Friday, October 30, 2015

The ART of Halloween

The Great Pumpkin
Michael Humphries

While I’m not a fan of Halloween’s ghosts, witches and goblins, I do enjoy all the fall colors and activities. As for art, there’s such a variety – from delightful folk art, to humor, and illustrations. I hope you’ll enjoy this assorted collection, many featuring children and pets. You can see a lot more paintings on my Pinterest board, The ART of Halloween. (Click on link.)

Do these pictures capture some of the things you enjoy about fall? What are some of your favorites?

Debbie Mumm

A Night for Treats
Mary Charles
(Can you find the black kitty?)

Robert Duncan

Country Halloween
Dennis Patrick Lewan

Who Goes First?
Kim Leo

Susan Wheeler

Places Remembered
James Meger

Echoes of Trick or Treat
Catherine Holman

Did We Scare You? / Bombs Away / The Great Candy Heist
Tom Wood

The Shortcut
Lin Howard

Cheryl Bartley

Winner – Love’s Rescue by Christine Johnson

Congratulations to Melissa Henderson,
winner of Love’s Rescue!

I have contacted Melissa and she has 48 hours to respond
before another winner is chosen.

Thank you to all who participated and answered the question about passion in ministry. It was wonderful to see the variety of answers, every single one vital to God’s work.

Most of all, thank you to Christine for visiting The Power of Words – and for giving readers a most enjoyable story. I know all of you appreciate the way she has taken the time to respond to your comments. Christine, it has been an honor to host you and I hope you will come back soon.

Readers, stay tuned for another giveaway tomorrow!

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Review: Valley of Decision

Valley of Decision
By Lynne Gentry
The Carthage Chronicles, #3
Howard, 2015


Every choice has a consequence in the explosive conclusion to the Carthage Chronicles as Lisbeth returns to third-century Carthage for a thrilling final adventure.

Thirteen years ago, Lisbeth made an impossible decision—leave third-century Carthage and her husband Cyprian behind for good. She knew it was to protect her daughter Maggie, so Lisbeth gathered the strength to move on with her life.

All these years, Lisbeth has thrown herself into her work and raising her headstrong daughter, all to live up to the promise she made to Cyprian. But Maggie is sick of being protected. In an act of teenage rebellion Maggie decides to do what her mother can’t—secretly returning to the third century on a quest to bring her father back, leaving Lisbeth no choice but to follow.

With Maggie’s surprise arrival in Carthage, chaos ensues. She finds her grandmother on trial for murder and attempts to save her, but instead the diversion sparks a riot that nearly destroys the plagued city. Only one thing will appease the wrath of the new proconsul of Carthage: the death of the instigator.

Will Lisbeth arrive in time to save her daughter from the clutches of Rome? How can God possibly redeem such a slew of unwise decisions and deep regrets? Filled with heart-wrenching twists and riveting action, Valley of Decision brings the romantic adventure epic, The Carthage Chronicles, to an electrifying conclusion.

My thoughts

It’s hard to talk about Valley of Decision apart from the whole Chronicles of Carthage series, for each story builds from book #1, Healer of Carthage (click on title to see my review). This series is so far out of my comfort zone that it’s not even funny, for I don’t care for time travel or ancient Rome settings – yet I enjoyed and was moved by each story. While containing the entertaining elements of rich historical detail, well-developed characters, passionate romance, and action-adventure excitement, it was the spiritual depth that won’t let me forget this series.

Valley of Decision focuses on Lisbeth’s daughter, Maggie – impulsive, headstrong, a product of the 3rd century who grew up in the 21st century. Maggie’s growing up years in Dallas have been mere hours in Carthage time, and this story begins shortly after the conclusion of book #2, Return to Exile. Not only is each story well researched, but Lynne has a gift for conveying a sense of place, for I could feel the very essence of a Rome that placed little value on human life - and I almost came to believe that time travel could be a reality!

Valley of Decision shines the spotlight on Christians ministering as Christ taught during a season of great persecution. In a time where political leaders sought to destroy the church, Valley of Decision shows imperfect Christians reflecting the love and humility of Christ – and elements of this story seem uncomfortably similar to areas of our world today. Always thought provoking, it makes me wonder if I would be as courageous as these 3rd century Christians.

The character of Cyprian, who really comes alive in Lynne’s hands, is loosely based on a historical figure. I had so much respect and admiration for Cyprian and loved the tender romantic elements between him and Lisbeth. With a faith that had been tried and tested, he had a peace about his purpose, that of rallying and unifying a fragmented church.

It’s easy for us to look back on history and wish we could change events, but as Lisbeth came to realize, removing even one thread from the tapestry of our lives would change the essence of who we are. I appreciate the reality of this story and believe Lynne chose to conclude it in the only way possible – heart-wrenching on the one hand, victorious and inspiring for the ages on the other.

