacting with participants. PLUS – there will be several “Live to Give” giveaways – books, gift certificates and much more! RSVP today and tell your friends. Based on the John 6 story of Jesus feeding the 5000, in “Live to Give” Gutwein challenges his readers that regardless of age and talent, God can use them to make a difference. Even though God could take care of everything Himself and doesn’t really need our help, He desperately WANTS us to help Him care for others. Gutwein walks young people through discovering and embracing their unique God-given strengths and abilities, then figuring out how to use those talents to help others. Sometimes doing that takes a leap of faith on our part, and often becoming fearless in the process. More about Austin: At eighteen years old, Gutwein speaks with wisdom and has the experience to reinforce his message. When Austin was just nine years old, he watched a video that showed children in Africa who had lost their parents to AIDS. Gutwein realized these kids weren’t any different from him—except they were suffering. Feeling called to help, he took his love of basketball and decided to shoot free throws to raise money for orphans in Zambia. On World AIDS Day in 2004, he shot 2,057 free throws to represent the 2,057 kids who would be orphaned during his day at school. Through sponsorship from parents and friends, Gutwein raised over $3,000 that day to give hope to eight orphans in Zambia. Over the past eight years, Gutwein’s efforts have created Hoops of Hope, the largest free throw marathon in the world. With an estimated 40,000 people in more than 25 countries participating, Hoops of Hope has raised more than $2.5 million to build schools, medical clinics, dormitories for orphanages, and the only computer lab in Zambia. Enter to win a Kindle Fire and have $250 donated to your favorite charity. Click for the banner for details and entry or visit Learn more about Austin and Hoops of Hope at and

Friday, August 31, 2012

‘Mother of Pearl: Luminous Lessons and Iridescent Faith’ – compiled by Margaret McSweeney – Book Review

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One of my favorite places to visit when I am online is Margaret McSweeney’s Pearl Girls website. There is always something that inspires and encourages! So I was excited to join the blog tour for her latest compilation, ‘Mother of Pearl: Luminous Lessons and Iridescent Faith.’

Here is the synopsis of this inspiring book:

Like oysters, women often encounter unexpected grit during their everyday lives. In response, God’s love and grace covers this grit and transforms the pain into a precious pearl that leaves a layered, luminous lining within a shell: Mother of Pearl. This brilliant luster is strong, lasting, and purposeful – just like the love, lessons, and legacies left by the special women in our lives.
Mother of Pearl celebrates the collective iridescence of motherhood. Margaret McSweeney presents a collection of heartfelt vignettes from authors who communicate the importance of the unique relationships between mother and her children, between granddaughters and grandmothers and between children and the mother figures in their lives.
These stories tell of the power of faith, prayer, and values, exploring coming of age, the joy of becoming a mother, the importance of motherhood, the ways to heal from a bad relationship with a mother and weathering the death of a special loved one. Poignant and thought-provoking, the stories serve to inspire, encourage, instill hope, and strengthen faith.
The proceeds from the sale of Mother of Pearl will be donated to organizations helping struggling women and children. The charities include Wings (Women in Need Growing Stronger) to help fund the Safe House in the Chicago suburbs and to Hands of Hope to help build wells for schoolchildren in Zambia.

Here is the biography of this book’s editor:

Margaret McSweeney, a wife and mother, serves on the Leadership Advisory Board for Wings (Women in Need Growing Stronger). She is the author of A Mother’s Heart Knows and Aftermath: Finding Grace Through Grief and coauthor of Go Back and Be Happy; she also compiled the collection of essays Pearl Girls . Visit McSweeney online at

In ‘A Note from Margaret about Pearl Girls,’ Mrs. McSweeney explains the purpose of this book and her group:

This book is a compilation and celebration of women who were and are a mother of pearl. May the lustrous stories written by some of the your favorite authors bless you, strengthen you and remind you always of God’s iridescent grace.
The purpose of Pearl Girls is two-fold: 1) Connecting with each other online and in-person; and 2) Collaborating on projects for charity. Linked together as a community of women who share a love for God, the Pearl Girls reach out to help other women and children who are having a difficult time.

