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A Beautiful Defeat: Find True Freedom and Purpose in Total Surrender to God
A Beautiful Defeat: Find True Freedom and Purpose in Total Surrender to God
by Matthew L. Jacobson
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $13.59
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4.0 out of 5 stars Malarkey's willingness to share his own failings will leave readers with much to reflect upon and help begin their own growth., July 17, 2014
Kevin Malarkey is an author, a speaker, and for many years owned a Christian psychotherapy practice where he counseled with individuals and married couples. In A BEAUTIFUL DEFEAT, he uses his personal and professional skills to bring a candid view to defeat. Readers will appreciate Malarkey’s transparency with his own failings (public and private), and though it’s not always comfortable to read, he makes a valid point: Everyone fails. Thus the premise of this unique text, where the author opens up about his own public embarrassments in which he said and did things he is ashamed of but cannot undo. And who hasn’t experienced just these moments in life?

In this dynamic read, Malarkey has divided his work into two sections: “Part 1: A Call for Authenticity,” in which he looks at our dirty little secrets; where our struggles really come from; and life with your struggles. “Part 2: A Call for Surrender” includes topics like just die; prepare for your mission; struggle is a team sport; surrendered…really?; the battle between the battles; and what surrender looks like. In each chapter, Malarkey spends some pages bringing to real life the topic at hand by sharing his own struggles with failing and then discussing them in terms of biblical responsibility. He gets down to the nitty-gritty of living on a sinful planet with sinful people as he exposes his own wayward heart (and words and actions) and, in doing so, allows readers to relate intimately to his message. Each chapter concludes with an action step and a brief prayer.

Malarkey spends a good deal of time reiterating the importance of a life that is totally surrendered to God and His purposes. Throughout the book, he goes into great detail as to what this type of surrender looks like in day-to-day life. In 10 (not-so-easy) steps, here’s what Malarkey has to say about placing everything on the altar to God. Know that the process of surrender is messy; be honest about your existing struggles; know where your struggles come from; determine to live through your struggles rather than around them; die daily; define your mission and wear your armor; be part of a team; become addicted to your need for God; expect pushback; and learn from those who have gone before you --- in life and in the Bible.

At the close of A BEAUTIFUL DEFEAT, Malarkey also includes two appendices for further study. The first recaps the 10 steps to a surrendered life, complete with an action step and prayer. Appendix 2 lists 10 Bible verses on surrender and dying to self. Readers will find much to reflect upon throughout this book, and that is due in large part to Malarkey’s willingness to expose his personal failings to a watching world, which he likens to being worse than having a root canal done. But readers will thank him for taking such a risk and will realize quickly how his openness opens the door for their own growth in godliness.

Reviewed by Michele Howe.

Somebody Like You: A Novel
Somebody Like You: A Novel
by Beth K. Vogt
Edition: Paperback
Price: $12.33
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5.0 out of 5 stars SOMEBODY LIKE YOU is a wonderful contemporary romance with a fresh twist., July 17, 2014
Haley Ames is not a girlie-girl. Raised in a house full of brothers, she realized at an early age what it means to be tough and independent. Now, three months after her husband, Sam, was killed in the line of duty, she is determined to be strong. Inwardly, she grieves for Sam, but the greatest emotion she feels is regret that she didn’t tell him she was pregnant before he died. Nevertheless, Haley refuses to feel sorry for herself and instead focuses on doing what she has to do for herself and the arrival of her baby.

Stephen Ames has been estranged from his identical twin brother for years. When Stephen learns of Sam’s death, he is filled with remorse that he never had a chance to make things right between them. He decides to visit Sam’s widow, not only to offer his condolences, but also to find out everything he can about his brother and the life he led before he died.

Haley is shocked to come home one day to find “her husband” standing on her doorstep. Stephen quickly explains who he is and why he is there, but Haley sends him away. Sam had never told her about having a twin, and she is angry and confused, not to mention in shock at seeing an exact replica of the husband she lost. At the prompting of her best friend, however, Haley contacts Stephen and agrees to meet him to answer the questions he has about Sam.