In her notes at the back, Lynne shared words that Cyprianus Thascius penned for a friend, and I wanted to end with this quote about Christians:

“They have discovered a joy which is a thousand times
better than any pleasures of this sinful life.”
- St. Cyprian

I’m glad Lynne was inspired by Cyprian’s life and shared him through this series. Recommended to all who enjoy inspirational historical fiction.


Lynne Gentry has written for numerous publications. She is a professional acting coach, theater director, and playwright. Lynne is an inspirational speaker and dramatic performer who loves spending time with her family and medical therapy dog.

Find Lynne online at, Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram

Thank you to Litfuse Publicity for providing a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Review: The Hardest Thing to Do

The Hardest Thing to Do
By Penelope Wilcock
The Hawk & the Dove, #4
Kregel/Lion Hudson, 2015


This latest in Wilcock’s The Hawk and the Dove series takes readers into the world of a fourteenth-century monastery struggling to forgive an old enemy seeking refuge.

The first of three sequels to the celebrated The Hawk and the Dove trilogy takes place one year after the end of the third book, in the early fourteenth century. A peaceful monastery is enjoying its new abbot, who is taking the place of Father Peregrine, when an old enemy arrives seeking refuge. Reluctantly taking in Prior William, the upended community must address old fears and bitterness while warily seeking reconciliation. But can they really trust Prior William?

In her fourth book in the series, Penelope Wilcock wrestles with the difficulties of forgiveness and the cautions of building trust. Taking the form of journal entries, her story will delight the imaginations of readers captivated by a time and place far distant from our current world. Her timeless themes, however, will challenge our prejudices today as we, along with her characters, are forced to ask ourselves, “What is the hardest thing to do?”

My thoughts

The Hawk and the Dove series by Penelope Wilcock is unusual, and that’s a very good thing. The stories are more literary in style, yet they have an easy flow and are very entertaining. Descriptive words like thought provoking, merciful, unapologetically honest, moving, insightful and timeless come to mind. I highly recommend this series and you can click on the title The Hawk and the Dove Trilogy to see my review of the first three books. Book #4, The Hardest Thing to Do, can stand alone, but reading from the beginning will give a much better understanding of characters and setting.

Set in the 14th-century Benedictine monastery of St. Alcuin’s on the edge of the Yorkshire moors, The Hardest Thing to Do gives a vivid view of monastic life – from worship, study and prayer, to gifted areas of service (obedience), and surprisingly to the same faith and community struggles that we face today.

This story covers the entire season of Lent, something that I found fascinating because I’ve never been in a church that observes this practice. These words of Brother Theo convey its essence:  “The slow, painful journey of Lent takes us from ashes, through fire, to Easter light: reversing our tendency to fall asleep and neglect the flame, to let the fire go out.”

The Hardest Thing to Do is indeed timeless and relevant because it explores the essence and struggles of obedience to Christ’s teachings probably better than anything I’ve ever read. Drawing from circumstances between Father Peregrine (now deceased), Brother Tom and Prior William in book #2, The Wounds of God, this story delves into human nature with great insight, along with the need for repentance, confession, and forgiveness. It also left me pondering a question for which I have no answer as of yet: Is it harder to forgive a person who has wronged someone we deeply care about, rather than if we ourselves had been wronged?

What a memorable, seemingly unlovable character is William! A man of calculating self-interest, he “had lost his hold on most of what is good and true a long time ago, and what’s left that could have been redeemed is all seared and terrified and shuttered away now.” William is just one of several richly-drawn characters.

One of the most moving parts of this story is the way the monastery’s infimarians – Brother Michael, Brother John (now Abbot), and other helpers – treat the elderly and dying with tender care, honor and respect, never letting frailty or illness define who they have become.  William had found that the earth was no longer a safe place for him, and Brother Michael’s prayer for this seriously ill man was especially beautiful to me:  “May you be robed in Christ’s grace. May his love be a cloak about you and his peace be the robe of your true self. May you touch and know his healing, find for sure his forgiveness, wherever you are, and whatever happens now. Find thy lamb, O Jesu, good Shepherd, in thy love, and free him of the thorns that bind and cling.”

With forgiveness being at the heart of this story – both the giving and receiving of it – I found Theo’s thoughts worthy of remembering: “It’s a matter of trying to stand where the other man is standing and seeing it how he sees it, and then it starts to make some sense.”

The Hardest Thing to Do is a book that fans of historical and character-driven inspirational stories will enjoy. Highly recommended.