Two of my favorite Christian authors – Suzanne Woods Fisher and Tricia Goyer – contributed to this compilation. Suzanne’s entry is entitled ‘What is a 
Grandmother?’ It features her characteristic good humor. Here she is reflecting on the birth of her grandson, Blake:

I felt surprised, too. How could my baby possibly have had a baby? How could I be a grandmother? I had just turned fifty-one. Shockingly young! How could a kid like me give up playing tennis three times a week to settle into knitting and crocheting and Friday night bingo? And shouldn’t I alter my appearance to fit this new label? Give up my jeans? Switch over to below knee-length calico dresses, thick black socks, practical shoes, gray hair pinned in a topknot. Think…Aunt Bee on Mayberry R.F.D. (pp. 89-90)

Very cute! Grandmas don’t look like that anymore, do they?!

Tricia wrote about ‘Adoption: A Mother’s Greatest Gift:’

The sacrifice of adoption makes my heart ache, for I know on this Mother’s Day another woman will be thinking about my daughter – her daughter. As I rejoice, I’ll be crying tears for her. I’ll also be sending up prayers that God will wrap His arms around her in a special way.
This Mother’s Day, I cannot help but think about Christ’s sacrifice to make our adoption into God’s family possible. Maybe it’s because just a few weeks ago we were celebrating Easter, but I’m reminded anew that my gain required His loss, His pain. The greatest love, it seems, is not shown with flowers, chocolate or a diamond bracelet. The greatest love is shown when, because of your love for another, your desires and comforts are laid down for the greater good of someone else. (p. 92)

A mother/author with whom I was not familiar is Dawn Meehan. The title of her piece, ‘Having Patience with Pink-Dog Days’ caught my attention! She writes with fun and grace!:

With six kids, we’ve certainly had our share of adventures and mishaps. Sometimes it seems as if I’ve failed this whole parenting thing. I continuously teach them right from wrong and try to instill a good set of morals. I attempt to get them to thing before acting, and to make wise decisions. And yet, they continue to do things like paint the dog pink, shove candy up their noses, and jump off the garage roof. Sometimes I want to throw my hands up in the air and shout, “I give up!”
And then I think of our father, our heavenly father. How many times has He told us not to do something, only to watch us turn around and do it anyway? How many times has He instructed us on how we’re to behave, only to have us do the opposite of what He says? How many times has he forgiven us, only to have us immediately make the same mistake again? If I were God, I’d want to throw my hands up in the air and shout, “I give up!”
But thankfully, He doesn’t. He forgives endlessly. He teaches always. He’s there for us when we mess up time and time again. It somehow makes it a little easier to forgive, and it reminds me not to give up on this parenting thing. Although I’m pretty sure they’ll never learn how to replace the empty toilet paper roll. I’ve definitely given up there. (pp. 130-131)  

Margaret closes out her book appropriately, giving thanks to her Lord:

And thank you, Lord for your constant grace, love and patience. May this book be a blessing to others and may the stories strengthen and encourage their faith and draw them closer to You. Please be especially close to the women and children who are seeking safe shelter through Wings and clean water through Hands of Hope. Amen! (p. 155)

I really love this book! I was not familiar with the majority of the ladies who contributed to this compilation. It was nice to be introduced to these wonderful women of God! I love books which give me the opportunity to read a few of the entries before bedtime or when I have a spare few minutes. I thank Margaret for putting this amazing book together for her readers – with proceeds going to good causes!

This book was published by Inspiring Voices, a service of Guideposts, and provided by LitFuse Publicity Group for review purposes.

Monday, August 27, 2012

‘The Haven’ by Suzanne Woods Fisher – Book Review

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Anyone who has been reading my book reviews for any length of time knows that I have had a fascination with the Amish community since I was a young girl. Therefore, one of my favorite authors is Suzanne Woods Fisher, who specializes in writing about the Amish. I love her for her writing, but I also love her for the person that she is in the virtual world! I have never met her, but I hope to do so one day! Then my suspicions about her being a beautiful person will be confirmed!

‘The Haven’ is book 2 in her ‘Stoney Ridge Seasons’ series.

