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Tables in the Wilderness: A Memoir of God Found, Lost, and Found Again
Tables in the Wilderness: A Memoir of God Found, Lost, and Found Again
by Preston Yancey
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $18.04
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4.0 out of 5 stars Yancey is a good writer, and so young that we’ll likely hear more from him, July 27, 2015
Preston Yancey grew up in Texas in a Southern Baptist parsonage. In 2008, he entered Baylor University, in Waco, as a freshman. Here’s the landscape: “If you are a student at Baylor, it is possible to go all four years of university and attend a different church every single Sunday.” Yancey didn’t make the rounds to the more than “a hundred Southern Baptist churches” in Waco, but he did head out on a search for a church home, looking for evidence of God’s presence, spoken truths, community and aesthetics. At one juncture, Yancey and a few friends started their own congregation.

In some ways, his collegiate search revived memories of my own --- also on a campus peopled with Christians, also running in the midst of a cadre of characters, the mix changing some from year to year. (Yancey could have cut the number of presented characters, but then this is a memoir, not a novel.) But our discussions didn’t focus on the demerits of infant baptism or the meaning of the Real Presence. On one level, this memoir is a Baptist’s journey to the Anglican tradition, with its liturgical service structure and calendar and lectionary, which annually walks through the Evangelists’ gospel story of Jesus’ life, and its propensity to baptize babies and celebrate Eucharist with a capital E.

I hear that Yancey has a large blog following, though I haven’t read his postings. It feels as if a hunk of this book originated in blog posts, which might explain a very irritating switch between past and present tenses. He may have been trying to help a reader navigate his college-student perspective as distinct from his current, distanced musings (though they’re not that far removed; Yancey is still in his mid-20s). But I found the repeating pattern distracting. There must be a better way.

A minor thread gives insight into Yancey’s family, particularly his mother’s chronic, debilitating (20 years now) pain that son Yancey --- among others --- have prayed to be healed. Standing on the promises. “It does something to you, to have a chronically ill parent, a parent who does not die but clings on to life in spite of pain that pierces to bone. It does something to faith, rips it away or buries it deep,” he writes in an early chapter titled “Beginnings.” Toward the end of the book, having a new appreciation for a Lenten fast, he tentatively hopes for an Easter miracle, a dramatic “rise up and walk” for his mother. The hope remains…next year in Texas?

Yancey ends the book after leaving Waco, spending a year or so in Scotland, earning a master’s in theology, marrying a woman he’s met through their mutual blogging correspondence. He’s a bit more content with the God who whispers to those who have ears to hear.

Yancey is a good writer, and so young that we’ll likely hear more from him. I hope so --- with a tempered, aging voice.

Reviewed by Evelyn Bence

Love Arrives in Pieces
Love Arrives in Pieces
by Betsy St. Amant
Edition: Paperback
Price: $8.64
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4.0 out of 5 stars LOVE ARRIVES IN PIECES is an entertaining and fresh read with a lot of heart, July 27, 2015
This review is from: Love Arrives in Pieces (Paperback)
Beauty has always been a huge part of Stella Varland’s life. A former pageant queen, her beauty seemed to define who she was. But when her husband cheated and left her only three years into their marriage, Stella took a step back and reevaluated her life and the things she thought were important. She now feels that beauty is way overrated and has traded in her makeup and trendy clothes for baggy jeans, t-shirts and the fresh-faced look --- whatever it takes to erase any trace of her old self and blend in. Stella is still trying to work through the emotional aftermath of her divorce, and her anxiety attacks are getting fewer and farther between. She hopes it’s only a matter of time before she finds the self-confidence she lost along the way and somehow discovers who she is apart from her beauty.

Stella’s secret desire is to be an artist, but she hides her passion --- her art studio --- behind a locked door and focuses on her interior design work instead. When her mother pulls some strings and gets her a job to renovate Bayou Bend’s iconic community theater, Stella is surprised but thrilled. She is to work closely with the building contractor to completely revamp the building and get it ready for the grand reopening. When Stella arrives to her meeting with the contractor, she is in for an even bigger surprise and is far from thrilled. Chase Taylor is the man who left town after breaking not only her sister’s heart, but also her own. She holds him responsible for the rift between her and her sister that took a very long time to repair.

