Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Review: The Good Book

The Good Book
By Deron Spoo
David C. Cook, 2017


The Good Book offers a user-friendly guide to the Bible's biggest ideas.

A chapter from the Bible accompanies each chapter of the book, which helps readers understand the context and content of the Scripture passages in a way that can open the whole Bible.

Designed as a forty-day journey through forty key chapters of the Bible, The Good Book will appeal to those who already love and read the Bible regularly as well as to those who are just beginning their Christian journey.

The Good Book:

-- is a great evangelism tool for explaining the major themes of Scripture to those who want to know more about God, Jesus, and the core beliefs of Christianity;
-- gives new believers an overview of the Bible and lays a framework to help them understand Scripture passages;
-- helps longtime Christians rediscover the basic themes of Scripture and experience these truths in a new way; and
-- encourages Scriptural literacy as it pushes readers to read both one chapter of the book and one chapter of the Bible each day for forty days.

The Good Book is great for individuals, and it can also be used by small groups in an eight-week church-wide program or a forty-week journey that focuses on one Bible chapter each week.

The Good Book will help people understand and live by the transformative truths of the Bible.

Learn more and purchase a copy.

My thoughts

The Good Book by Deron Spoo is a most excellent book and can be used in several different ways, as mentioned in the description above. I was drawn to this book by the recommendation of my favorite teaching pastor, Kyle Idleman, and I encourage you to watch the video at the end.

I love the uniqueness of The Good Book, for I’ve thought long and hard, and can’t come up with anything similar. It’s informative in its overview of the Bible as it highlights 40 key truths or ideas about God, from Genesis to Revelation. These aren’t exhaustive, but rather 40 that the author chose – and I have to say that he chose well.

The book is divided into eight major sections, each with five chapters. Sections include themes such as … God Is Good When Life Gets Messy, God Is Big, Jesus Has Just Entered the Building, and God’s Message for You. Some chapters from the Bible are what you would expect to find … Genesis 1, Psalm 23, John 1, Acts 1, 1 Corinthians 13. Others that might not be as familiar beautifully contribute to the overall goal.

The Good Book would be excellent for new believers or seekers, especially those with little to no church background, and I’ve already recommended it to our pastor. It’s not a substitute for Bible reading, nor is that the author’s intention. Rather, I believe it would motivate and increase the desire to delve further into God’s Word.

In an interview with my friend Carrie at Reading Is My Superpower, Deron Spoo said, “This book is about more than understanding the Bible.  This book is about falling in love with God.  Let’s do more than accumulate knowledge about the Bible; let’s allow the love of God to alter our heart and transform our lives.” I believe that’s the real strength of The Good Book, and in that regard, it is suitable for Christians at all maturity levels. I read with highlighter in hand, enjoying its inspiration and freshness.

Highly recommended.

I was provided a free copy of this book through Litfuse Publicity and David C. Cook. The opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own.


Deron Spoo is the pastor of First Baptist Church in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Over the past 16 years, Spoo has guided the church as it transitions from being simply a downtown church to a regional church committed to urban ministry. 

Church members describe him as "down to earth" and "authentic." His television devotionals, "First Things First," reach 100,000 people each week. 

Spoo is a graduate of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. He and his wife, Paula, have three children.

Find out more about Deron at

Monday, May 29, 2017

Review: What Hope Remembers

What Hope Remembers
By Johnnie Alexander
Misty Willow #3
Revell, 2017


When you need a new beginning, sometimes the best place to start is home

When Amy Somers leaves her job as a lobbyist, she moves to Misty Willow, well aware that she's crossing bridges she'd burned years before. With all the mistakes she's made and the things she's done, she can hardly believe that happiness will find her--especially when Gabe Kendall, her first crush and her first kiss, rides back into her life atop a buckskin mare.

A former Marine, Gabe is at loose ends after serving a prison sentence for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. He sees beyond Amy's hard exterior to the girl he once knew and loved, and he longs to see her open her heart. Yet with his vision clouded by shame for his past and fears about the future, it's difficult to see the path ahead.

But the memory of that long-ago kiss just may have the power to reignite a romance that brings out the best in both of them.

My thoughts

The Misty Willow series is one of my favorites. Each story is well written, filled with rich characterization and engaging storylines – and there is a certain “something” that resonated with me and captured my emotions. Amy and Gabe’s story in What Hope Remembers is a poignant, heartwarming conclusion. It’s primarily a contemporary romance with a bit of suspense, especially toward the end.