Here is the synopsis of this novel:

          Spring brings new life, young love. And second chances            to Stoney Ridge.
On a warm spring day, Sadie Lapp returns home to her quiet, unassertive life in Stoney Ridge after spending the winter in Ohio.
Gideon Smucker, an awkward schoolteacher has been in love with Sadie since childhood and eagerly awaits her return. But does Sadie feel the same about him?
Will Stolz, a charming and impetuous college student, has been banished for a semester and sent to babysit endangered peregrine falcons nesting at the Lapp farm. He’d rather be anywhere else…unless he befriends Sadie.
As the hopes and ambitions of these three young people converge, life in Stoney Ridge may never be the same.
Once again, bestselling author Suzanne Woods Fisher intrigues and delights with a story that explores the bonds of friendship, family, and true love in this captivating series.

Here is the biography of this wonderful author (who is also a beautiful lady!):

Suzanne Woods Fisher is the bestselling author of The Choice, The Waiting, The Search, The Keeper, A Lancaster County Christmas. The Lesson is coming out on January 2, 2013. Suzanne has also written nonfiction books about the Amish, including Amish Peace and  Amish Values for Your Family. She is also the coauthor of a new Amish children’s series, The Adventures of Lily Lapp; the first one is Life with Lily (The Adventures of Lily Lapp). Suzanne is the host of internet radio show Amish Wisdom and a columnist for Christian Post and Cooking & Such. She lives in California.

All of my favorite elements of a Suzanne Woods Fisher novel – amazing character descriptions, the wonder of God’s creation, etc… - are all here in ‘The Haven.’ Here is an example from her pen/computer:

He [Gideon] overhead someone describe him once as a young man without deep feelings. He did feel deeply, he knew he did. But what he felt was so confusing and required so much work to figure out, and then even more to get it to the surface and express it, that it was easier to keep quiet and concentrate on writing, something he could see. He imagined all kinds of sweet things he wanted to tell her [Sadie]; how there were times in church when a beam from the sun caught her hair and glinted and he thought she looked like an angel. How much he loved those pronounced dimples in her cheeks. And those freckles that covered her nose and cheeks. He knew she hated them and tried to get rid of them with lemon juice, but he wished she wouldn’t because he liked them. And her laugh… it was like the sound of wind chimes. He sorely missed Sadie, as much today as when she left four months ago. (pp. 20-21)

I loved the description of the first meeting between Sadie and Will:

Standing this close to the intern, Sadie saw that he had blue eyes. Really blue eyes, framed by thick brown lashes and strong straight brows darker than his hair, blonde hair that swept into his eyes. He was sunburnt and needed a shave, but he was quite nice looking, sort of rugged. He was wearing jeans, dirty at the knees, and a plain white T-shirt under his short-sleeved khaki shirt. He tipped his cowboy hat to them, smiled, and went on his way. He had the kind of smile that could have melted a glacier. (p. 42)

This passage gives us an insightful view into the psyche of Sadie, when she describes Gideon and imagines how a life together with him would look like:

….It wasn’t right to compare Will to Gideon. Comparing a Plain man to an Amish man was like comparing apples to oranges, deserts to oceans, elephants to lions. But everything felt so serious with Gid. So awkward. But then, she was awkward too. Maybe that was the problem. Maybe they were too much alike. In her mind flashed a vision: she and Gid at a table, surrounded by awkward children. An entire awkward family. She shook her head to clear it of that image. Since when had she ever given serious thought to marrying Gideon Smucker? No! Never! But maybe someday. (p. 166)   

One of the neat elements of Sadie’s character is her ability to heal using natural remedies. I am a big advocate of God’s treatments versus men’s. I picked up a lot of good tips along the way; here’s one:

As the baby slept, Sadie went into the kitchen to blend some herbs into a remedy that could be brewed as a kind of tea. It was a mixture to break up colds that Deborah had taught her to make: ground ginger and cayenne pepper. A pinch of that, added to a mug of hot water, apple cider vinegar, and honey, sipped throughout the day, could shorten a cold’s duration. Sadie sneezed twice as she stirred the mixture. Just sniffing it, she thought, could clear the sinuses. An added benefit to the remedy! (p. 170)

I definitely plan on trying that the next time a cold comes on!