Over the next few months, as Haley’s pregnancy progresses, Stephen becomes a part of her life as he offers his hand at much-needed home repairs and goes out of his way to help in any way he can. Haley initially remains cold and indifferent towards him, refusing to allow herself to feel anything for this man who looks, talks and walks like Sam but is nothing like her late husband. Still, she can’t help but realize that the qualities Stephen possesses are the ones she longed for in Sam.

As both Haley and Stephen work through their emotions of sadness and regret over Sam’s death, the question becomes whether or not they will eventually recognize the real possibility that God does, indeed, bring beauty out of ashes.

SOMEBODY LIKE YOU is a wonderful contemporary romance with a fresh twist. While the premise of a woman falling in love with her late husband’s identical twin brother might seem impossible, or at least highly unlikely, this story is written in a very plausible way. Author Beth K. Vogt does a fantastic job of transforming Haley from hard-headed and independent to emotionally vulnerable. The emotions she experiences are gritty and raw, the dialogue is top-notch, and I personally loved Haley’s sarcasm and wit, even if it did come across as rude at times. But that’s what makes the story so real. Stephen’s character development is just as satisfying, as he struggles with the loss and lack of relationship with his twin and tries to come to peace with the past.

The overriding take-away of SOMEBODY LIKE YOU is to make the most of every moment we have, and to do everything we can to make things right with the people we love. Wasting time being angry, resentful and obstinate has only one result: pain and regret. It also reminds us, as quoted in the back cover copy, “While we can’t change the past, we have the choice to change the future and start anew.”

Vogt is a gifted author with great insight into human motivation and emotion. Contemporary romance fans will enjoy the story and the characters, and will appreciate the messages conveyed.

Reviewed by Lynda Lee Schab.

Hope Runs: An American Tourist, a Kenyan Boy, a Journey of Redemption
Hope Runs: An American Tourist, a Kenyan Boy, a Journey of Redemption
by Claire Diaz-Ortiz
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $9.05
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A book written by two authors can be tricky. But Sammy and Claire have pulled it off, each writing chapters in a distinct voice., July 17, 2014
It’s hard for me to find a first sentence to this review. I liked HOPE RUNS very much. A book written by two authors can be tricky. But Sammy and Claire have pulled it off, each writing chapters in his or her distinct voice. Right up front, we’re drawn in to Sammy’s Kenyan childhood. “After my father’s death, things start to go downhill for our family” --- his mother and her three children. Sammy doesn’t understand the dynamics (so neither does the reader). But the chapter ends with distress for the 10-year-old boy, abandoned: “She never shows up. Not once does my mother ever again appear.”

In chapter two, we meet Claire --- a recent college graduate with an anthropological interest in international volunteer programs --- setting out on an experimental year abroad in Mexico. Next, she goes on a trip to South Africa with college friend Lara, who plays a critical role in the book. And then comes a year of world-round travels. “Kenya is our nineteenth country, and our last,” Claire writes. She and Lara spend a night in a Kenyan guesthouse connected to a Presbyterian orphanage that has taken in Samuel.

Inexplicably (God-ordained?), Claire senses a calling to the children in the Imani Children’s Home. Standing in front of an old scratched mirror, she prays, “If you have put this place in my road to change me…please open my eyes so I can see.” She feels compelled to return. She and Lara make plans to come to Imani to start a sports program, preparing the older kids to run a marathon. They start a charitable organization called Hope Runs. Of all the children they serve, Sammy stands out. They eventually work through the logistical maze of bringing him to a boarding school in Maine, where he finishes high school.

The book format allows the reader to see various episodes/scenarios from two diverse perspectives: the American young adult and the Kenyan child. This itself is an education, and an engaging one at that. (In Kenya, commenting on someone’s weight gain is a compliment.) Most interesting and informative is Claire’s awareness, through observation, intuition and her academic study (two master’s degrees, from Stanford and Oxford), of the ramifications of cross-cultural charitable work. How can it be truly helpful rather than a hindrance? She looks at the questions: Was it right to bring one child to the U.S. when others were left behind? The book ends with Sammy returning to Kenya for a visit (after spending a year in Ecuador on a cross-cultural program), unsure of his future plans. His eyes and heart have been opened to the possibilities of a life of service. Will it be in Kenya or America?

It seems that he and his caretakers have been well-guided in their young lives. May guardian angels continue to protect their paths.