Chase recently lost his fiancé in an auto accident and is now determined to live his life with no regrets. He has returned to Bayou Bend to be near his family and has accepted a contract to reconstruct the town’s theater. The last thing he expects is to be reconnected with the woman he fell in love with years ago. He knows he made some mistakes back then, but he has changed and doesn’t understand why Stella can’t just forgive him and move on.

Regardless of the anger Stella harbors toward Chase for the past, she can’t deny the attraction she still feels when they’re together. But she tries to bury those feelings and do the job that needs to be done. Her sister and her mother are not happy about the fact that Chase is back in the picture, let alone working with Stella. But she does her best to convince them --- as well as herself --- that their relationship is strictly professional.

As Stella and Chase work together to restore the old theater, the potential is there to also rebuild their relationship. Is Stella ready to open her heart and trust again?

The first couple of chapters felt a bit disjointed to me, and it took me a little while to get into the story. But once I did, I couldn’t help connecting with Stella and all of her insecurities. Author Betsy St. Amant has created a character to whom all women can relate and reiterates the fact that no matter how beautiful or talented we are, self-confidence is something we all struggle with, in one way or another. Besides the true meaning of beauty and accepting yourself for who you are, St. Amant tackles other issues, such as forgiveness, learning to trust again after experiencing a broken heart, and recognizing that God is the only one who can fix that brokenness. The book also touches on pursuing our passions and purpose, and the importance of family.

On all of these points, St. Amant hits the mark. There is a good balance of humor and weightiness, and emotional awareness is spot on. Overall, LOVE ARRIVES IN PIECES is an entertaining and fresh read with a lot of heart.

Reviewed by Lynda Lee Schab

A Perfect Ambition: A Novel (The Worthington Destiny)
A Perfect Ambition: A Novel (The Worthington Destiny)
by Jeff Nesbit
Edition: Paperback
Price: $12.80
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars You’ll be captivated by the Worthington family’s story and left wanting more when you reach the end of the book, July 27, 2015
Ambitious. Dynamic. Ethical.

That last adjective isn’t what normally comes to mind when the public thinks about the rich and powerful. But all three of these words describe Will Worthington of the Worthington dynasty, which has ruled American businesses and investments for six generations. The eldest of three siblings and a man of integrity, Will has been groomed all of his life to step into his father Bill’s shoes, whether it’s in the corporate world or the political one.

An overachiever by both nature and birth order, Will is prepared to lead from positions of corporate and personal power. Guided by the family traditions of honor and achievement, he has successfully led the family corporation, Worthington Shares, since his father’s retirement, as well as having served as a board member for various companies. Despite the fact that his younger sister and brother are quite capable themselves, Bill has always focused on Will and his career with laser-like intensity. Naturally, the rest of the family has noticed this. Bill’s wife, Ava, a devoted peacekeeper at heart, has striven to encourage all three of her children but has not always been successful.

Will’s brother, Sean, the middle child, has pursued success his own way rather than seeking to follow in his brother’s (or father’s) footsteps. Hugely successful in social media, Sean has forged his own path with startup companies and environmental causes. But everyone notices Bill’s favoritism of his eldest son and how that favor never quite reaches to Sean.

Youngest sibling Sarah, the social butterfly and darling of the family, surprised herself and everyone else with her success at law school. Like her brothers, Sarah has always stood up for the bullied and downtrodden, so naturally a position in the Department of Justice’s Criminal Division was the perfect career choice for her.

Despite Bill’s penchant for grooming his eldest son and not his other kids, and their own different personalities, the three siblings have maintained a close relationship. Urged by his mother to keep “family first,” Will has sought to live that out not only with his own wife and children but with his brother and sister as well. On a personal level, that is. Professionally, the three haven’t connected too much.

All that is about to change, though. Will serves as a board director for American Frontier, a powerful oil company, which has negotiated its way into building potentially unsafe drilling platforms in the Arctic Circle as it seeks out new sources of oil. Although Will fought this step because of the unknown dangers of the newly developed drilling technology, company CEO Eric Sandstrom swayed the rest of the board to agree with his controversial decision. And so the drilling commenced.

Sean joins a voyage to the Arctic with his scientist friend, Dr. Elizabeth Shapiro, and her research team to study beluga whales and to drop buoys designed to measure warming and ice melt. The scientists plan to place as many of the buoys as possible, even around American Frontier’s new deep drilling wells. While Elizabeth and Sean are out on deck one day, the sound of an enormous yet muted explosion startles them. But what they see shocks them even more.