Penelope (Pen) Wilcock is the author of over a dozen books of fiction and poetry, including The Hawk and the Dove trilogy. She lives a quiet life on the southeast coast of England with her husband and is the mother of five adult daughters. She has many years of experience as a Methodist minister and has worked as a hospice and school chaplain.

Find Penelope online at

Thank you to Kregel/Lion Hudson for providing a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Review: The Splendor of Ordinary Days

The Splendor of Ordinary Days
By Jeff High
A Novel of Watervalley, #3
NAL, 2015


The pastoral charm of small-town Watervalley, Tennessee, can be deceptive, as young Dr. Luke Bradford discovers when he's caught in the fallout of a decades-old conflict.

After a rocky start as Watervalley's only doctor, Luke Bradford has decided to stay in town, honoring the three-year commitment he made to pay off his medical school debts. But even as his friendships with the quirky townsfolk deepen, and he pursues a romance with lovely schoolteacher Christine Chambers, several military veterans' emotional wounds trigger anger and unrest in Watervalley.

At the center of the clash is the curmudgeonly publisher of the local newspaper, Luther Whitmore. Luther grew up in Watervalley, but he returned from combat in Vietnam a changed man. He fenced in beautiful Moon Lake, posting "Keep Out" notices at the beloved spot, and provokes the townspeople with his incendiary newspaper.

As Luke struggles to understand Luther's past, and restore harmony in Watervalley, an unforeseen crisis shatters a relationship he values dearly. Suddenly Luke must answer life's toughest questions about service, courage, love, and sacrifice.

My thoughts

In Jeff High’s Watervalley novels, I have found a new author whose work I love. But before I go on, let me caution those who only read Christian fiction that this story has a small amount of mild profanity, use of alcohol, and it lacks an overt faith message.  However, it doesn’t come from a traditional Christian publisher, nor is it marketed as Christian fiction. I personally enjoyed this character-driven story very much and want to read more of Jeff High’s novels.

The Splendor of Ordinary Days is filled with so many delightful elements – rural Tennessee setting, humor, romance, Southern charm, quirky characters, respect for military service, and even a touch of the supernatural. Jeff does an excellent job, both in storytelling and expressive writing. I won’t attempt to compare these stories to other popular small-town series because the Watervalley books have a feel all their own.

To me, the term “southern” evokes a sense of community, charm, caring families, and Christian faith – all of which Jeff beautifully embodies in this story. At the end of the book, Jeff writes: “Watervalley books are ‘glass half full’ stories that seek to illuminate the sweet and decent things about Southern culture and the strong character of those who live there.” Readers will enjoy a couple of unusual medical cases, humorous and inspired by actual cases.

Luke is a totally down-to-earth character – honest, smart, kind, so easy to like immediately. Although an essential part of the Watervalley community as the only doctor, at times he saw himself as “a stranger in a strange land.” And when it came to matters of faith, Luke was “inclined to cast anything supernatural or miraculous into the realm of false notion, ignorance, or happenchance.” Rather than this story having obvious spiritual themes, I felt that Christian faith was shown subtly through many of the characters’ actions.

High regard for those who served in the military, as well as the effects of post-traumatic stress, are strongly portrayed in this novel. Luther served in Vietnam and I found his storyline very moving. As a college student during those years, I witnessed many friends leaving for the war – and not all returned.  Luther’s conversation with Luke was very poignant: “We arrived in Vietnam believing in so many things – country, patriotism, service, God – and upon our return, we believed in one thing and one thing only: nothing. . . . When it was over, there was no hero’s welcome, no glorious return. America was indifferent; heaven was empty. It left us with hearts that would always know hunger.”

I enjoyed The Splendor of Ordinary Days very much and will seek out more Watervalley novels. Although this is book #3, it can stand alone. This book ends with a tempting offer presented to Luke, so I eagerly anticipate the next in series. Recommended to all who enjoy general fiction with small-town settings.


After growing up on a farm in rural Tennessee, Jeff High attained degrees in literature and nursing. He is the three-time winner, in fiction and poetry, of an annual writing contest held by Vanderbilt Medical Center. He lived in Nashville for many years, and throughout the country as a travel nurse, before returning to his original hometown, near where he now works as an operating room RN in open-heart surgery. He is the author of the Watervalley novels, including More Things in Heaven and Earth and Each Shining Hour.

Connect with Jeff at, Facebook, and Twitter

Thank you to Litfuse Publicity for providing a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Interview + GIVEAWAY: Christine Johnson

I am delighted to welcome Christine Johnson to The Power of Words today! Christine is a new author to me and her first book in the Keys of Promise series, Love’s Rescue, is a delight. Key West in the 1850s provides an intriguing and unusual backdrop for a story featuring adventure on the seas, strong family dynamics, and star-crossed lovers. (Please click on the title, Love's Rescue, to see my review.)