Reviewed by Evelyn Bence.

Arms Open Wide: A Call to Linger in the Savior's Presence
Arms Open Wide: A Call to Linger in the Savior's Presence
by Sherri Gragg
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $13.59
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5.0 out of 5 stars ARMS OPEN WIDE will engage your senses, stir your spirit, and may indeed make you long to linger in the Savior’s presence., July 17, 2014
In the introduction to ARMS OPEN WIDE, author Sherri Gragg tells of the moment she asked Jesus into her heart at the tender age of four. Gragg goes on to say that even though she loved God, her perception of His character was skewed. Over the next few dozen years, she pictured a vengeful, judgmental God and based her Christianity on being “good” instead of accepting His grace and embracing His acceptance. She feels that this flawed thinking basically stole the close relationship she could have had with a loving Father.

When she finally recognized her faulty thinking --- thanks to a trip to Israel when she was 41 years old --- Gragg says the shackles on her heart and mind loosened. She then began to research the scriptures more carefully. Soon after, ARMS OPEN WIDE was born.

While this book, at first glance, may seem like a devotional, it’s really more of a creative and descriptive look at the heart of Jesus. Instead of devotional-style teaching, Gragg opts for fictional narrative based on her research. Each chapter offers an exquisite retelling of well-known (and some lesser known) Bible stories, with intricate details that capture the reader and breathe life to the characters we’ve perhaps read about many times before.

For example, one of the first stories she shares is titled “The Untouchable One” and is based on the woman with the issue of blood. How can one not be drawn into the following scene?

“By the window, she waits. Day after day, month after month, year after long year, she sits like a specter, invisible to the throngs of life passing by in the busy street just on the other side of her wall. She listens and watches, living vicariously through neighbors, relatives, and old friends who, one by one, have all but forgotten her.

She is the most hopeless of the hopeless. Impure. Unclean. Most certainly cursed by God for some secret sin.

She is condemned. She is the untouchable one.”

Most of us know the story, but Gragg touches on aspects we may never have considered before. Like what it was really like to be an outcast. How this woman must have felt to be judged and shunned for something out of her control. The hopelessness and despair. The woman’s desperation to be “whole and accepted” again. The hope ignited when she hears about Jesus, the healer. And the strength and courage she musters up to leave her home for the chance to be healed.

And the message most clear? A loving Jesus who wants to heal her. According to the scriptures, can’t help but heal her in response to her faith.

“The Untouchable One,” along with 30 more stories like it, is what makes up this beautiful collection. Some of the titles include “The Restorer Has Come: The Woman at the Well,” “Adulteress,” “The Centurion’s Servant,” “Unclean!” “Jesus Walks on Water,” “Peter’s Denial,” “Never Too Far: The Thief on the Cross” and “Thomas’s Doubt.” Chapters begin with a scripture --- most not taken from the actual story but from complementing verses --- and end with a heartfelt prayer.

Gragg is certainly a gifted writer, creating beautiful imagery and realistic scenes that demonstrate the love of Jesus.

Whether read alone in the quiet stillness of the morning, or enjoyed together with the whole family at the dinner table, ARMS OPEN WIDE will engage your senses, stir your spirit, and may indeed make you long to linger in the Savior’s presence.

Reviewed by Lynda Lee Schab.

The Way Back from Loss: Reassembling the Pieces of a Broken Life
The Way Back from Loss: Reassembling the Pieces of a Broken Life
by Wayne Hastings
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $11.68
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars From the first page to the last, readers will discover lasting value and abundant food for thought in this lovely devotional., July 17, 2014
Author, speaker and business consultant Wayne Hastings offers readers alternatives to today’s popular coping mechanisms to surviving losses of all kinds. Hastings is the Resource Pastor for Grace Chapel in Leiper's Fork, TN and President of the Wayne Hastings Company. He will help guide individuals through the various stages of loss with this powerful, truth-expounding devotional that does more than simply come alongside the hurting. Each essay offers both inspirational and practical tools for working through the pain.