God is always at the forefront in Suzanne’s novels. There are several examples of how God’s ways are the best ways (i.e., forgiveness, Romans 8:28, etc…). Here is Sadie sharing the truth of God’s healing powers with Will:

Only God is the true healer. That was the phrase Sadie often said, especially when people came to her for remedies, which they were doing more and more. Hardly a day went by when someone wasn’t seeking her out for help. Will worried they were taking advantage of her because she didn’t charge them, but she said it brought her pleasure to help others. And then she would always say, “After all, only God is the true healer.” (p. 217)

As always, I was charmed and enchanted by this Suzanne Woods Fisher novel! Every one of her characters is so engaging. She does a wonderful job of fleshing out the characters and making them real in her readers’ minds. I would love to meet all of them – if they only were real, and not a figment of Suzanne’s wonderful imagination! I greatly look forward to what happens to Sadie, Gideon, Will and Mary Kate, among others, in book three of the series! ‘The Lesson,’ which focuses on Mary Kate Lapp, is coming out on January 2, 2013. Hurry, January!!

This book was published by Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group. I am happy to be participating in the blog tour from the LitFuse Publicity Group.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

‘Food Family Style: Simple & Tasty Recipes for Everyday Life’ by Leigh Oliver Vickery – Book Review

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A good cookbook is a valuable addition to any home’s kitchen! When I learned about a blog tour for a book called ‘Food Family Style: Simple & Tasty Recipes forEveryday Life,’ I was intrigued! Any cookbook that has the word ‘Simple’ in the title works for me!

Here is the synopsis of this zesty book:

365 Simple & Tasty Recipes to Satisfy The Entire Family.
Your family is busy. But you still have to eat! Reclaim the family dinner in our household with these mouthwatering recipes, sure to draw your family into the kitchen and around the table day after day. From tasty breakfasts, soups, and salads to easy main dishes and desserts, Food Family Style delivers delicious recipes such as:

·         Easiest Chinese Chicken Lettuce Wraps
·         No-Rise Cinnamon Rolls
·         Breakfast Pizza
·         Grilled Apple Cheddar Sandwich
·         Bistro Tomato Basil Soup
·         Pesto Pasta Salad
·         Slow Cooker Jambalaya
·         Mexican Lasagna
·         Molasses Barbecue Beans
·         Southern Pecan Pie
·         Toffee Ice Cream Squares
·         Easy S’More Bars

Throughout Food Family Style, you will find symbols indicating recipes that double easily, freeze well, are gluten free or vegetarian, can be made in a slow cooker, or are favorites contributed by moms around the country. And since there’s more to mealtime than just the food, this innovative book also includes tips about how to involve your kids in meal preparation, meaningful conversation starters, and simple ideas to bring warmth to your home.

Here is the biography of the author:

Leigh Oliver Vickery is creator and founder of Leigh Oliver’s, a specialty “fun food” company with numerous products on the market in at least twenty-five states and grocery chains, including Whole Foods Market and Costco. She is the former food editor of the Tyler Morning Telegraph in Tyler, Texas.

In the Introduction, Leigh tells her readers what they do in her family’s home:

In our home, we try to sit down together to eat at least four nights a week. Yes, it takes work to get everyone’s schedule to somehow align and to get food on the table. And yes, many nights it doesn’t work out as well as I imagined.
But we try, and I have seen that the more often we make time to eat together, the better our family relationships become. We have learned how to work together (when the boys are hungry enough, they don’t mind helping!), we have learned better table manners, and we have learned so much about our boys’ thoughts and ideas we may never have known. (p. 11)

I prepared the ‘MOPS Mom: Slow Cooker Pulled Pork’ recipe the other day. It was delicious! Here is the introduction to the recipe:

Heidi Johnson grew up in Texas helping her mom in the kitchen. But it wasn’t until she left home that she learned how to really cook on her own. “I learned to cook from my mom, a cookbook called The Joy of Cooking, and the internet,” Heidi said. “My husband, Clay, loves that I like to cook.”
Heidi and Clay have a young son, and their second baby is on the way. This favorite recipe is something she created by combining several other recipes into one. “The sauce is my dad’s, the spice and mustard rub is from Cook’s Illustrated, and the rest came from some slow cooker barbecue recipes on the internet.” (p. 166)

Here are the ingredients from this recipe:

·         1 (5-7 lb) pork butt
·         ¼ cup      prepared yellow mustard
·         2 tsp.      liquid smoke
·         2 Tbs.     ground black pepper
·         2 Tbs.     smoked (or regular) paprika
·         2 Tbs.     sugar
·         2 tsp.      salt
·         1 tsp.     cayenne pepper
·         1 cup     beef broth
·         2 cups   Barbecue Sauce
(p. 166)    

I plan on trying many more of the recipes in this book! It is always exciting to have more meal options. It is really easy to get into a repetitious meal rut! I look forward to sitting down with my husband, Fred, to decide what to try next!

