Deliver Us From Evil by Robin Caroll


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U. S. Marshall Roark Holland is back on the job after a tragic loss. His assignment is to guard a donor heart being transported for a government witness who is comatose after being in the line of fire. When a blizzard causes the helicopter to crash, Brannon Callahan, a helicopter pilot who runs search-and-rescue missions in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, must find him and help save him and the heart. If she doesn’t, the witness will die, and a child trafficking ring will continue its operations.

The writing is good. There’s no question about that. Caroll makes you want to see what happens next, and has created distinguishable characters. That being said, I only got through the first five chapters.

This isn’t a reflection on the author, but my ability to read the content. I have a hard time reading books (or watching movies) where children are being hurt. There are chapters that are from the point of view of a child stuck in the trafficking ring, and while they are not overly descriptive (some things are left to the imagination), it is vivid enough that my stomach turned.

Had the chapters with the child not been included, or possibly done a bit differently, I probably could have continued with no problem. The action was done so that I could see this would be an engaging thriller, but I couldn’t get past the child. And that would be my one content warning.

Since I feel like I read enough to get the feel of the writer’s style and where the book was headed, I’ll use my ratings system, which still leaves the book with a nice score. I may try another book from Caroll in the future, but this one wasn’t for me.

1) Overall Plot =3.5
2) Characters = 4
3) Flow/Pace of the story = 4
4) Is the story easy to follow? = 4.5
5) Overall Enjoyability = 2

Average of score 3.6 out of 5

Where to buy the book: Amazon | B&N

Will You Join Me On My Journey?


A couple of months ago I shared that I entered a writing contest as part of my plan to treat writing as a career and look for opportunities to be published. I’m still waiting on the results of that contest, but I want to share some things on my writing journey as a whole.

I shared last time about a Ko-fi account that I created that would allow my readers (you guys!) to help support me on my journey, and I am very grateful to have received a couple of sizeable (more than I would have ever expected) donations that have allowed me to purchase a few writing resources/tools (including Scrivener) and join the American Christian Fiction Writers. A membership in ACFW can mean great things for a writing career in terms of support and connections. I am thrilled that I was finally able to do this.

I also mentioned in that previous post that I was considering using Patreon as a way to get support, and I’ve done it (click the picture below).

patreon

The great thing about Patreon is that I can set up donation tiers. Even the smallest amount helps, because those small amounts add up when more people give.

My tiers are $2, $5, $10, $15, and $25. At each level, you get a little something: from periodic updates about my writing, to being able to suggest topics for a blog post, to book giveaways. The more you give, the more you get.

This support means a lot to me. To be able to purchase the things I need to not just write, but move toward publication, is amazing. Another item I was able to purchase with the last donation through Ko-fi was The Christian Writer’s Market Guide. This one purchase can help me greatly with publication possibilities.

So, I’m asking for two favors.

  1. If you can, please become a Patron, at whatever tier is comfortable for you.
  2. Whether you can become a Patron or not, please spread the word. This post will be shared on Twitter. Please consider sharing it there. If you have a WordPress blog, please consider sharing this post to your blog.

One day, when I reach the publication of a novel, I’ll try to do something amazing for my supporters. For now, this is what I can offer in return for support that would mean the world to me.

Thank you all. God bless.

How to Be a Perfect Christian by The Babylon Bee


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What’s the key to being a perfect Christian? You need to remember that it’s all about you. In this guide, you’ll get tips on finding a church that caters to your beliefs and spiritual needs. You’ll learn how to keep your fellowship at the surface level so that no one learns enough about you to see what a mess your life really is. Best of all, you’ll learn how to use your Christianity as a tool to call out non-believers, vilify people who vote differently than you do, and protect your family from imperfect Christians and heathens.

In the satirical tradition of their popular website, The Babylon Bee has created something hysterical in its ridiculousness. This book pokes fun at the odd (and sometimes un-Christian) behavior and thinking of modern Christian culture.

The authors make sure to lace the mocking with traces of Biblical truth, which beautifully contrasts the objects of their humor. They even manage to proclaim the true gospel in the final chapter, though still in the form of satire.

Overall, this book is brilliant, and calls out the modern church on things that need to be called out.

1) Is it understandable = 5
2) Presentation of Information = 5
3) Quality of Writing = 5
4) Overall Enjoyability = 5

Average score of 5 out of 5.

Where to buy the book: CBD | Amazon | B&N

I received an advanced copy of this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review.

From This Moment by Elizabeth Camden


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Romulus White has been pursuing Stella West for years. Her artistic talent has made her famous, and Romulus wants her work in his science magazine. Stella, however, has no desire to leave London, where she’s made a name for herself.

Only the mysterious death of her sister, Gwendolyn, gets her to leave. She travels to Boston to gets answers. Instead, she finds a tight-knit group of police and city officials who see her as a nuisance.

When Romulus finds Stella in Boston, she realizes that he may have the connections she needs to finally get to the truth, but an instant attraction soon becomes a distraction for both of them, and the more they uncover about Gwendolyn’s death, the closer they both get to losing everything they value.