Hastings provides folks with everything they require to address their losses, whether they are of the relational, financial, vocational, physical, emotional or spiritual type. He has divided this work into five sections: 1) finding peace in the storm; 2) trusting God; 3) throwing off hindrances; 4) choosing growth and hope; and 5) learning to walk again. Each of these 60 devotionals includes pithy, powerful quotations by past and present personages. Bible verses that hone in on the topic discussed are followed by essays that bring to life through vivid storytelling the specific lesson topic. Closing out each devotional is a brief Insight that capsulates the message; a short Prayer that condenses the heart’s cry for help; and Life Choices, which include Bible readings to study, some pertinent takeaway questions, and a challenge to get active in applying what has been shared.

Under each section heading, readers will find numerous and very specific subjects to read through and slowly digest in their quest for healing from loss. Especially helpful is Hastings’s section on Throwing Off Hindrances, where he writes on the most common ways folks slip up (and fall back) during their healing process. First, he addresses power stealers; don’t look ahead: needless worry; tears on the carpet; standing firmly; don’t look back: needless blame; trapped in the wilderness; the pain of regret; the complaining heart; the cloud of negative thinking; losing what binds; stuck in the middle; and leaning, not slumping.

As Hastings reminds his readers, loss comes in all shapes and sizes, and the healing process itself will very likely resemble the same. Everyone is different in the rate at which they heal; even the process through which they overcome their losses will be unique to them. Hastings is warm, witty, and intersperses his wise counsel with lots of stories from well-known biblical characters. He spotlights each one’s humanity --- the good, the bad and the ugly --- so that readers are reminded that everyone is the same on the inside.

From the first page to the final paragraph, Christ followers, as well as those not of any particular faith, will discover lasting value and abundant food for thought in this lovely devotional. Readers will find themselves returning time and again to the stories, verses and takeaway applications, and close the text feeling more grounded, peaceful and whole.

Reviewed by Michele Howe.

The Advocate
The Advocate
by Randy Singer
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $19.07
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Readers of legal fiction will adore THE ADVOCATE, and those who understand biblical history will find it even more thrilling., July 17, 2014
This review is from: The Advocate (Hardcover)
Randy Singer is an award-winning author of more than 10 legal thrillers and a veteran trial attorney. He cites his new title, THE ADVOCATE, as the story he was born to write. For Christians, this particular work of fiction allows them to see more closely into the life and times surrounding Jesus and the Apostle Paul. Singer uses his historical research to bring to light to modern readers all the corruption and political waywardness that occurred during the Roman Empire’s reign.

Singer opens this dynamic page-turner with the protagonist’s own story from his youth as he recounts having to carry his cross miles down the Appian Way under the tutelage of his instructor, Seneca. This is the starting point for Theophilus’s journey toward manhood as he, along with 11 other students, was being molded into future Roman senators, commanders or magistrates. It was exactly on this auspicious day when Theophilus also tangled with Caligula (Gaius Julius Caesar Germanicus), the bully son of the great general Germanicus, and his wife, Agrippina. Little did Theophilus realize that, by simply stating truth in answer to a question posed by Seneca, his day --- and, later, his destiny --- would be altered when Caligula would take vengeance upon him.

As Theophilus treasured truth telling, Caligula treasured power and control, so the bully Caligula enlists the help of some other students to kidnap Theophilus and crucify him in earnest that same night as Seneca made a lesson of it during the day. Theophilus didn’t die that fateful night, but never recovered from the ordeal, either. He quit school, and his parents sent him to Greece for the remainder of his education.

Years pass, and then Theophilus returns to Rome as a young man eager to take his place in society professionally. Soon after, Seneca, his old teacher and mentor, acquires for Theophilus a position as an assessore to Pontius Pilate. Eventually, Theophilus actually stands behind Pilate and tells him to offer a release of Barabbas so that Jesus might be freed. The plan backfires, and the mob demands Barabbas’s freedom while Jesus is condemned to die.

Fast forward three decades. Theophilus must face Caligula again as the ruler of Rome, and Theophilus realizes that his old enemy is as cunning and crazy as ever. Trying to circumvent more needless bloodshed and protect the woman he loves, Theophilus plots the death of Caligula and succeeds, though Rome is still completely corrupt. As soon as one tyrant dies, another rises to take his place; this time, Theophilus must fight to protect Paul from Nero. Theophilus works endlessly to secure Paul’s release and, in the midst of his efforts, finds himself believing in the same God Paul serves…to his own demise.