This book is available August 2012 at your favorite bookseller from Revell a division of Baker Publishing Group.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

‘The Stars Shine Bright: A Raleigh Harmon Novel’ by Sibella Giorello – Book Review

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In my years of book reviews, one of the authors whose work has been consistently enthralling and entertaining is Sibella Giorello. And who doesn’t love her name! When I found out there was a blog tour for her latest Raleigh Harmon novel, I knew wanted consideration to be included on the tour bus.

Here is the synopsis of ‘The Stars Shine Bright’: 

After the FBI suspends her for bending its rules, Special Agent Raleigh Harmon is looking for a chance to redeem her career and re-start her life. Sent undercover to a thoroughbred horse track, Raleigh takes on a double life to find out who’s fixing the races. But when horses start dying and then her own life is threatened, Raleigh realizes something bigger – and more sinister – is ruining Emerald Meadows.
She’s never felt more alone.
Her one contact with the FBI is Special Agent Jack Stephanson, a guy who seems to jump from antagonistic to genuine friend depending on the time of day. And she can’t turn to her family for support. They’re off-limits while she’s undercover, and her mother isn’t speaking to her anyway, having been confined to a mental hospital following a psychotic breakdown. Adding insult to her isolation, Raleigh’s fiancé wants them to begin their life together – now – precisely when she’s been ordered not to be herself.
With just days left before the season ends, Raleigh races to stop the killing and find out who’s behind the track’s trouble, all the while trying to determine if Jack is friend or foe, and whether marrying her fiancé will make things better – or worse.
Raleigh is walking through the darkest night she’s faced, searching for a place where the stars shine bright.

Here is the author’s biography:

Sibella Giorello grew up in the mountains of Alaska admiring the beauty and nature that surrounded her. She majored in geology at Mount Holyoke College in Massachusetts hoping to learn more about the landscape she loved back home. From there Sibella followed a winding path, much like the motorcycle ride she took across the country, which led to her true love, journalism. 

She found herself in Seattle writing for rock-n-roll magazine and earned a journalism degree from the University of Washington before heading south to the land of great stories.

In Virginia, Sibella became a features writer for the Richmond Times-Dispatch. It was there she also met her husband and would hear Jesus whispering her name at a tent revival.

Sibella started writing about Raleigh Harmon as a way to keep her love of story-telling alive while staying at home with her young sons. As a journalist and author, her stories have won state and national awards, including two nominations for the Pulitzer Prize. The Stones Cry Out
the first Raleigh Harmon novel, won a Christy Award for debut novel in 2008. Sibella now lives in Washington state with her husband and sons.

I love Sibella’s writing style! Here are a few examples:

During my five years in the FBI’s mineralogy lab, I learned that two of the worst bedfellows were justice and politics. While justice focused on the truth, politics manipulated the truth for its own gain. Throw in the media, which only reported the truth that fit their preconceived ideas, and it was little wonder that the fallen world was speeding toward hell in a handbasket. (p. 89)

All my life, I’d managed to muscle through trouble, always fighting. And winning. But lately I was realizing that my problems were getting bigger and my self-sufficiency smaller. I needed help. Real help. And standing among the snorting animals, when I closed my eyes to pray, my mind felt fuzzy from last night’s crying jag. From this morning’s blitzkrieg by an arson inspector and Hurricane Yuck. There was nobody to talk to about it, except an invisible element that was more real than what I could see or touch. It was the one who rescued me, who redeemed me, who saw each loose end, every question – all my worries – and knew every answer. I would never be able to explain it in rational terms, but when I was at my worst, that was when I saw Jesus. The greatest inverse relationship in the universe: when I was weak, He was strong. (p. 121)

The only thing that did not ‘grab me’ about this novel is the portions of the story set in the world of horse racing. For some reason, it did not resonate with me. Despite that, it is clear from all of the details included that Sibella either had done a lot of research on the topic, or has had some involvement in the thoroughbred world. I did learn a lot about that aspect of life in this world.

