Lady of a Thousand Treasures by Sandra Byrd


Byrd-LadyThousandTreasures
The Sheffield Brothers firm is well-known among collectors. Trained by her father and her uncle, Miss Eleanor Sheffield is a talented evaluator, able to tell a fraud from a genuine artifact. But in 1860’s England, Eleanor is unable to run the firm as un unwed woman. After her father’s death, her uncle’s health begins to decline, and business can be hard to come by.

The death of a long-time client puts Eleanor in the position to decide the fate of his expensive collection. The late Lord Lydney doesn’t want the collection to go to his only living son, Harry, who he believes is untrustworthy. He suggests she give the collection to a museum, but she must decide.

The decision won’t be easy. Giving the collection to the museum could boost her firm’s reputation, but Harry, the man who stole and broke her heart, doesn’t appear to be who his father believes him to be.

Eleanor must decide what is true, and who is genuine.

Sandra Byrd has given us another fantastic historical novel! I fell in love with her Daughters of Hampshire series, and after reading this novel I can say that I’m likely to love her new series, Victorian Ladies.

Sandra does an excellent job bringing the reader into 1860’s England, and gives us characters that we care for and root for. Eleanor faces difficult circumstances, and lives out her faith through it all.

If you want a clean, suspenseful, inspiring read, this is definitely a novel you want to pick up.

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

Average score of 5 out of 5

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

I was given the opportunity to be a part of Sandra’s promotional team for the release of this book. As part of the team, I received a complimentary copy of the book, but was not required to give a positive review.

A Little Book on the Christian Life by John Calvin


Calvin-LittleBookChristianLife
Published in 1539, the second edition of Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion contained a new chapter: On the life of a Christian Man. It has since been published many times in various languages as part of the entirety of the Institutes, as well as separate books, such as this one.

In this new English translation, editors Aaron Clay Denlinger and Burk Parsons strive to not just give us the message of Calvin, but to stay true to his words and tone.

Calvin lays out what the Scripture says about the life of a Christian regarding success and suffering. How are we to respond to success? How do we respond to suffering, be it illness, poverty, or persecution? How does our response portray our relationship with God?

This book is an encouragement of truth. Where most churches today convey Godly success as prosperity in every area of life, this little book reminds us of what the Bible says. Simply, the Christian life involves strife. That strife should drive us to God.

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

White by Ted Dekker


Dekker-WhiteThomas Hunter isn’t sure which is more real, the virus that will kill practically every person on the planet in less than two weeks, or the Horde that threatens the existence of his people.

The fate of two worlds rests in Thomas’s hands, and they are somehow connected. More than Thomas could have ever imagined.

Book three in the Circle series picks up pace as the virus begins to present symptoms. Coupled with a new challenge for Thomas in the world of the Colored Forest, the tension stays thick.

Once again, the Biblical symbolism is powerful.

While White ends on a note that feels complete, there is one more book in the series. Green. So, be sure not to miss it.

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

Average of score 5 out of 5

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

Outlining Your Novel by K. M. Weiland


 

Weiland-OutliningYourNovel

Outlining can seem like a daunting task. Especially to someone who has never used one when writing fiction. Memories of high school term papers come to mind, with mandatory outlines, complete with roman numerals, letters, and numbers.

K. M. Weiland sets out to erase that picture and give a more accurate presentation of what a novel outline looks like. In this book you’ll learn how to flesh out ideas, characters, and settings, all before writing a word of your first draft.

I discovered K. M. Weiland about six years ago when I stumbled upon her Wordplayer’s Manifesto. When I seriously began thinking of writing a novel I found her again and I’ve followed her online ever since. She is adamant about helping writers, and it shows in this book.

Coupled with the workbook, this is a great resource for outlining. The workbook especially takes you piece by piece and asks specific questions you can answer about your characters, plot, etc. It’s a great guide. I say guide, simply because I found that, at least for the purposes of the novel I’m working on, the order of her outlining doesn’t quite work for me. So, I’m doing it a bit differently, but those questions will work in any order.

With examples from Weiland’s own work, insight from authors who use outlines, and checklists to guide you through, you’ll see the benefits of outlining in no time.

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: Amazon | B&N

Black by Ted Dekker


Dekker-Black

When Thomas Hunter falls asleep in this world, he awakes in another. It’s a world where what we know as the spiritual is physically present. He lives there until he falls asleep, then he reawakens in this world. As he goes back and forth, he loses sight of what’s real. Is it this world or that one? Are they somehow both real?

The only thing he knows for sure is that what happens to him in the other world affects him in this one. He learns of a virus that could wipe out the entire planet in three weeks. He’s the only one who can stop it, and no one believes him.

It’s up to Thomas to save both worlds as darkness engulfs them both.

This is my second reading of the Circle series. Black is book one.

When I first read this series, I fell in love with Dekker’s writing. When someone asks me what my favorite books are, this series is the first one I list.