As Singer writes, “The Advocate’s first trial altered the course of history. His last will change the fate of an empire.” Readers of legal fiction will adore Singer’s work, and those who understand biblical history will find THE ADVOCATE even more thrilling. No wonder that Singer’s books are being heralded as award-winning fiction. He’s just that good.

Reviewed by Michele Howe.

A Deadly Business (A Mia Quinn Mystery)
A Deadly Business (A Mia Quinn Mystery)
by April Henry
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $19.56
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wiehl is a master storyteller, and her expertise as a trial lawyer and legal analyst only adds to the overall excellence., July 17, 2014
Mia Quinn is back --- and better than ever --- in her second mystery, A DEADLY BUSINESS, by Lis Wiehl and April Henry.

In the first book, A MATTER OF TRUST, readers were introduced to Mia Quinn, whose husband died in a car accident seven months earlier, leaving her to raise their two children on her own. His death also left her a huge mound of debt she knew nothing about that she now has to repay, causing her to return to the workforce as a Seattle prosecutor of violent crimes.

A DEADLY BUSINESS begins with an intense courtroom scene where Mia is attacked by a criminal she is prosecuting, leaving her shocked and shaken. This scene has nothing to do with the plot, but gives readers an immediate foretaste of the excitement to come.

The actual story centers on two separate cases. The first has to do with three teenage boys who drop a shopping cart off a bridge that ends up putting a woman in a coma. Mia is faced with the daunting task of deciding if the boys should be charged as adults. There is a good argument for both sides, and her decision could affect the reelection of her boss and friend, Frank D’Amato, as District Attorney, which ultimately could cost Mia her job. But she is determined not to let that sway her, and sets out to get the facts and weigh the evidence in order to come to an educated and practical conclusion.

The second case revolves around the death of Mia’s husband, Scott, which was ruled an accident at the time of the incident. At first, Mia is skeptical of Detective Charlie Carlson’s suggestion that Scott was murdered. But when she takes a closer look at the police report and also discovers more secrets her husband had been keeping, she wonders if Charlie may be right. The courts refuse to reopen the case, however, so Mia and Charlie do some digging of their own. Someone out there is not happy with the fact that Mia can’t leave well enough alone. He --- or she --- will do whatever it takes to make sure the truth about what happened to Scott stays buried. Even if it means burying Mia with it.

In addition to the legal plot lines, Mia is dealing with the challenges of being a single working mom and trying to come to grips with her emotions regarding her late husband, as well as suppressing a few romantic sparks that keep popping up between her and a close colleague.

I personally appreciate how both of the books in this series so far have dealt with a juvenile case. The questions and considerations raised about teen crime are thought-provoking. While multiple plot lines can often be complicated and confusing, here they blend seamlessly for a compelling and gratifying read.

Fast-paced and riveting, A DEADLY BUSINESS contains everything you’d expect from a legal thriller. Wiehl is a master storyteller, and her expertise as a trial lawyer and legal analyst only adds to the overall excellence of the novel. Of course, the investigative ingredient is the heart of the story, and the mystery and suspense --- with plenty of twists and turns --- are top-notch.

Often compared to bestselling authors like John Grisham and James Patterson, Wiehl has definitely proven her hand at legal thrillers, and co-author April Henry offers her talent in making the story come together. Wiehl and Henry make an impressive team and have partnered in several legal thrillers to date. LETHAL BEAUTY, the third book in the Mia Quinn series, releases in March 2015.

Reviewed by Lynda Lee Schab.

We Make the Road by Walking: A Year-Long Quest for Spiritual Formation, Reorientation, and Activation
We Make the Road by Walking: A Year-Long Quest for Spiritual Formation, Reorientation, and Activation
by Brian D. McLaren
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $25.00
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Readers, whether or not they are fans of McLaren, can find some fuel for their own journey in WE MAKE THE ROAD BY WALKING., July 17, 2014
Brian McLaren is an author, speaker, activist and public theologian. A few of his books include WHY DID JESUS, MOSES, THE BUDDHA, AND MOHAMMED CROSS THE ROAD?, A New Kind of Christian trilogy, A GENEROUS ORTHODOXY and NAKED SPIRITUALITY. In his newest work, WE MAKE THE ROAD BY WALKING, McLaren paves the way for believers and seekers (not necessarily in that order) with a journey guidebook that is part interactive Bible study and part life manual to use over the course of one year.