This historical novel has a great blend of suspense and romance. I was a little unsure in the beginning when I figured out one aspect of the mystery, but as the truth unfolded, I was honestly surprised. The characters are flawed in such a way that they could have been unlikable, but Camden did a great job of fleshing them out and making you want to see them succeed.

The descriptions and scene-setting are also well done. It’s just enough to allow you to visualize without becoming too much.

This was my first Camden novel, and I will definitely read more of her work. If you’re looking for a clean romance, with an intriguing mystery, this is for you.

1) Overall Plot =4.5
2) Characters = 4.5
3) Flow/Pace of the story = 5
4) Is the story easy to follow? = 5
5) Overall Enjoyability = 4.5

Average of score 4.7 out of 5

Where to buy the book: CBD | Amazon | B&N

Shrouded in Silence by Robert L. Wise


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Jack and Michelle Townsend are looking for the original ending to Mark’s Gospel. Their search brings them to Rome where their lives are put in danger by two different groups who want to stop them from succeeding.

I’m sorry to say that I didn’t get past 30 pages of this one. Though the writing felt stilted, the prologue was a little promising, but it went downhill. The entire first chapter should have been omitted, in my opinion. I’d already figured out what I’m guessing should have been a mystery before the end of chapter two. The writing was too formal, and long-winded at times, with too much explanation and description. The dialogue always felt like two people who really didn’t like each other, yet they had to be civil.

I love a good suspense thriller, especially when it revolves around church history, but I can’t recommend this one at all.

Since I didn’t read very much of it, I can’t honestly use my usual rating system. But based on what I read, I can’t give this novel more than 1 out of 5.

Where to buy the book: CBD | Amazon | B&N

Not Yet Married by Marshall Segal


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The world has a lot to say about dating and relationships. It has a lot to say about people who are single and whether or not marriage is even necessary in the times we live in. But what does the single life, and dating, look like for a Christian?

As a single woman in my 30’s, I was hesitant to read this one, but decided to give it a shot. Most Christian books I’ve read regarding singleness, especially those written by married people, gear the message so heavily toward marriage and having children that they left me feeling lonely, and burdened by my singleness. That is not the case with this one.

Segal spends the first part of the book speaking of singleness. He tackles that loneliness mentioned above in an honest and upfront way. We crave affection and want to be known. Marriage and relationships can give us that, so we tend to long for them, but as Christians the best and most intimate relationship we can have is with Jesus. Segal takes the time to explain that sometimes our singleness is God-given, for a purpose. There may be things God wants us to do for Him that are better suited for someone who doesn’t yet have a spouse or children to take care of.

The rest of the book is centered around dating with the intention of marriage. What does that mean for a Christian? How do we date in a way that looks different from the world? It’s not just setting physical boundaries (though that is important), but it’s about keeping Jesus first in the relationship. The Bible says we should love God first and foremost. That means even above our spouse.

What I love most about this book is that Segal is careful to gear the message equally toward men and woman. While much of what he presents is generic, he reminds us that men and women have different roles and needs in a relationship, both spiritually and emotionally. He also guides the single toward a healthy, God-centered marriage without alienating the single who aren’t actively seeking marriage, even us “older” singles. In fact, he includes them.

If you’re single, whether you want to be or not, I highly recommend this book to put your singleness in the right perspective.

1) Is it understandable = 5
2) Presentation of Information = 5
3) Quality of Writing = 5
4) Overall Enjoyability = 5

Average score of 5 out of 5.

Where to buy the book: CBD | Amazon | B&N

I received an electronic copy of this book from Crossway in exchange for an honest review.

A Poison Dark and Drowning by Jessica Cluess


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Henrietta Howel was brought to London as the first female sorcerer in centuries. She was the chosen one who would help defeat the Ancients terrorizing England, but she’s not the chosen one.

Still, she must carry on for the public as though she is the one who will save them. It means that she and Rook will have a chance to be safe, though his dark powers are growing as he learns to control them, changing him into something she doesn’t recognize.

With permission from the head of the Order, Howel and Blackwood go in search of weapons that may help them in their war against the Ancients. Magnus, still trying to get back into Howel’s good graces, is assigned to assist.

Along the way they discover strange places, danger, and truth that has devastating consequences.

This second book in Cluess’s Kingdom on Fire series is perfectly on par with the first. The story moves on without any lag. The characters are so well-written that they jump off the page. There’s a little more drama as potential romances grow, but it’s so woven into the plot that it all feels natural, and leaves you a little unsure of who to root for.

I have to point out Cluess’s ability to lay groundwork with hints and clues as the story unfolds. A lot of things come to light in this novel, and I was able to predict a few of them by the clues left here and there, and still be satisfied in the reveal. There are still unanswered questions, and I still have some theories that haven’t played out yet. I will definitely be reading the next book.