One of the American Frontier rigs has fractured. Oil rapidly begins bubbling up among the water and ice, surrounding a pod of whales that quickly become coated with it. Will’s intuition about the drilling was right. American Frontier and its directors now have catastrophic environmental and stock market problems to fix.

Will believes that he can fix the company’s problems by becoming the new CEO. Sean has a first-row seat to the disaster itself. And the DOJ believes that there is a possibility of criminal wrongdoing on the part of American Frontier, so Sarah becomes involved as well. Each sibling has a role to play in the unfolding drama, which has the potential to make or break their careers. But there are hidden family secrets that none of them knows about that look to derail even the most promising paths, not to mention corporate saboteurs who are ready to wield their own power against the Worthingtons.

A PERFECT AMBITION is a gripping political and relational thriller. Co-authors Dr. Kevin Leman and Jeff Nesbit have crafted a compelling story that combines the fascinating research on the way birth order affects personality and decisions with the intrigues of political and corporate warfare. You’ll be captivated by the Worthington family’s story and left wanting more when you reach the end of the book.

Reviewed by Melanie Reynolds

The Case of the Sin City Sister (A Divine Private Detective Agency Mystery)
The Case of the Sin City Sister (A Divine Private Detective Agency Mystery)
by Lynne Hinton
Edition: Paperback
Price: $12.95
77 used & new from $0.47

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A mystery that entertains, packs a bit of an edgy punch, and feature lovable and interesting characters that stick with you, July 27, 2015
Harley-riding Sister Eve is back, better (and “badder”) than ever, in THE CASE OF THE SIN CITY SISTER, the second book in Lynne Hinton’s Divine Private Detective Agency series.

If you’ve read the first book, SISTER EVE, PRIVATE EYE, you know that Eve Divine (pronounced Diveen) is no ordinary nun. One thing is certain: she loves God and wants to be faithful to His calling --- even if she isn’t sure whether that calling is to remain in the convent or to solve crimes. That is, indeed, Eve’s current life struggle. She loves being a nun and feels certain this is the path God called her to follow many years ago, but she can’t deny the passion she has for mysteries --- the thrill she gets when assisting her father in his private detective agency. But is it just a fleshly desire, or one that God Himself placed within her?

After a six-week reprieve to take care of her dad (The Captain) after he had his foot amputated, she has returned to the convent and is more confused than ever. The monk in charge of her monastery encourages Eve to take another leave of absence and really search her heart. Eve agrees and heads home again. Not long after Eve arrives, a man hires her dad to find out what happened to his great-grandfather, a miner who went missing after leaving his family for New Mexico in search of gemstones. The cold case intrigues Eve, and she finds herself drawn in.

But a bigger and more demanding mystery involves her own sister, who has also gone missing. Dorisanne, who lives in Las Vegas with her not-so-law-abiding husband, has always seemed to live on the edge of trouble but consistently keeps in touch with her family. When Dorisanne doesn’t return their phone calls for several weeks, Eve’s gut tells her something is wrong. She heads to Vegas with her father’s longtime law enforcement partner, Daniel, to find her sister.

Once in Sin City, Eve is exposed to more than she bargained for, and makes more late-night visits to the casino than she ever imagined. But this determined Sister is going to do whatever it takes to find Dorisanne.

While I enjoyed SISTER EVE, PRIVATE EYE, the sophomore novel in this series is even better. The mystery is intriguing, the clues more clever, and the setting more exciting. Eve is a refreshing character and extremely “normal,” for lack of a better word. While “people of the cloth” are often stereotyped, Eve is anything but stereotypical. She doesn’t judge, isn’t offended by people who don’t believe as she does, but rather lives her life in “the real world” in a way that reflects her faith. She is kind, compassionate and intuitive, but is also one tough cookie when push comes to shove.

Eve’s uncertainty about her purpose and hearing God’s voice is one many of us face, and readers will sympathize with her emotional and mental struggle. It’s clear that solving mysteries is a gift Eve possesses, and her passion for it only sends a message that sometimes our calling comes in an unconventional form. But then, unconventional is a word that describes Sister Eve perfectly.

Although the story starts with the missing miner and is wrapped up in the end, that mystery takes a backseat to Eve’s search for Dorisanne, and for good reason. The importance of family has been a recurring theme in this series so far.