For thus said the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel,
“In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness
and in trust shall be your strength.”
Isaiah 30:15

This verse from the beginning beautifully captures the essence of Amy and Gabe, two characters so real that they don’t seem fictional. Amy, a secondary character in the previous two books, wasn’t very likeable and I longed for her story to be told. Christian fiction at its best conveys a redemptive spiritual journey and that’s exactly what we experience as her journey unfolds.

Amy presented a cold exterior; she had worked hard, often at the expense of others, to climb that proverbial corporate ladder – until a life-altering event brings her back to Misty Willow, where she is confronted with a first love. Gabe is such an appealing character and the chemistry between them is palpable.

Both Gabe and Amy have a past, present and future that feature prominently … a past with haunting regrets … a present of uncertainty, not quite belonging, seeking … and a future filled with hope and promise. Most beautiful of all, What Hope Remembers is a story that reflects all that is possible through God’s amazing grace.

Highly recommended.

I was provided a free copy of this book from the author and Revell. The opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own.


Johnnie Alexander is the award-winning author of Where Treasure Hides and Where She Belongs. Johnnie is an accomplished essayist and poet whose work has appeared in the Guideposts anthology, A Cup of Christmas Cheer

In addition to writing, she enjoys reading, spending time with her grandchildren, and taking road trips. She lives near Memphis, Tennessee.


Sunday, May 28, 2017

Review (+ Tour GIVEAWAY): Return to Huckleberry Hill

Click here to purchase your copy.

About the Book

Book: Return to Huckleberry Hill  
Author: Jennifer Beckstrand  
Genre: Inspirational Amish Romance  
Release Date: May 30, 2017  

When it comes to matchmaking, Huckleberry Hill, Wisconsin’s unstoppable octogenarians Anna and Felty Helmuth never seem to run out of opportunities—or grandchildren…

Reuben Helmuth is plenty bitter. John King, his best friend—or so he thought—is engaged to the girl Reuben loved. Humiliated, Reuben flees from Ohio to his grandparents’ home on Huckleberry Hill, where he knows he’ll find comfort. He’s enjoying wallowing in his misery—until John’s sister, Fern, shows up. She won’t stop pestering Reuben about forgiveness—or trying to help him find love again. Yet Fern’s efforts only reawaken Reuben’s long-buried feelings—for her…

With her brother too ashamed to face Reuben, it’s fallen to Fern to help mend fences. But as she and the Helmuths do all they can—even organizing a knitting club event filled with eligible girls—it may take one more challenge to inspire Reuben to forget his heartache, recognize his own blunders, and embrace the true love that’s right in front of him…

My Thoughts

Jennifer Beckstrand will never be able to write enough Felty & Anna stories to quench my hunger for them, so I am thrilled with Return to Huckleberry Hill. Fans of this couple in their eighties will find that Anna’s cooking is still extremely creative, Felty is still making up his own song lyrics and playing the license game, they continue to successfully play matchmaker with their grandchildren – and they reflect a lifetime of love for God and for each other that sets an example for all of us. On the surface, this is a sweet romance with Beckstrand’s signature humor, but there’s much spiritual depth to this story with its nod to the Prodigal Son parable.

Reuben, Anna and Felty’s grandson, isn’t very likeable for most of the book. This rich and handsome minister’s son seems like a good catch, except for the fact that he’s prideful, concerned with popularity, acceptance, and reputation. Betrayed by his best friend and the girl he planned on marrying, Reuben visits Anna and Felty for an extended time, and he “wore his self-pity like a badge.” I loved Fern, sister of Reuben’s best friend, who has loved him since childhood. She’s goodhearted and caring; she recognizes his flaws and calls him out on his attitude, yet offers unconditional love. There’s some really funny scenes, such as Reuben's visits to the ladies of Anna’s knitting club in an effort to apologize for his loss of temper.

Social structure plays a prominent part and Beckstrand does a great job at humanizing the Amish through the concept of underlings, something I’ve never come across in Amish fiction before … “Underling families were never completely accepted by the rest of the community. Their opinions didn’t count for much in the church – no matter how upstanding they were – and their children had a difficult time finding someone to marry.”

Spiritual journey and growth are key elements in this story, and Reuben’s transformation is so very satisfying. I loved Felty’s words to Reuben, which reflect the essence of Return to Huckleberry Hill

The measure of a man isn’t how popular he is with his friends,
but how he treats those who have nothing to give him.

While I thoroughly enjoyed the romance and humor, it’s the spiritual gems that made this book special – because it made me examine how I perceive other people, consciously or subconsciously.

I believe Return to Huckleberry Hill is a book that all would enjoy, even if Amish fiction isn’t your thing. And if you're new to the series, this story stands alone. Highly recommended.

I was provided an electronic copy of this book through Celebrate Lit. The opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own.

