Between Heaven and the Real World by Steven Curtis Chapman – Faith Strengthened and Encouraged, Rooted and Grounded in the Truth of Scripture

I am grateful for the opportunity I had to read Steven Curtis Chapman’s autobiography, Between Heaven and The Real World.  Steven’s professional career started in the late 1980’s, which was a few years before I became a Christian.  When I think of the music that influenced me as young Christian and throughout the years, Steven’s music is at the top of that list.  That’s why I wanted to read this book.

I loved and enjoyed Between Heaven and the Real World and want to read it again and share it with others.  I wept as Steven shared in a very humble, open and transparent way the pains and trials he and his wife Mary Beth and their family endured over the years, most notable was the death for their precious daughter Maria Sue.

When you connect with an artist’s work and feel like he expresses in words some of the thoughts and emotions you’ve experienced, it’s interesting to learn the genesis of the songs and what was going on in his life when they were written.  It was heartening to see the providential hand of God in Steven’s life.  How He had gifted him from a young age to love and write songs that gave a voice to what he was feeling, his faith and capture his reflections about God.

I appreciated the honesty in which Steven writes.  It’s real, but also reverent towards God.  He so obviously loves, honors and respects God, his parents, brother, wife and children.  Somehow, he manages to do so while being open and real about circumstances, choices and events.  Kind of like his music.  I appreciate Steven and Mary Beth’s deep and abiding faith that they cling to in the face tribulation, never more so than in tragedy.  It was heartening to read about the support of family, friends and professionals that came alongside them when needed most.  I applaud their commitment to their marriage and efforts to recognize that their spouse is not their enemy and that they fought for each other, not against.

While the hearts of a mother and father longs to see, their child healed and alive, the Chapman’s have allowed God to redeem their losses and impact others for good and for eternity.

If you’ve listened to Steven’s music, you can’t help but come away encouraged, strengthened and your faith built up as he drives a stake in the truth of Scripture.  It’s almost like reading one of David’s psalms.  He may start out low and in the depths of despair, but as he focuses on God, hope is restored and a light is found to illumine the next step.

I highly recommend Between Heaven and the Real World, especially if you are a fan of Steven Curtis Chapman’s music.  It’s encouraging to see someone’s faith proven genuine and real.  Even if you aren’t familiar with his music, I think you will benefit from reading this book.

I would like to thank NetGalley and Revell/Baker Publishing Group for the opportunity to read Between Heaven and the Real World by Steven Curtis Chapman.  I was under no obligation to give a favorable review.

 

Deep Undercover by Jack Barsky – Filled with Intrigue That May Keep You Up At Night

Some books are a pleasure to read and the review is easy to write.  That holds true for Deep Undercover by Jack Barsky with Cindy Coloma.

If you like intrigue, suspense and mystery look no further than Deep Undercover which tells true story of KGB spy Jack Barsky, or should I say Albrecht Dittrich.

I found this book fascinating and of particular interest was Albrecht’s early life.  He was born in 1949 in East Germany, following WWII.  As I read about his early years, I was struck by the contrast between growing up in his war-torn country and life here in the United States of America.

Have you even wondered how someone becomes a spy?  How are you trained to do the job?  What skillsets do you need to be a KGB operative?  What happens if you fail or if you change your mind?  Can a spy have any kind of a real life with a wife, children and friends?  Or is a spy destined to live a life of loneliness where no one really knows him?

Those questions and much more are answered in Deep Undercover which tells about the intriguing life of Jack Barsky.  While his life started much different than your typical American, and his career path took some twists and turns, this man came to love this country and the freedoms that regular everyday Americans have.  The freedom and capitalism that he once fought against, he came to embrace, even at the risk of losing his life.

At the end of the book, Jack explains how he came to accept Jesus Christ as his Lord and Savior.  I especially liked how he shared about God providentially weaving together the circumstances of his life which resulted in him coming to America and ultimately becoming a Christian.

Something I would like to clarify, the statement by Jack’s soon to be wife Shawna, “You are already a Christian; you just don’t know it.”, is not Scripturally accurate.  Jack may have been in the process of learning about Christ and she saw that his faith was growing, but accepting Christ is a purposeful decision.

I highly recommend Deep Undercover by Jack Barsky, it’s a fascinating book.  Be forewarned, this book may keep you up at night so you can find out what happens next.  If you like mysteries and intrigue, biographies, or you just like to know what makes a man tick, pickup Deep Undercover.  You won’t be disappointed.

I would like to thank Tyndale House Publishers for the opportunity to read Deep Undercover for free.  I was under no obligation to give a favorable review.

