Bringing Maggie Home by Kim Vogel Sawyer – A Thought Provoking Interesting Read

I love a good mystery, and that’s what drew me in and want to read, Bringing Maggie Home by Kim Vogel Sawyer.  This is the first book I’ve read by this author so I didn’t know what to expect.

The story starts out in 1943, when young Hazel is watching her 3- year-old sister Maggie.  She only turned her back for a few seconds, but that’s all it took and little Maggie was gone.  What happened?  Would they ever know?  Hazel and her family were devastated by the loss.  Its impact would ripple down and impact future generations.  Fast forward to present day, Hazel’s granddaughter Meghan is coming for a visit only to be surprised and find her mom Diane there too.  When the long-held secret comes out about Maggie, Meghan has hope, that as a cold case investigator, she may be able to finally bring some closure for her grandmother that she loves so dearly.

Bringing Maggie Home turned out to be a little different than I anticipated.  It focused mostly on the people and their relationships.  Through this story, you can see how one horrible event can impact people far beyond the initial tragedy.  There were times, I felt like the story dragged a bit, because I was wanting to get on to solving the mystery.  When in fact that’s secondary to understanding people.

I struggled with the character, Diane.  She was just downright unpleasant and I wanted to slap her.  She was rude and I didn’t like her.  But as the story went along I came to understand her more.  I really liked the characters Hazel and Meghan and their loving and caring relationship.  Another likeable character was Sean.  I liked how he lived out his Christian faith.  I greatly appreciate it when the Gospel message is woven in to a book by a Christian author.

For those of you who love solving mysteries, don’t worry, you’ll get to the bottom of what happened to Maggie in due time.  That part of the book was interesting too.  I wish it had been a bigger part of the story.

But all in all, I recommend Bringing Maggie Home by Kim Vogel Sawyer.  There were times reading it was painful because of the bitterness, hurt and anger the characters were dealing with.  But it caused me to reflect on my own life and relationships.  I went through a range of emotions as I read this book.  I found it hopeful in that characters grew and changed overtime and you saw the Lord at work in their lives.

I love finding an author whose work is new to me.  Not only did I get to enjoy Kim Vogel Sawyer’s newest book Bringing Maggie Home, but now I can go back and read her earlier books.

I would like to thank Blogging for Books and WaterBrook Publishers for the opportunity to read Bringing Maggie Home for free.  I was under no obligation to give a favorable review.

 

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Together at the Table – by Hillary Manton Lodge – Lovely and Insightful

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Together at the Table by Hillary Manton Lodge is the first book I’ve read by this author.  What a treasure I’ve found.  I love it when I find a new author whose writing and characters I connect with.

Together at the Table is the third book in the “Two Blue Doors” series.  The book continues the story of Juliette D’Alisa and her big family, including the mystery about her ancestors to whom she feels connected.  Sometimes it’s hard to come into the middle of a series when you haven’t read the earlier books.  To some degree I didn’t feel the connection with the characters right away.  But Hillary does a good job in giving enough background so new readers have insight into the characters and storyline.

It was about page 70 that I started to connect with the characters.  I found Together at the Table and Hillary’s writing to be thought provoking, insightful, wise, real, tender, good perspective, thoughtful, honest and healthy.  The characters were not afraid to say painful things, but in a loving, kind and caring way.  I especially liked the insights on love.  There were a number of thoughts and feelings expressed by the characters that I highlighted because I found them to be insightful or perfectly capturing the emotion.

I would like to also note the Christian faith and the Gospel message are not really a part of this book or storyline.  I do appreciate that there was no profanity or inappropriate sexual scenes in this book.

Something I did object to was on page 258.  Character Letizia is talking about her grandmother and says, “When I was sixteen I thought she should have gone through with the affair.  But we should not be surprised.  After all, we came from somewhere, no?”  Obviously that doesn’t line up with Scripture’s view of adultery.  But like I mentioned earlier, there’s not a lot in this book that speaks of the Christian faith.

Something fun about this book is quotes at the beginning of each chapter and the recipes that are included at the end of some chapter.  I’d like to try some of the recipes.  Reading this book made me want to cook.