About the Author

Jennifer Beckstrand is the award winning Amish romance author of The Matchmakers of Huckleberry Hill series and The Honeybee Sisters series for Kensington Books. Jennifer has always been drawn to the strong faith and the enduring family ties of the Plain people and loves writing about the antics of Anna and Felty Helmuth and the Honeybee sisters’ aendi Bitsy. 

Jennifer has a degree in mathematics and a passion for Jane Austen and Shakespeare. She and her husband have been married for thirty-two years, and she has four daughters, two sons, and soon-to-be six adorable grandchildren, whom she spoils rotten.

Guest post from Jennifer Beckstrand

Anna Helmuth is starting a knitting club, but that’s not all she’s got up her sleeve.

In Return to Huckleberry Hill, Anna Helmuth and Fern King decide to start a knitting club in order to introduce Anna’s grandson Reuben to some girls from Bonduel, Wisconsin. Anna is a very good knitter, with years of practice making baby blankets, scarves, mittens, and potholders. One of Anna’s scarves actually saved someone’s life, and her potholders have helped her make many a match.

When I was a young teenager, I learned how to knit and crochet. My mom taught me how to sew and quilt, and I made several of my own dresses in high school. I never learned to love sewing, but it was an invaluable skill that I am so grateful to have. Now that I’m a little older, I love putting together simple quilts for baby gifts and making quilts for the local children’s hospital. There is nothing like a homemade gift to say, “I care about you.”

I have a friend who is a wonderful cook. Making a delicious, beautiful meal is how she tells her family she loves them. I don’t consider myself a great cook, but I still take pride in putting something nutritious and satisfying on the table for my family.

It seems to me that some of the “home arts” that our mothers and grandmothers practiced are dying out. Who knows how to tat anymore? Or embroider? Some of these arts have died because of expediency. Who doesn’t think today’s stocking choices are more comfortable and practical than knitted wool ones? Others have died out because so few people want to learn.

What about you? Do you still practice any of the home arts that your grandmother did? What do you want to pass on to the next generation?


To celebrate her tour, Jennifer is giving away a $15 Amazon gift card to three lucky winners!! Please help by clicking on this link and sharing my Facebook post, then leave a comment here.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Review: Forensic Faith

Forensic Faith
By J. Warner Wallace
David C. Cook, 2017


A cold-case detective helps you rethink and share your Christian beliefs.

J. Warner Wallace has asked this question in churches across America over the past several years, and the answer he gets is often disappointing; it's almost always rooted in some sort of personal, subjective experience. As a community, we Christians aren't typically prepared to make the case for why we believe Christianity is true from the objective evidence of history, philosophy or science. Worse yet, many of us don't think we have any obligation to do so.

In J. Warner's first two books, he made the case for God's existence (God's Crime Scene) and the case for Christianity (Cold-Case Christianity). In Forensic Faith, J. Warner completes the trilogy by making the case for... making the case! In Forensic Faith, J. Warner helps readers understand why it's important to defend what they believe, and provides them with a unique template to help them become effective "Christian Case Makers." Forensic Faith will help readers:

-understand why they, as Christians, have a duty to defend the truth
-develop a training strategy to master the evidence for Christianity
-learn how to employ the techniques of a detective to discover new insights from God's Word
-become better communicators by learning the skills of professional case makers

With real-life detective stories, fascinating strategies, and biblical insights, J. Warner hopes to teach readers the daily cold-case investigative disciplines they can apply in their lives as believers. Forensic Faith is an engaging, fresh look at what it means to be a Christian.

Learn more and purchase a copy.

My thoughts

Forensic Faith is not only a well-written, interesting and informative book, I’d say that it is a vital book, especially in today’s times. My faith is strong and I’ve done a lot of study over the years, but could I give an adequate defense for why I believe? Probably not.

I’ve always found apologetics interesting and have read some works by authors like Lee Strobel, which can be quite deep. What I like about Forensic Faith is that it is thorough, comprehensive and logical – and easy to follow. Wallace has journeyed from atheism to being a passionate, knowledgeable, and clear communicator.

Through his creative approach – that of a forensic investigator pursuing a cold case – Wallace first makes a compelling case for why our defensive knowledge is important and that Christianity was never intended to rely on “blind” faith – and he’s right. I especially liked how, while presenting evidence in a step-by-step flow, he doesn’t diminish the part that faith plays.

It’s no secret that our children’s faith will be attacked when they get to college. While Forensic Faith has a personal benefit for the reader, it would also be a great resource for parents to use as a teaching tool. I’m eager to start at the beginning and work my way slowly through this book.

Highly recommended.

I was provided a free copy of this book through Litfuse Publicity. The opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own.