 

Brew or Die by Caroline Fardig – Not My Cup of Tea

As a mystery lover, I was excited to read a mystery by an author, Caroline Fardig, who new to me.  After reading the description of her new book, Brew or Die, I decided to give it a try.

One of the descriptions, by USA Today, for this mystery is a “cozy mystery” which is defined as a crime fiction in which sex and violence are downplayed and it takes place in a small community.

If Brew or Die lined up with that description, I probably would have liked it.  Unfortunately, it was a lot different than I expected.

So, what’s not to like about Brew or Die?  The story opens with character Juliet Langley at work in the local coffeehouse, Java Jive.  The reader is introduced to a cast of characters that are in Jules life, including her current boyfriend, Stafford, who is a police officer, longtime friend Pete and her old boyfriend Ryder.  At first I thought this book would be clean.

But beginning on pages 12 & 13, started a trend of vulgarity which continued on throughout the book.  Profanity was used well over one-hundred times, perhaps much more.  It was to the point of distraction.  I don’t understand why authors resort to the use of profanity.

If I had picked up this book to read on my own, at the beginning of the profanity, I would have put it down and not finished it.  But because I agreed to read it for a review, I read the entire book and couldn’t wait to be done with it.

In addition to the excessive use of profanity, Juliet (Jules) seemed to be attracted to any male that had a pulse.  Thus, sexual immorality also included in the book.

Based on the profanity (used excessively), casual sexual and sexual immorality, I do not recommend this book.  Brew or Die by Caroline Fardig was a big disappointment and not my cup of tea.

I would like to thank NetGalley and Random House Publishing Group for the opportunity to read Brew or Die in exchange for an honest review.  I was under no obligation to give a favorable review.

 

Control Girl by Shannon Popkin – A Painfully Good Book – It’s a Keeper

control-girl-by-shannon-popkinNot that I would like to admit that I’m controlling, but when I saw Shannon Popkin’s new book Control Girl – Lessons on Surrendering Your Burden of Control from Seven Women in the Bible, I knew I wanted to read it.  Perhaps the Lord had something He wanted to me learn about being controlling.

How come it’s always easier to see a behavior, attitude or action as sinful and wrong in someone else’s life but be oblivious to it in my own life?  I guess in some respects I let my sin blind me to the reality that being a control freak is not good and may be downright sinful.  God used Control Girl to make me more aware of my sinful propensity to be controlling.

In this book, Shannon does an excellent job unveiling the tendency in some women to be controlling.  She does this by being open and transparent with her own life and shares the negative and hurtful consequences of being controlling.  More importantly, she takes the reader to examples from the Bible of real women, that lived in a different day and age, who also had inner control girl issues.  Through Scripture she shows examples from the lives of Eve, Sarah, Hagar, Rebakah, Leah, Rachel and Miriam on why and how our control girl may spring into action and how it effects our relationships.  Being a control freak may not be conducive to our own happiness and reflects and impacts our relationship with God.

This is an excellent book to help people who struggle with control issues to see it for what it is.  Being a controlling person is sinful and not something we should leave unexamined and unfettered.  But we can have victory when we repent, trust God and surrender control to Him.

I found this book to be painful as I recalled examples from my own life of being a control girl.  Things that as I look back on, make me want to cringe.  How in the world did I not see that as wrong back in the day?

Warning…you may find this book to be painful and direct in confronting sinful controlling tendencies.  But Shannon manages to it with tenderness and grace and from the vantage point of someone who has addressed the issue in her own life.  This is also an encouraging book to help us walk in a manner that honors and glorifies God, trust Him and help us to treat people with loving respect.

I highly recommend Control Girl.  If you think you have control issues, read this book.  If you have a loved one who struggles with control, you may want to read this book to better understand what may be going on beneath the surface that rears its ugly head as being controlling.  This book is a keeper, you may want to reread it and make notes as you go along.

I would like to thank the people at Litfuse and Kregel Publications for the opportunity to read Shannon Popkin’s new book Control Girl.  I was under no obligation to give a favorable review.

 

 

 

Flora’s Secret – by Anita Davison – Enjoyable and A Nice Surprise – I look forward to reading more books by Anita Davison

floras-secret-murder-on-the-minneapolis-cover97157-mediumSince mysteries are one of my favorite genres I was excited at the opportunity to read a book by an author whose work is new to me.  That’s why I selected this historical fiction by Anita Davison, Flora’s Secret.

Flora’s Secret is the story about a young governess, Flora Maguire, who is accompanying her charge Eddy Vaughn as they journey home to England on the maiden voyage of the Minneapolis.  Any hope for smooth sailing is quickly abandoned when Flora finds a dead body at the bottom of stairway.  Is it an accident or murder?  Spunky Miss Maguire is not one to be easily deterred and will do whatever she can to get to the bottom of this man’s untimely death.  Thrown into the mix is a shipboard romance with a fine gentleman Mr. Bunny Harrington.