I found Hillary to be a safe writer.  By that I mean she doesn’t manipulate the characters or put them in precarious situations just to keep the reader in suspense.

Hillary Manton Lodge is a gifted wordsmith and paints beautiful pictures with her words.  She unveils her characters with insight and depth.  I really liked Together at the Table and look forward to going back and reading Hillary Manton Lodge’s earlier and future books.

I would like to thank Blogging for Books and WaterBrook Press for the opportunity to read Together at the Table by Hillary Manton Lodge in exchange for an honest review.  I was under no obligation to give a favorable review.

 

End of Discussion by Mary Katharine Ham and Guy Benson – A Challenging, Important and Informative Read

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With my head still buzzing after reading End of Discussion, I wanted to jot down why this is an important book to read, for both conservatives and liberals.

If you are a conservative, you may find yourself appalled and disbelieving the outrageous lies and tactics you see used by the left leaning media on a daily basis.  If you are a liberal you may offended by conservatives and their lack of compassion and how they seemingly want to impose their standards on others.

No matter which side of the aisle you stand, it seems like all manner of reason and open honest discussion have gone out the window in favor of a never-ending verbal warfare.  Instead of a dialogue the goal is to shut the other person up.

That’s where End of Discussion comes in.  Co-authors Mary Katharine Ham and Guy Benson have done a solid job in documenting the craziness that we are seeing in the media, politics, courts, boardrooms and universities.  These days, it seems like no one is immune from attack and everything is on the table.

If you find yourself shaking your head and popping an aspirin after listening to the news or radio talk show, you should read End of Discussion.  Not only do they share numerous examples of the various outrage they bring some well-reasoned thought and perspective to the table.  They share ideas on how we can more effectively respond to the issues at hand.

Both Mary Katharine Ham and Guy Benson are conservative, but they aren’t afraid to examine the conservative’s approach to issues, to see if it’s effective or if in fact we too are guilty of shutting down the discussion.

End of Discussion was challenging; it’s not a quick read.  Mary and Guy share a lot of examples and go into great detail of the outrage that seems to be increasing.  I appreciate their keen observations, wit and chill out perspective they bring to a very heated and hostile table.

If you think our society is less civil, really wimpy, and we act like children in need of a nanny to protect us, you aren’t far off in your assessment.  What’s sobering is that the government is more than happy to step in and play the nanny.  Perhaps it’s time we grow up and learn how to debate and have a dialogue with folks we disagree with.

One thing I wasn’t real keen on was the use of profanity.   Where actual events are shared, I can see why they allowed it.  But in their commentary and observation it wasn’t necessary.  It only adds to the crass and crude culture that is prevalent today.

I would like to thank the people at Blogging for Books and Crown Forum Publishing for the opportunity to read End of Discussion in exchange for an honest review.  I was under no obligation to give a favorable review.

The First Family Detail by Ronald Kessler – An Insider’s Look at the Secret Service

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My interest in politics and law enforcement is what drew me to read Ronald Kessler’s book The First Family Detail.

This is the first book I’ve read by this prolific author.  It was originally published in 2014 and reissued in 2015 with the addition an epilogue.  The First Family Detail is written in a very sensational style and kind of reminds me of something you might read in a magazine on the checkout aisle.

A lot of the stories shared come from anonymous sources, which may call into question the accuracy or reliability of the material.  If indeed the sources are current or former members of the Secret Service, I would imagine they are breaking a signed confidentiality agreement with their employer by disclosing highly confidential information.  The problem with anonymous sources is that other people can’t go back and check them out.

I’ve got to say in some respects this book was downright depressing.  If the stories are true, we’ve had some scandalously immoral Presidents who did not show respect and bring dignity to the office of the President of the United States of America.  There are numerous stories of adultery and sexual immorality recorded in this book.