Christine is graciously sharing a copy of Love’s Rescue with one of you and the giveaway is open to U.S. and Canadian addresses (details at the end of this interview). Now please welcome Christine as she shares a little about herself and her writing.

Q. Please share a little about yourself, Christine.

First of all, I’m delighted to join you here today. Thank you for inviting me!

        I have always loved the water. I grew up looking west across Lake Michigan, seeing the storms approach on the horizon. I now live on Lake Huron part of the year and in the Florida Keys during those months when Michigan lakes are frozen. My husband is a ship pilot, which means he gets on board foreign-flagged ships and directs them safely through his district in the Great Lakes.
        When he worked as a mate aboard a laker (an American ship that stays in the Great Lakes), I made a few trips with him. It’s interesting but definitely not a cruise! He and the rest of the men were busy doing their jobs. I was expected to stay out of the way and entertain myself. Much reading and sewing got done during those trips.

Q. When it comes to ministry, what is your passion?

Definitely women’s Bible study. It’s so important to get in the Word. It’s our guide through this life, our consolation and our encouragement. Studies help develop consistent time with the Lord, something we all need. Studying the Word with my sisters in Christ is a great joy and blessing.

Q. I understand that you split your time between northern Michigan and the Florida Keys. What are your favorite ways to enjoy the beauty of God's creation in each place?

I kayak and bicycle in both places, but I hike mainly in the north. The heat in south Florida can make hiking a bit too taxing. Even when I can’t get outdoors, the songbirds delight me as they hop around in the little wooded area just outside my study window in Michigan. In Florida, I love to look into the ocean at the enormous variety of sea creatures. Sunrise and sunset are spectacular in both locations.

Q. Please tell us a little about the book we're featuring today, Love's Rescue.

After four years away in Charleston, Elizabeth Benjamin is returning to her beloved Key West after her mother’s passing. Driven by guilt that she never lived up to her mother’s expectations, she intends to reform her tomboy ways and take over as mistress of the house. That plan hits the rocks when her ship runs aground on the reef and her rescuer is none other than the man her father despises—and the one her heart can’t forget.

Q. Where did the idea for this book or series originate?

I have long wanted to write a book about the wreckers that operated from Key West back in the 1800s. That industry was a huge part of the area’s history. I tossed around a variety of ideas for years before settling on Rourke and Elizabeth’s story. Creating an honorable wrecker in the midst of a profession that often drew villains was great fun! 

Q. What is there about Rourke and Elizabeth that will draw readers to them?

        Wrecking followed on the heels of piracy in the Keys, and thus drew many of the same types of men. Rourke insists on a strict moral code aboard ship, based on Biblical principles. He takes men into his crew who are discarded or dismissed by society. He will do what is right, even if it goes against the desires of his heart.
        Elizabeth is a feisty woman who hasn’t quite shaken her tomboy childhood. Though she now dons beautiful gowns and the required number of petticoats, she would rather run barefoot through the sand. There’s a bit of that desire for freedom inside all of us.

Q. What faith elements did you weave into this story?

Forgiveness—especially when those closest to us wound us deeply—is the deepest thread. Some characters extend mercy and grace, some struggle to forgive (as do many of us!), and some desperately need forgiveness. When I think on all that Jesus endured for my sake, I’m brought to my knees in gratitude.

Q. What’s on the book horizon for you?

I’m currently in the midst of the second book in the series, Honor Redeemed, and am looking forward to the third book. I’m also beginning a 4-book mail-order bride series with Love Inspired Historical. It’s going to be a busy year or so!

Q: How can we support and/or pray for you, Christine?

Prayers are always welcome. I covet prayers that the Lord will put these stories in the hands of those who need a word or encouragement. Also pray for the Good News to reach into the deepest dark places on this earth.

Thank you for visiting with me today. May the Lord’s light shine upon each one of you.

Carole:  Thank you so much for taking the time to be with us today, Christine. And I think all of us avid readers are excited about the books you will be working on over the next year or two. Please come back and visit us again.

You can also connect with Christine online at www.christineelizabethjohnson.comFacebook, and Twitter



To enter the drawing for Love’s Rescue . . .

1) If you're on Facebook, please go to and share about this giveaway ("likes" to my FB page are not required, but very much appreciated).

2) I asked Christine something that I don’t believe I’ve ever asked any of you, so please answer this question or leave a comment for Christine:

When it comes to ministry, what is your passion?

BE SURE to leave your name and your email address in a safe format - [at] and [dot] - for the drawing. E-mail required for entry. Contest ends at midnight PST on Monday, October 26. Winner will be chosen by and contacted by e-mail.

Eligibility: US and Canadian addresses