I really enjoyed this book.  The main characters well developed, interesting and very likable.  The author did a great job in describing people and scenes.  She gave enough details for the reader to imagine the scenes, but not too much.  The characters, Flora and Bunny, where very likable; people I would want to know.  I’m hopeful their story will continue in another book.  Other characters were intriguing and it was fun to try and figure out who the good guys were and the bad guys were.

While this book is not from a Christian writer and publisher, I appreciated the fact that the story was told and developed without profanity and sexually explicit scenes.  It’s clean historical fiction, a mystery with a bit of romance, that focused on developing characters and the storyline.  This was the first book I’ve read by Anita Davison and I look forward to reading more of her books.

I would like to thank NetGalley and Aria Publishers for the opportunity to read Flora’s Secret by Anita Davison.  I was under no obligation to give a favorable review.

Of Poetry and God by Daniel Kerdin – Enjoyed reading this book; it’s one I’ll read again.

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Recently, I was contacted by author and poet Daniel Kerdin to see if I would be interested in reading his new book of poems, Of Poetry and God.  As a fellow poet, I was excited to read Daniel’s new book in which he shares about his faith.

I am so glad that I was able to read this collection of Daniel’s poems.  I especially liked the ones that focused on people and events from Scripture.  Some of the poems sparked my imagination and others caused me to reflect on my own life and God’s work in the lives of His people.  As I read the poems based on the Bible, it made me want to reread those passages Scripture again, so I could better understand and appreciate the words Daniel used in his poems to capture the scenes.

Some of my favorites are A Shepherd’s Tale, One the Road, The Blessing and Redemption.  In his poem, Wordsmiths, Daniel put into words the experience what writing poems is like.

In the poem, Hail, Queen of Heaven, you will see the view of Mary from a Catholic view, which contrasts greatly from the Protestant view of what the Bible teaches about Mary.  There were a couple of poems I didn’t really connect with or understand.  But overall, I really liked Daniel’s poems.

If you like Scripture or poems about faith and life, you may enjoy Daniel Kerdin’s book, Of Poetry and God.  This is a book I will read again.  It was an enjoyment to read the work of this wordsmith.

I would like to thank Daniel Kerdin for an opportunity to read his new book, Of Poetry and God.  I was under no obligation to give a favorable review.

 

The Candidate by Lis Wiehl – A Mixed Bag

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Since I like books with mystery and intrigue, I decided to read author Lis Wiehl’s new book The Candidate – A Newsmakers Novel written with Sebastian Stuart. I’ve watched Lis on Fox News and like her keen legal analysis and hoped that would translate into a good book. Unfortunately, I found The Candidate to be a mixed bag.

What’s good? I found the plotline intriguing. Is top Presidential candidate, Mike Ortiz, as good as he seems at first glance? Or will Erica discover there is something nefarious going on behind the scenes when she takes a closer look? Coming on the heels of a very contentious election cycle this should be a very interesting book.

The story is action packed and the main character, Erica Sparks, is somewhat interesting. Her background is revealed during the course of the story but there was not a lot of depth to this character. I liked her fiancé Greg, while not perfect, he showed himself to be there for Erica in the end. But overall I found the characters were not well developed. What the reader learns about the characters is very surface level details, some action of course, but there seemed to be an obsession with physical appearance. In fact, it was almost to the point of distraction.

What’s not so good? The story was predictable. After the first big event in the book, I found myself guessing what the next plot development would be throughout the book.

While somewhat veiled, there were some rather sick sexual relationships in this book that cross the line in a book released by a Christian publisher. While not described in detail, enough is said that makes it clear what’s happening. Also, Lis took a swipe at Donald Trump by including a nasty comment from one of the characters about him. It was unnecessary to the story and not value added. My overall impression was Lis tried to be edgy.

If this book had been published by a secular publisher, I would only put a cautionary note about some of the content which may be offensive to people of faith.

I have higher expectations from Thomas Nelson Publishers. On their website, this publisher is self-described as, “Thomas Nelson is a world leading publisher and provider of Christian content and has been providing readers with quality inspirational product for more than 200 years.”

There was nothing whatsoever Christian about this book. There was nothing about faith. There was one curse word as I recall and I appreciate that there was very little profanity. But some of the content of this book was not fit material from a Christian publisher.

I would like to thank BookLook for the opportunity to read The Candidate by Lis Wiehl. I was under no obligation to give a favorable review.