The thing that really stood out to me on the tales of Presidential immorality, not only did some Presidents choose to sin and break their marriage covenant with their wife, but by the nature of their job which required security coverage, their sin involved other people who helped cover up their sin.  As a Secret Service Agent how do you look the first lady in the eyes when you know her husband is being immoral and sinning against her?  How can a marriage not be negatively affected by infidelity?  How sad it must be to have your failing marriage making headline news.

One of the stories the author shared was a comment Ronald Reagan made when the news broke about another candidate’s sexual immorality which ended his presidential bid.  Ronald Reagan said to his agent, “Boys will be boys.”  Later he added, “But boys will not be president.”  If only that were true!  Perhaps voters need to ask themselves are there some moral flaws that should render a candidate unelectable.  In my book, the answer is yes.

Included in the book are many stories of how the Presidents, VP’s and their families treated the Secret Service Agents.  I would think you would be grateful for the protection and treat the agents with respect and gratitude.  After all, these men and women are ready to lay their life on the line to protect you from harm.  Apparently, that’s not always the case.  I found it interesting that some Presidents and first ladies treated the agents well, but their children were another story.

As interesting as the stories of Presidents and their families are, the most important take away from this book are the examples of where the Secret Service is cutting corners which ultimately endanger the President, Vice President and their families.

In recent years, we’ve seen the alarming headline news about the Secret Service.  The stories tell of agents engaging prostitutes while on duty in Columbia and security breaches at the White House, including a shooting and a knife wielding intruder gaining access to the White House.

If the Secret Service is cutting corners, relaxing fitness requirements, not keeping up with ongoing training and operating with insufficient staff, this is a disaster waiting to happen.

In today’s racially charged environment, with armed bigots and ISIS wannabes looking to make a name for themselves among other threats, we need to protect our President, Vice President and their families (present and past) with the very best security this nation can provide.

If you have an interest in politics, security or law enforcement you may find The First Family Detail interesting.  I do warn you that there are a lot of stories of Presidential immorality that may offend you.  Also, this book is written with a conservative bias.

I would like to thank for Blogging for Books and Crown Forum Publishers for the opportunity to read The First Family Detail by Ronald Kessler in exchange for an honest review.  I was under no obligation to give a favorable review.

Hiding in the Light by Rifqa Bary – An Excellent Read

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I was privileged to read Rifqa Bary’s excellent book Hiding in the Light – Why I Risked Everything to Leave Islam and Follow Jesus.  I find it fascinating to hear the stories of people raised in Islam who have accepted Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior; people who have become Christians in spite of the great risk to their life.

Rifqa’s story is unique; she became a Christian when she was 12 years old and managed to keep it a secret from her family for four years.  At the age of 16, she faced a very real threat to her life when her parents found out that she was a Christian.  That night Rifqa had a life changing decision to make; should she stay and risk death at the hands of her very angry father, or face the possibility of being sent back to Sri Lanka against her will or should she leave and abandon it all for Christ.

Through the courageous help of friends and strangers Rifqa found safe haven.  But her new found peace was not to last for long.  A battle ensued; Rifqa’s parents wanted her back home, but her new found friends and allies were willing to risk much to help her find the freedom she wanted to worship God in safety.

This book is riveting and Rifqa is open and transparent and reveals what was happening with her mind, will and emotions as she struggled to live out her faith and how her family responded when they discovered she was no longer a Muslim.  I was shocked to hear of Rifqa’s experiences with the juvenile detention system, child protective services and foster care.  But the Lord always seemed to bring someone across Rifqa’s path to sow hope and encouragement into her turbulent life.  I was heartened to learn of those who are gifted and called to help children in crisis.

After reading Hiding in the Light, I have a better appreciation for what it takes for someone to make the courageous choice to believe in Jesus Christ and openly choose to live for Him when coming from a Muslim background.

I highly recommend Rifqa Bary’s new book Hiding in the Light.

I would like to thank the people at Blogging for Books and Water Brook Publishers for the opportunity to read Hiding in the Light in exchange for an honest review.  I was under no obligation to give a favorable review.