As usual for a Giorello novel, I enjoyed ‘The Stars Shine Bright.’ Sibella is truly a gifted author.  And with the dangling conclusion to this book, I can tell that there will be another Raleigh Harmon Novel from the creative brain of Mrs. Giorello!

This book was published by Thomas Nelson Publishers and provided by the Litfuse Publicity Group for review purposes. 

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Winner of 'By Faith, Not By Sight' by Scott MacIntyre is......

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The Random Number Generator has chosen the winner of Scott MacIntyre's 'By Faith, Not By Sight'! That blessed person is......


Congratulations, Janice! I will be sending you an email shortly.

To those of you who did not win, I highly recommend this wonderful book by this incredible young man! You can place your order through Amazon here.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

‘Passages: How Reading the Bible In A Year Can Change Everything for You’ by Brian Hardin – Book Review

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Even as a seminary student, I find myself not spending enough time in the Bible. So when I became aware of ‘Passages: How Reading the Bible In A Year Can ChangeEverything for You’ by Brian Hardin, I thought it would be helpful in my own life.

Here is the synopsis of this book:

         How A Few Minutes a Day          Will Change Your Whole            Life.
Many of us would love to read the Bible more often, but we rarely make time for more than a few verses on the run.
But the Bible was never meant to be read in short segments here and there when you can fit it in. The Bible is meant to be experienced in sizeable chunks – in passages – and read daily. It is not a book of mystical incantations, but the story of God’s passionate love – for you. It is not a distant relic, but a best friend offering counsel and companionship – for today.
Through his remarkable story, Brian Hardin shows how reading through the Bible in a year changed his life, and how it will change yours too. Passages goes beyond exploring how the Bible was meant to be read, providing three distinct Bible reading plans to help you get started doing it right now.
Hardin, whose daily podcast has more than a million listeners a month, guarantees you a life revolution, if you will only commit to a few minutes a day to read through the Bible in a year.
As you rediscover the joy of reading the Bible, visit and join a community of fellow readers to share your thoughts on your new adventure.

Here is the biography of the author:

Brian Hardin is a speaker, photographer, record producer, and an ordained minister. In 2006, he created the Daily AudioBible, an online podcast that now delivers 1.5 million downloads a month. He has produced over 150 albums and works with artists and the arts extensively. He is married to Christian musician Jill Parr.

Here is an interview with Mr. Hardin, telling the story of the creation of the Daily Audio Bible and this book:

I found this to be a really well-written book; Mr. Hardin really has a way with words! Here are some ‘passages’ that I found particularly enlightening:

I considered the poverty of the semi-agnostic life I’d been living. Let’s be honest: Isn’t that pretty much how many of us live as Western Christians? We acknowledge God and possibly even go to church regularly. Perhaps we even donate generously. But when push comes to shove, what kind of spiritual foundation do we really have? I had little. There was a little boy with the faith of a warrior in mothballs locked away in the attic of my heart, but now as a father with little boys of my own, my faith was anemic and my existence was balanced on a frail ledge. To say I was a good spiritual leader for my wife and children would be like calling Billy the Kid a good pastor to his band of outlaws. (p. 18)

The Bible isn’t hocus pocus and reading it doesn’t give you magical powers, but it does reveal to you who you really are and illumines a path that you were created to walk. When I began to believe its words and obey its instructions, life began to align with what it said, and this has made all the difference. My heart has been transformed completely. I find myself passionate about things that previously seemed drudgery. The neon blinking lights of culture do not seduce me as they once did. I have little use for the plastic life that made me promises but rarely delivers on anything at all. (p. 26)

I’ve read through the Bible in large portions seven days a week for well over two thousand days consecutively. The man that I was is no longer there. I don’t look at the world the same in any way. I liken this to working out at the gym. If you stick with it a month, you begin to feel healthy. Sweat it out for a quarter of a year and new lines of lean muscle begin to appear. Hang with it for a year and you’ll have a new body and the energy to go along with it. Our hearts seem to work the same way. I’m inviting you to the adventure, and I am quite certain that if you expose yourself to the Scriptures every day for a while, there is no way for you to remain the same. (p. 27)

I love his description of the Bible:

The Bible is written as a story, a story that has not yet reached its conclusion. The story has wound its way through battlefields, and wedding nights, through birthing chambers and funeral parlors, from transcendent pleasure to utter hopelessness. The story has come through voices around Bedouin campfires to stone tablets, from the skins of animals to the printing press. It has passed through ages long forgotten to ages dark and forgettable. Its echoes bound from enlightenments to reformations. This is the unstoppable story of God and his profound love for humanity. (p. 35)

Brian shares with us some of the benefits of Scripture:

The Bible offers us a baseline for hope. It also gives us a reason to hope beyond ourselves because it reveals how interconnected we are, not only with everyone around us but also with the story that’s been told for thousands of years. Scripture’s plumb line that provides us a straight and narrow path through life is irreplaceable – especially when we’ve lost our own internal coordinates and connection to life. “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life” (Proverbs 13:12). This we know to be utterly true. The irony is in the verse that follows: “Whoever scorns instruction will pay for it, but whoever respects a command is rewarded.” (p. 45)

He also shares with us the importance of love in the Bible:

Basically we’re being commanded to love one another; if we don’t, nothing will work and nothing will matter. The Bible couldn’t be clearer on this. This is the posture of community, of marriage, of life. This is what our lives are supposed to look like. What would happen to the body of Christ if we believed it? (p. 94)

Prayer is also very important, as exemplified by Jesus:

Jesus regularly and habitually withdrew to pray and be restored, yet the Bible gives no indication that his ministry (his productivity) suffered as a result. If anything, he was able to accomplish more because he took the time to orient himself to his Father and to renew his body and mind. There are no instances in the Gospels in which Jesus has a nervous breakdown. There are also no depictions of Jesus staring at the twelve disciples blankly wondering what they should do next. His commitment to making space in his life to listen to God was a vital component of his life and ministry. (p. 102)

This book also includes several Bible reading plans: the Daily Audio Bible Reading Plan, the Chronological Bible in a Year, and the Historical Bible in a Year. I think my husband, Fred, and I will adopt one of these plans.

I think this is a wonderful book for anyone who needs to kindle or rekindle their interest in reading the Bible. Brian’s life has definitely been transformed – and so can everyone’s!

This book was published by Zondervan and provided by LitFuse Publicity for review purposes.

Monday, July 9, 2012

‘By Faith, Not By Sight: The Inspirational Story of a Blind Prodigy, a Life-Threatening Illness, and an Unexpected Gift’ by Scott MacIntyre with Jennifer Schuchmann – Book Review + Giveaway

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I have been a pretty faithful ‘American Idol’ viewer since Season One. One of the most inspirational contestants on that program, in my opinion, was Scott MacIntyre, the blind singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist from Season Eight. When I found out he had written his autobiography, I knew I wanted to read it, to learn more about this amazing young man. Make sure you check below for details on how to win a copy of this great book!

Here is the synopsis of 'By Faith, Not By Sight:'

A piano prodigy, a nineteen-year-old college grad, a Marshall scholar, and an American Idol finalist. This guy had it made. He could sing. He could ski blind. What couldn’t he do?

Even if you saw him in concert, you might not believe that Scott MacIntyre is blind, and you’d never guess that at nineteen, he faced a diagnosis that rocked his family and nearly took his life.

So how did he do it? How did he overcome the odds?

This is Scott’s story, but he’d be the first to tell you that it’s not really about him. This is the story of how God used a dedicated family, a selfless acquaintance, hardship, and a host of characters to give him life, faith, determination, and experiences most can only imagine.

Peek behind the scenes to see how he learned to overcome his disability, how he made it in the music industry, how he found the love of his life, and how God taught him that in all things, we can truly achieve our dreams By Faith, Not By Sight.

Here is the biography of the author:

Scott MacIntyre captivated the nation as the first blind finalist on American Idol. As an acclaimed singer-songwriter, he has toured in arenas across North America, headlined concerts in Japan, Austria, England, Canada, and the US, and written and released his latest CD Heartstrings debuting at #18 on the iTunes Pop Album Chart. As an in-demand inspirational keynote speaker, Scott has shared his unique and dynamic life story with many different audiences.

Outstanding graduate. Marshall scholar. Recording artist. Inspirational speaker. American Idol. Blind from birth, Scott has had to work harder and longer to achieve his goals. But when a silent killer begins to undermine his success and threaten his very life, Scott cannot work it out alone. Once again, he must lean on his faith, his close-knit family, and the life-giving aid of friends to survive.