A few content warnings: The use of magic is heavier than the first book as magicians take on a greater role. There is mild language. The first novel hinted at a gay relationship and it is confirmed in this novel. The characters are minor, and the scene is short, but I expect it may be brought up again in the next book.

1) Overall Plot =4.5
2) Characters = 5
3) Flow/Pace of the story = 5
4) Is the story easy to follow? = 5
5) Overall Enjoyability = 4.5

Average of score 4.8 out of 5

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Blogging for Books in return for an honest review.

One Word 365 (2018)


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Let love be without hypocrisy. Detest evil; cling to what is good. 10 Love one another deeply as brothers and sisters. Outdo one another in showing honor. 11 Do not lack diligence in zeal; be fervent in the Spirit; serve the Lord. 12 Rejoice in hope; be patient in affliction; be persistent in prayer. 13 Share with the saints in their needs; pursue hospitality. 14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice; weep with those who weep. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud; instead, associate with the humble. Do not be wise in your own estimation. 17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Give careful thought to do what is honorable in everyone’s eyes. 18 If possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.  (Romans 12:9-18 CSB)

My One Word for 2018 is persistence.

I always look for scripture when thinking about my word for the year, but this one I could only find once. It’s placement, however, is a section of scripture that I was immediately drawn to. God has been working in me to make me more like Jesus. I feel it more and more as my heart changes. I’ve been drawn to studies lately that deal with what our external behaviors should look like when our hearts are focused on Christ, and this scripture is an amazing summary. We can’t do these things in our own power. It takes the strength and guidance of the Holy Spirit.

With God’s help I want to be persistent in all these things. I want to be persistent in my pursuit of Him.

I also, with God’s help, want to be persistent in my writing; both in practice and in study.

I want 2018 to be a year of never giving up, even when everything is telling me I should.

Do you have a One Word? Tell me what it is in the comments. If you have a One Word post on your blog, feel free to drop a link there.

 

Photo by Ruben Mishchuk on Unsplash

What Jesus Demands from the World by John Piper


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When we think of Jesus, we tend to think of the mild teacher, or the suffering servant who died on a cross for our salvation. We don’t usually think of him as demanding things from us. That was under the law, and Jesus frees us from the law, right? Not really. Not in that way.

In this book John Piper lays out several commands (or demands) of Jesus and explains what they mean and how we should obey, using scripture as his basis.

Piper explains his process in this short video:

Over the last couple of years, John Piper has been a great source of learning and spiritual growth for me. This book is no different. I took a pencil to this book, something I almost never do, because it called out to me to do it. I underlined, and asterisked, and noted… and at least one chapter in this book moved me to the point of tears.

Each chapter covers one command (or one aspect of a command) and is only about 4-6 pages long, so this could easily read devotional-style.

This book will challenge you and push you to become a true follower of Jesus by obeying his commands. It is definitely one to read again.

1) Is it understandable = 5
2) Presentation of Information = 5
3) Quality of Writing = 5
4) Overall Enjoyability = 5

Average score of 5 out of 5

As with all of Piper’s books, you can download a free PDF of this book at Desiring God.

Where to buy the book: CBD | Amazon | B&N

Another Year Gone. A New Year Ahead.


2017 wasn’t all I wanted it to be, but it had its moments. I read some great books, learned a lot about writing, took a big step on my writing journey, and drew closer to God. Now we’re all reflecting on the time that has passed, and looking to the time ahead to make changes and grow.

Great Books from 2017

I didn’t meet my reading goal this year, but I still read a good bit. These are the books I loved.

Fiction (Christian):
Luther and Katharina by Jody Hedlund
A Lady in Disguise by Sandra Byrd
The Illusionist’s Apprentice by Kristy Cambron

Fiction (Secular):
A Shadow Bright and Burning by Jessica Cluess
A Torch Against the Night by Sabaa Tahir
The Most Beautiful Woman in Florence by Alyssa Palombo
11/22/63 by Stephen King

Non-Fiction (Christian):
The Legacy of Luther by R.C. Sproul and Stephen J. Nichols
A Time for Confidence by Stephen J. Nichols
The Truth of the Cross by R. C. Sproul
The Treasure Principle by Randy Alcorn

What Jesus Demands of the World by John Piper (review coming soon)

Non-Fiction (Secular):
The Inkblots by Damion Searls

On Writing:
The Dance of Character and Plot by DiAnn Mills

Moving Forward in 2018

In the new year, I will focus on two things:

  1. God
  2. Writing

My focus on God will require the time and dedication of personal Bible reading and Bible study, theological study, prayer, and other spiritual disciplines.

My focus on writing (which includes both my novel and this blog) will require the time and dedication of writing (getting myself in a chair and making it happen, though I am outlining first), planning, research, studying the craft, and reading.

I’ve laid out my long-term and some short-term goals to start me on the right path. I know some things will change as I find the routine that works for me, but the important thing is that I have taken the first steps.

I hope you’ll join me on my journey in 2018!

What are your goals and hopes for the new year? Let me know in the comments.

 

Header photo byMorgan Sessions