J. Warner Wallace is a cold-case homicide detective who has been featured on Dateline, Fox News, and Court TV. A former atheist, he is the author of "Cold-Case Christianity" and "God's Crime Scene." Wallace has a master's degree in theology and lives in California with his wife and four children.

Find out more about J. Warner at

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Review (+ Tour GIVEAWAY): The Final Vow

The Final Vow
By Amanda Flower
Living History Museum Series #3
Midnight Ink, 2017


Summer weddings in Barton Farm’s picturesque church are standard procedure for museum director Kelsey Cambridge. At least they were until the Cherry Foundation, which supports the museum, orders Kelsey to host her ex-husband’s wedding on Farm grounds.

Ambitious wedding planner Vianna Pine is determined to make the bride’s Civil War-themed wedding perfect. But each time Vianna’s vision threatens the integrity and safety of the Farm, Kelsey has to intervene.

When Kelsey finds Vianna’s dead body at the foot of the church steps, everyone’s plans fall apart. With both the wedding and Barton Farm at risk of being permanently shut down, Kelsey has to work hard to save her own happily ever after.

Amazon    B&N

My thoughts

The Final Vow by Amanda Flower has all the essential ingredients that make for a good cozy mystery – picturesque location, small-village setting, gentle humor, likeable characters (with the exception one or two who are frustrating), mystery that quickly hooks you – and I enjoyed it very much.

Kelsey, divorced, is raising her six-year-old son and running Barton Farm, a living history museum in Ohio’s Cuyahoga Valley. With her love for Hayden and her passion is to teach the public about the past, I found her likeable and easy to connect with. I also enjoyed the supporting cast that has probably been present since the beginning of this series, but The Final Vow still works fine as a standalone.

The author did a good job with the historical museum theme, something that I always enjoy. The mystery storyline was entertaining and I liked that when the murder is unmasked, his reasoning made sense. Also, I'm glad to note that this is a clean read.

I plan on reading more stories by Amanda Flower, as well as looking into those written under her pen name, Isabella Alan.


I was provided a free copy of this book through Great Escapes Tours. The opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own.


Amanda Flower, a two-time Agatha Award-nominated mystery author, started her writing career in elementary school when she read a story she wrote to her sixth grade class and had the class in stitches with her description of being stuck on the top of a Ferris wheel. She knew at that moment she’d found her calling of making people laugh with her words. She also writes mysteries as national bestselling author Isabella Alan. In addition to being an author, Amanda is an academic librarian for a small college near Cleveland.

WebsitePen name websiteFacebook


Review: Brave Is the New Beautiful

Brave Is the New Beautiful
By Lee Wolfe Blum
David C. Cook, 2017


Our culture bombards women with "thinspiration" messages and pressure to "do it all" while wearing the mask of perfection.

Women are left feeling alone and overwhelmed. How can they stop comparing themselves to others? How can they live out who they really are?

Lee Wolfe Blum offers stories from everyday women who have answered these questions with their lives-and found true beauty in the process. In Brave Is the New Beautiful, Blum weaves reflections from her own journey with inspirational stories from everyday women who chose to take off their masks and live authentically. Through call-to-action questions and ideas, she encourages readers to be brave enough to be who they really are and the beloved that God knows they are.

Learn more and purchase a copy.

My thoughts

Beauty is the woman who sees her brokenness
and acknowledges the scars of life
but doesn’t try to cover them up or hide behind them.

Brave Is the New Beautiful looks directly into your eyes and speaks straight to your heart. We see beauty in its true sense, far from how the world would define it. Within its pages, we meet courageous women and situations like Shannon with her scarred face … Heather Jo, for whom adopting children turned into aching heartbreak … Megan’s decision about her unborn child … Stacy’s determination to not be defined by cancer.

Blum’s writing style in engaging in this collection of women who have faced the unimaginable and grown in faith. Their stories are real, as are their struggles. You won’t find endings where everything is tied up neatly – and that makes them even more inspiring. Chapter themes reflect life processes like confronting, believing, reinventing, surrendering, enduring, trusting. I loved the thought-provoking quotes that begin each chapter. Questions for reflection offer times for introspection and healing.

Brave Is the New Beautiful is full of hope and inspiration, packed with a compelling message for all women. Highly recommended.

I was provided a free copy of this book through Litfuse Publicity. The opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own.


Lee Wolfe Blum is an energetic and passionate speaker who loves to help women find hope in healing from perfectionism and addictions. She works as a mental health practitioner in the field of Eating Disorders and Chemical Dependency. She lives in Minnesota with her husband and three boys.

Find out more about Lee Wolfe at