Follow Scott’s roller-coaster ride to see how God used the mountains and valleys in his life to give him perspective, hope, and ultimately triumph.

Here is Scott being interviewed on ‘100 Huntley Street,’ a Canadian talk show:

And here is Scott performing one of his original compositions, 'No Fear;' SO beautiful!:

I love Scott’s outlook on how all of us have a common denominator. The setting is his graduation from Arizona State University at the age of 19; he is a featured speaker:

I spoke with confidence. I knew each person in the room had doubts and fears. Though each of our concerns may be different than our neighbor’s, the fact that we have them unites us in a kind of anxious human bond. There was no shame in that, as far as I was concerned. In the past, I’d had momentary doubts and lingering fears. But I’d also found that when I let go, when I gave my concerns to God, his presence and assurance became more real to me. It was my dependence on him – and not on my own strength – that helped me progress toward my dreams. (p. 4)

Clearly, his ‘can-do’ attitude came from his parents:

Knowing that I just had a visual impairment and not some life-threatening illness, my parents chose to move forward and not look back. They gave up searching for a cause [for his blindness]. Instead, they wisely focused their time and energies on helping me succeed at all the things I could do rather than worrying about things I couldn’t. But seeds of doubt about traditional medicine and a healthy skepticism of doctors had been planted in my mother. That skepticism would later play a role in the medical decisions we made as a family. (p. 12)

I love the story of how Scott came to know Jesus as his Lord and Savior:

I was five when I first understood that I had a choice about how to live my life. One day, at Vacation Bible School, a speaker told us we could choose to live for ourselves or we could choose to live our lives for Jesus. I knew I wanted to live for him. When I got home that night, I told my parents what I’d decided and together we prayed – asking God to forgive me of my sins, telling him how much I loved him, and promising to try to live like him. After that, I knew that Jesus was my Savior and that one day I would spend eternity with him in heaven. (p. 54)

Scott learned positive life lessons from many people along the way (in addition to his parents). Here he explains what he learned from one of his piano instructors:

Gregg taught me to be a more confident piano player, but I carried that confidence with me for the rest of my life. I learned many lessons from that experience – like not being afraid to step out of my comfort zone, how it was okay to make a mistake, and how through dedicated practice I could overcome even my most ingrained habits. But more importantly, I learned that I could do whatever I set my mind to. Though I only studied with Gregg for a few months before we moved to Toronto, his lessons have stayed with me for life. (p. 74)

Scott closes out the book this way:

Looking back over my life so far, I realize that many times when I was on the verge of experiencing incredible success, that’s when the trials came to knock me down. I don’t think that was a coincidence. God works through us during the good times and the bad – when we are on the mountaintop, and when we trudge through the valley. I have experienced both extremes in my life, often at the same time. But I learned that he used the worst days of my life to bless me the most. And he’s not done with me yet. I continually find myself in new places, doing things I never imagined I’d be doing. Like motivational speaking. Or writing this book. Although my gratitude is given to many, the glory is all his. (p. 271)

I was so incredibly moved by Scott on ‘American Idol’ – and even more so when I learn what he has accomplished and overcome in his life!! It was also awesome to get an update on the positive things that have happened to him in his personal and professional life since 'Idol.' I highly recommend this book to anyone who wants to be uplifted and encouraged by the spirit of this amazing man!

This book was published by Thomas Nelson Publishers and provided by the author for giveaway and review purposes.


I have been given the opportunity to give away a copy of this book to one blessed person! There are several ways to enter:

1) Leave a comment here telling me one thing that you appreciate about Scott. Please leave your email address in this format: 
yourname at domain dot com.

2) Follow this blog; please leave a comment to that effect in the above format.

3) ‘Like’ Scott’s page on Facebook. Please leave a comment to that effect in the above format.

4) Follow Scott on Twitter. Please leave a comment to that effect in the above format.

5) Follow me on Twitter. Please leave a comment to that effect in the above format.

6) Tweet the following: 

Enter to win @AmericanIdol @ScottDMacIntyre’s book ‘By Faith Not By Sight’ #giveaway. Please RT!

The deadline for entry is Monday, July 23, 2012 at 11:59 pm. The winner will be chosen by the Random Number Generator on Tuesday, July 24, 2012. All the best to you!

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