Divided into 52 weekly readings, McLaren hopes readers will revisit in a fresh way old Bible stories and do so with an attitude that espouses a “daring reinterpretation of the biblical story” using read-aloud weekly readings that offer discussion questions, prayers, and other resources that will guide individuals and groups through a year of learning. This material is organized around the traditional church year of Advent, Epiphany, Lent, Holy Week, Easter and Pentecost.

Opening his text, McLaren’s statement is fundamental to the content and message of the book: “The quest for aliveness is the best thing about religion, I think. It’s what we’re hoping for when we pray. It’s why we gather, celebrate, eat, abstain, attend, practice, sing, and contemplate. When people say, ‘I’m spiritual,’ what they mean, I think, is simple: ‘I’m seeking aliveness.’” Now, to be clear, how McLaren achieves this “aliveness” will differ according to who is reading the book. Some evangelical Christians will take issue with his offhanded references to the Big Bang Theory, the age of the world, how creation came to be, and whether or not the stories told in the Bible are just that: stories that make a point but did not literally happen. That said, McLaren is trying to appeal to the broadest audience of faith-minded individuals by using inclusive language and terms throughout.

He has divided the book into four parts: 1) Alive in the story of creation; 2) Alive in the adventure of Jesus; 3) Alive in a global uprising; and 4) Alive in the spirit of God. Each chapter begins with various recommended Bible readings followed by an exposition of the texts and the story found there. McLaren does a wonderful job presenting these biblical stories in a fresh and thought-provoking way that will aid readers in asking better questions about the lessons found there. Closing each chapter is the Engage section, where he poses questions relating to the material and asks readers to discuss their findings as well as take the process a few steps further by activating what they learned through life application. Then he leads individuals to meditate on what they’ve just learned and discovered.

McLaren also offers a special section of Liturgical Resources for groups to use and a “Five Guidelines for Learning Circles” outline as well. He has a lot to say about the life of faith, not all of which will be readily accepted. However, he does ask the important questions about life and faith. Readers, whether or not they are fans of McLaren, can find some fuel for their own journey in WE MAKE THE ROAD BY WALKING.

Reviewed by Michele Howe.

Yawning at Tigers: You Can't Tame God, So Stop Trying
Yawning at Tigers: You Can't Tame God, So Stop Trying
by Drew Dyck
Edition: Paperback
Price: $13.59
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4.0 out of 5 stars A well-written, well-formulated book that is both inspiring and challenging., June 24, 2014
In his last pages, Drew Dyck winds down his foundational topic by referring to his “odd” metaphor: “I compared God to a tiger.” Then, “I hope that didn’t offend you.” It seems he’s writing to a generation younger than I that is unfamiliar with a significant book published a decade or so before he was born (from what I could figure): CHRIST THE TIGER, by Thomas Howard, and to the metaphor’s earlier use by poet T. S. Eliot. (Was Dyck himself familiar with the precedent? It’s not clear, as neither source is mentioned in his text or ample notes.) He is, however, writing to a generation that grew up connecting God and a lion (Aslan), an image as ancient as John the Divine. So I don’t quite understand his closing apology. Are we as far removed from the link as he thinks? Enough on that count.

If you can get past the garish cover, you’ll find a well-written, well-formulated book that is both inspiring and challenging. Dyck presents his material in two parts (six chapters each), first covering “Tiger Territory,” dealing with the characteristics of God that put a holy and just God above and beyond a flippant “best chums” category. This is a God who calls His people to sacrificial giving and to standards of moral living. Then the second half of the book, “Divine Embrace,” shows the tender, merciful aspects of God, evident in the Old Testament story of Hosea and Gomer, evident in the Incarnation, God becoming one of us.

Dyck includes anecdotes that help you get to know and like him. He’s not just lecturing; he’s personally working through the material, allowing us readers to better engage. In a chapter challenging readers to “dangerous living,” he admits: “I’m an idealistic person. In the past I held something of an either-or mind-set about the Christian life. Either I have to sell everything I own, move to a Third World country, and live in a hut --- or stay where I am and live like everyone else…. If you think God approves of only those with extreme callings, it’s easy to throw up your hands and stop trying altogether…

“The specific places and vocations God calls us to are secondary. The important things are whether we walk with him, take risks where we are, and live as threats to the evil around us.”