Dekker has masterfully woven two plots into one. There is action, suspense, romance, and all-around entertainment. But my favorite thing about this series is the imagery. Symbolism and Biblical parallels are laced throughout.

Reading this again, I realize that I may have missed things that were fairly obvious in regards to Old Testament imagery in this first installment. Recognizing these parallels makes the story so much richer.

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

Average of score 5 out of 5

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

Fatal Mistake by Susan Sleeman


Sleeman-FatalMistake
When Tara Parrish barely survives an attack from the Lone Wolf bomber, she decides the only person she can count on to keep her safe is herself. She runs, knowing that if the bomber finds her, he’ll finish what he started.

Agent Cal Riggins has spent months trying to catch the Lone Wolf to stop him from taking any more lives. He knows Tara can help him, and he finally tracks her down. Now he has three problems: convincing Tara to come back and help, keeping her safe, and fighting off the growing attraction and admiration he feels for her so he can successfully do both of those things.

This novel had me glued from page one. Tension on every page. It’s a romantic suspense that holds solid on both fronts.

I think my favorite thing about his story is that, being a terrorist bomber, it could have been very generalized. Sleeman avoided that by making the stakes super-personal and adding a psychological twist, as well as a running theme of not trusting God when it seems like He’s not there.

All-in-all, this is a great read.

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

Average of score 5 out of 5

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

How to Be a Perfect Christian by The Babylon Bee


BabylonBee-PerfectChristian

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.

Not Yet Married by Marshall Segal


Segal-NotYetMarried

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.

What Jesus Demands from the World by John Piper


Piper-WhatJesusDemands

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

The Left Behind Series by Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins


This year, Tyndale Publishers has re-released the Left Behind series, repackaged! The new covers are great and if you haven’t read this series you should definitely pick these up. It looks as if it’s books 1 through 12 that have been released, so in honor of that I’m going to post quick summaries of each of them here, along with the new cover art. At the end, I’ll do a wrapup review of the series as a whole.

Left Behind
The series begins with “Left Behind.” This book starts just before the rapture of the church takes place. On an airplane in mid-flight we meet Rayford Steele, Hattie Durham, and Cameron “Buck” Williams. Rayford is the plane’s pilot. Hattie is a flight attendant. Buck is a journalist. Panic arises when sleeping passengers wake up to find loved ones missing, but their clothing is still in their seats. Back on the ground Rayford realizes his wife and young son are gone, their pajamas laying in their beds. He frantically tries to reach his daughter Chloe who is off at college. Hattie tries to find her family. Buck is trying to get the story. By now reports are coming in of strange stories and theories. Pregnant women are suddenly barren. People are missing all over the globe. Is it aliens? Some kind of biological warfare? Rayford knows the truth, even if he doesn’t want to admit it. His wife had tried to tell him a million times, but he wouldn’t listen. Christ had come back for his church and he, along with millions of others, had been left behind. He and his daughter Chloe find a pastor, Bruce Barnes, who had also been Left Behind, but he has answers. While the whole world goes crazy trying to figure out the events, rising politician Nicolae Carpathia is there to ease the world’s grief and keep order. He quickly rises to power, but Buck can see that Nicolae is not the peaceful, humble man he claims to be, and he tries to convince Hattie Durham, Carpathia’s new personal assistant, to stay away from him.

Tribulation Force
In the second novel, Rayford, Chloe, Bruce and Buck have formed the Tribulation Force in anticipation of the horror to come over the next  seven years. Carpathia has formed the one-world government, and the one-world religion which embraces every religion that doesn’t claim one way to heaven or one God. Through a strange turn of events, both Rayford and Buck end up working for Carpathia. Rayford as his pilot and Buck for Global Community Weekly, which is now the only authorized media outlet. Romance begins to blossom for some and tragedy strikes for all. War breaks out as Carpathia attacks anyone who disagrees with the new world order, calling them enemies of peace and tolerance. The Red Horse of Apocalypse runs rampant.


Nicolae
As Nicolae Carpathia rises to absolute power, the Tribulation force keeps tabs on him through Rayford and Buck. Rabbi Tsion Ben-Judah has shocked the world by claiming that his years of study has led him to the final conclusion that Jesus really is the Messiah the Jews had been waiting for. His life in danger, he has gone into hiding. Two supernatural witnesses have appeared in Jerusalem. They preach the Gospel for hours at a time, but no man can harm them. Anyone who tries to doesn’t have time to regret it. The prophesied 144,000 begin to rise and spread the Gospel under the teaching of Ben-Judah. Waters run red with blood, and the great earthquake rocks the entire planet.


Soul Harvest
Rayford and Buck have survived the global earthquake and begin searching for their loved ones yet again. As Tsion goes through notes from Bruce Barnes’ studying, he finds some unsettling journal entries that affect Rayford, and possibly the entire Trib Force and its operations. Tsion Ben-Judah desperately wants to return to Israel to take part in prophecy, but the Trib Force believes he would be in too much danger and his work would best be done from hiding, so he posts his teachings on a website that gain followers faster than anyone can count. It also gets the attention of Carpathia, who is not pleased at all. A meeting of the 144,000 is called, and Carpathia makes plans to be there.