The Holy Land Key – by Ray Bentley with Genevieve Gillespie – Can’t Recommend This One

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I was very excited to read Pastor Ray Bentley’s new book The Holy Land Key, written with Genevieve Gillespie.  I love Ray’s tender heart for the Lord, fellow believers and the lost.  I share his love for the Jewish people and have a keen interest in Biblical prophecy.

My excitement came to a halt when I started reading The Holy Land Key.  Overall I found the book hard to read because it was very disjointed.  It didn’t flow and the material was not clearly presented.  There were a number of times in the middle of a chapter I had to look at the title to remind myself what the book was supposed to be about.

In the introduction, Ray stated, “It is important to read prophecy carefully, to handle its interpretation with great care, and to anchor all our conclusions in God’s Word”.  So far so good, if that aim was achieved.  Where this book was out in left field is in the rest of that statement, “but we also want to explore some new territories in Scripture that have prophetic significance.”  Some of those “new territories” weren’t exactly grounded in Scripture.

The new territories were where The Holy Land Key got off track.  The most egregious example is “what God has written in the heavens and what the Bible says about these heavenly revelations.”  The three chapters devoted to the signs in the heavens smacked of new age astrology with Bible verses tacked on.  Other things I took issue with:  1) A principal of Biblical interpretation from 1 Corinthians 15:46, “However the spiritual is not first, but the natural, and afterward the spiritual.”  This scripture was taken out of context and specifically addresses resurrection.  2) In speaking about Jews, Christians, Israeli Arabs and Palestinians, Ray stated, “These descendants of Jesus…”  To be more specific some of the people may be descendants of Abraham, but not Jesus.  3) A number of his sources of interpretation include non-Biblical sources and languages.  4) A quote from a former PLO member Tass Saada who is now a Christian, “He is the God of Abraham, Isaac, Ishmael, and Jacob!”  While Ishmael is a physical descendant of Abraham, he was not the child of promise, Isaac was.  But praise God that through Abraham, all nations will be blessed.  Not only are Jews His chosen people, but so are those who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ.

I’m in agreement with Ray on many things including the fact that Israel and the Jews were and remain God’s chosen people.  What God has promised, He will fulfill.  I do believe that the Jews returning to the land is a fulfillment of Scripture taking place before our eyes.

But in good conscience I can’t recommend The Holy Land Key.  I don’t think it was clear, well-written, or backed up with the infallible Word of God.  I’m most concerned about the left turn into “astrology” and the non-Biblical sources used to document his interpretations.

I would like to thank Blogging for Books for the opportunity to read The Holy Land Key in exchange for an honest review.  I was under no obligation to give a favorable review.

The Coming Islamic Invasion of Israel – by Mark Hitchcock – Interesting and Informative

Earlier this year I had the opportunity to hear Pastor Mark Hitchcock preach a message on Ezekiel 38 and 39.  It was a riveting and fast-paced hour.  So I jumped at the opportunity to read his book The Coming Islamic Invasion of Israel and I was not disappointed.  He wrote this book to expand upon a chapter in an earlier book What on Earth Is Going On.  With radical Islam in the news on a regular basis readers may also wonder how Islam fits into Bible prophesy.

Mark helps the reader to understand who the players are, their ancient Biblical names and the corresponding countries and locations in today’s world.  He takes what can seem like a puzzle and helps put the pieces in place to reveal how these nations may play into God’s end time events as prophesied in Ezekiel and Revelation.

Mark also delves into God’s prophetic timetable:  How close are we to the Rapture and when will the Battle of Gog and Magog occur?  He is mindful that only God knows the day and the hour when the church will be raptured and when the Tribulation will begin.  But Mark closely examines the signs of the times and admonishes Christians to live in light of the Lord’s soon return.

I appreciated his clear presentation of the Gospel message and reinforcing biblical theology that God has not given up on Israel or replaced His chosen nation.

Whether you have a good understanding of Bible prophesy or are new to the study, I believe you will benefit from this book.  I highly recommend Pastor Mark Hitchcock’s book The Coming Islamic Invasion of Israel.

I would like to thank Blogging for Books for the opportunity to read The Coming Islamic Invasion of Israel.  I was under no obligation to give a favorable review.