How refreshing to see a book that gives biblical citations in the text itself and old-fashioned, easy-to-track endnotes. If this was the author’s preference, three cheers for bucking the tide. A study guide rounds out the book, giving discussion questions, action points, and suggestions for Bible study of a particular relevant passage.

Reviewed by Evelyn Bence.

Silenced (Alaskan Courage) (Volume 4)
Silenced (Alaskan Courage) (Volume 4)
by Dani Pettrey
Edition: Paperback
Price: $11.97
66 used & new from $7.50

5.0 out of 5 stars Adrenaline junkies, romance readers, and suspense fans will definitely want to check out this one., June 24, 2014
The McKennas are back in the fourth installment of Dani Pettrey’s Alaskan Courage series. This time, the story centers on two characters we’ve come to know well in the last three books --- characters whose romantic tension has been building. I’m sure I speak for many readers when I say, “It’s about time!”

Kayden McKenna is a health-conscious adventure-junkie who is also fiercely independent. She finds it difficult to accept help from anybody, and her siblings lightheartedly joke about her stubbornness, trying to get Kayden to admit she can’t do it all. For the past few years, Kayden has been fighting an attraction to Jake Westin, a virtual stranger that the McKennas “adopted” into their family when he mysteriously appeared in Yancey. Since the beginning, Jake has been vague about his past, and Kayden’s cynical nature and suspicions about his motivations have kept them at arm’s length. But the truth about his past was recently revealed, shedding a whole new light on things. Now Kayden understands Jake’s reasons for his evasiveness, and her attraction to him has only increased. Still, she won’t admit it, not even to herself.

Jake built a career in Boston as one of the city’s finest police detectives. He was married, with a baby on the way, and he couldn’t have been happier with his life. But then his wife and unborn baby were murdered, and his life fell apart. The suspected killer committed suicide, and his wife --- also his accomplice --- was put in prison. That’s when Jake fled Boston to make a new life for himself in Yancey. He hoped a new place and a whole lot of time would help mend his broken heart and possibly relieve some of the guilt he felt at not being able to protect his family. The McKennas have welcomed him into their family, providing a much-needed place to heal and recoup.

The story opens with a bang as Kayden discovers a dead body while on a rock-climbing excursion with Jake. The death is quickly determined to be anything but an accident, and against his better judgment, Jake is drawn back into the thrill of police work. He agrees to help with the case and is sworn in as a deputy. Kayden’s climbing expertise and Jake’s detective skills determine them a great team, and they begin to dig into the crime. The clues eventually lead them to realize that the past Jake has been fleeing has finally caught up with him --- in an unexpected and explosive way.

As Kayden and Jake get closer to solving the case, they also realize that being a great team may stretch beyond the bounds of a murder investigation.

Each of the Alaskan Courage series books have focused on a particular adventure seeker’s dream: deep sea diving, snowboarding, whitewater rafting, and now rock climbing. That excitement alone is a wonderful foundation for a suspense novel. The fact that Dani Pettrey adds engaging and colorful characters, a beautiful setting, and a well-crafted plot only enhances the enjoyment. Kayden and Jake are both battling their separate internal issues, which prevent them from believing that love is an option, yet neither one totally denies their feelings for the other. It’s a continual romantic tension that builds throughout and results in a satisfying and sigh-inducing ending. After the exciting and heart-pounding climax, of course.

As with the books before it, SILENCED makes for a thrilling page-turner, and Pettrey has earned a spot at the top of my list for romantic suspense authors. Of the five McKenna siblings, only Reef is yet unattached. Pettrey has set the stage in this book for Reef’s love story to unfold in what probably will be the final book in the series. Although each book stands alone, you’ll probably want to read them in order to get a feel for the characters’ progression and growth throughout.

Adrenaline junkies, romance readers, suspense fans, and anyone who prefers fast-paced and action-packed fiction will definitely want to reserve a slot on their bookshelves for this one.

Reviewed by Lynda Lee Schab.

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