Apollyon
After the meeting of the witnesses, churches spring up everywhere. The 144,000 take charge, teaching their congregations from Ben-Judah internet sermons. Rayford discovers the truth about Amanda, but he is now a fugitive from the Global Community along with Buck and Chloe. Another Judgement is released, and a plague of locusts fall over the land. The effects are so terrible that people try to kill themselves, but they aren’t allowed to die. Buck’s old friend Chaim, a Jewish man who has not come to know Jesus as Messiah,  is terrified as one of his employees is attacked by the creatures. Amidst the Tribulation and global chaos, Chloe gives birth to a son.


Assassins
Danger increases for members of the Tribulation Force. Every day, death becomes more and more likely. The Bible prophecies that the Antichrist will die from a head wound. Certain members of the Trib Force want to be there to see it. At least one wants to be the one to carry it out. Carpathia is giving a speech when a shot rings out. Millions see Carpathia as he falls to the ground and dies, just as the prophecy foretells. Who killed the Antichrist? Was it Rayford? Hattie? The video footage will put someone in danger from the Global Community.


The Indwelling
The seven years of Tribulation are half over.  The Antichrist has been killed and one of the Tribulation Force members is the prime suspect. As the world mourns for its leader, millions make their way to New Babylon for a funeral that never happens. The Tribulation Force is in more danger than ever as the Beast takes full control and the Great Tribulation begins.

The Mark
Satan is now in full control of the Antichrist, and he is demanding loyalty from all on the earth. Global Community Loyalty Mark Application Sites start popping up, and there is a deadline to receive the loyalty mark, known in Bible prophecy as the Mark of the Beast. Thos who choose not to receive the loyalty mark are sent to the Loyalty Enforcement Facilitators, which are nothing more than guillotines. It’s take the mark, or lose your head as Bible prophecy continues to come to life. Million line up to take the mark, while believers go deeper into hiding. One believer must deal with the results of being forced to take the mark against his will.

Desecration
Nicolae Carpathia is finally showing his true colors, and his facade of peace has vanished. He travels to the temple, fulfilling more Biblical prophecy. The first Bowl Judgements is released and a plague affects all who have taken the mark. While many believers are in hiding or involved in underground work, one new believer stands firm against Carpathia for all the world to see. As te Jewish Remnant makes it way to Petra, plans are made for Tsion Ben-Judah to go there as well.

 

The Remnant
Carpathia sends bombs to be dropped on Petra and the entire Jewish remnant. The Tribulation Force must move again as their aliases and hideout become compromised. As the Great Tribulation continues more judgements are released and heat and darkness plague the unbelievers, giving the Tribulation Force a wonderful advantage. At least for a small time. With only a year left in the Great Tribulation, Armageddon is close at hand.

 

Armageddon
The world is on the brink of the ultimate battle of the ages. The armies of the world gather in the Middle East. Thousands are killed as they refuse to take the mark of the beast, including one of the Tribulation Force’s most beloved members. The danger has never been so thick as the world gets closer to the Glorious Appearing of Christ. Many wonder if they will live to see the event.

 

Glorious Appearing
The last days of Tribulation are here, bringing the Battle of Armageddon as the world’s armies are gathered in the Valley of Megiddo. Most of the Tribulation Force is now in Petra with the Jewish Remnant, but only one member of the original Trib Force is still alive. As the battle rages on, believers look to the sky for the sign of the Glorious Appearing of Christ, signaling his return with the armies of Heaven, the defeat of Satan, and the 1,000 year reign of Jesus on Earth.

 

 

So these are the 12 books that have been released with the new packaging. These books must all be read to get the complete story. These are not sequels, but each book continues from where the last left off. There is a book 13, Kingdom Come, which details life after the Glorious Appearing during the 1,000 year reign of Christ, but that one really does read a little more like a sequel and is labeled as such on the old packaging. It continues from book 12, but since the Tribulation is over the events are different. I admit I found it a bit hard to summarize each book without giving away too much of the story. You meet so many characters along the way, and there are so many sub-plots, that there is never a dull moment and I had so much I wanted to say… but then you wouldn’t need to read the book if I told you everything.

What’s great about these books is that, though there are many, the sub-plots never get confusing or overbearing. You get to follow several of the characters from their points of view without ever feeling lost. The characterizations are wonderful. They come to life so easily that you will have no trouble feeling for them, or hating them in some cases. This is probably one of the most important pieces of literature for the Christian world, but the truth is, even without that stamp of importance, it’s great literature! This is a great story with great characters, and everyone should read it.

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

Average score of  5

Overall grade = A

You can by the books here: CBD | Amazon | B&N

This was a special review post and these books do not count toward any of my reading challenges.