If you love mysteries that entertain, pack a bit of an edgy punch, and feature lovable and interesting characters that stick with you after the final page, you’ll want to add THE CASE OF THE SIN CITY SISTER to your personal library. One word to sum up this series and its author: Divine (pronounced Divine).

Reviewed by Lynda Lee Schab

Seeing in the Dark: Finding God's Light in the Most Unexpected Places
Seeing in the Dark: Finding God's Light in the Most Unexpected Places
by Nancy Ortberg
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $12.90
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4.0 out of 5 stars Ortberg’s life is a testimony to God’s enduring faithfulness, July 27, 2015
Nancy Ortberg is the director of leadership development at Menlo Park Presbyterian Church in Northern California and the author of a number of books on living the Christian life and leadership. In her newest work, she offers readers 15 poignantly presented stories of real time people who have found the strength and solace of God in unexpected moments, times and places.

Ortberg has a nifty way of sharing some of life’s toughest happenings and helping Christ followers find the light, dim though it may be, hidden amongst the darkness. While a fine leader who trains others to lead well, she admits to finding herself lost at times when tragedy strikes hardest and is herself in need of a guiding hand to help gain back her bearings. As all parents have experienced, when one’s child is struck by some painfully impossible situation and is struggling to overcome, moms and dads feel the weight of their offspring’s sufferings more keenly than their own.

Ortberg relates a personal story when this happened, and she needed a friend to sit her down and gently guide her back to the Savior where she found her strength, made her peace, and gained renewed heart to keep pressing through. Later, after her child had soldiered through the crisis, she recalled how much she learned from being in that dark place near her loved one. Many of the accounts Ortberg so skillfully lays out in a comfortable, homespun, conversational style surround her own life, family and ministry. Her transparency covers the gamut of life situations, and readers will find themselves smiling, grimacing and emotionally engaged as they realize that everyone battles through this life.

Another story that is especially riveting is Ortberg’s account of her move from California to Chicago and how difficult that transition was for her. She tells readers that she simply couldn’t find God in that harsh, cold environment for seasons. It was so painful for her as a lifelong Californian to find God in the Midwest that she refused to even buy a winter coat for the first two years there. And yet, she notes that the darkness did eventually lift, and they discovered years of fruitful ministry in that city.

Readers will discover afresh how God always finds a way to pierce even the darkest night of the soul with His redeeming presence and grace. Ortberg specifically helps Christians see the light when death occurs, disease takes hold, children suffer, depression oppresses, and simple discouragement from life’s hard knocks threaten to overtake faith, hope and love. Ortberg’s life is a testimony to God’s enduring faithfulness, and her mode of communicating that unfailing love will hearten even the most disheartened individual. SEEING IN THE DARK is a terrific book to buy and refer back to as needed, as well as one to give to a friend.

Reviewed by Michele Howe

Buried Secrets: A Novel (Men of Valor)
Buried Secrets: A Novel (Men of Valor)
by Irene Hannon
Edition: Paperback
Price: $9.15
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4.0 out of 5 stars The cat-and-mouse chase is well done and allows plenty of intense and shocking moments that make BURIED SECRETS a great read, July 27, 2015
Irene Hannon is most known for romantic suspense, with series like Private Justice, Guardians of Justice and Heroes of Quantico. Just released is BURIED SECRETS, the first book in her Men of Valor series.

“It was meant to be a joyride. No one was supposed to die.” That is the opening line in the prologue of this story, which puts the reader in the middle of an intense scene involving three St. Louis college kids who are deciding what to do with the body of a fellow classmate who has obviously died. No details about the death are revealed as the kids come up with a plan that will prevent anyone from finding out about their involvement (whatever “their involvement” is).

And the plan works. At least for a while.

Mac McGregor, an ex-Navy SEAL turned county police detective, is called in to assist on a case of the discovery of a human skeleton. He teams up with Lisa Grant, the newly appointed --- and very beautiful --- Police Chief, to solve what they learn is a 24-year-old cold case. A small gemstone is found with the body, which leads them to the identity of the victim. Mac and Lisa pore over the original case files and begin their questioning, starting with the three college classmates who were the last people known to have seen the victim alive.

Jessica Lee has worked her tail off to get to the top of one of the fastest growing PR firms in America. She knows it is only a matter of time before the CEO retires and she is asked to take his place. And there is absolutely nothing that will stop her from achieving her goal. Then, out of the blue, Jessica is contacted by Erika Banks, who franticly relays the news that the remains of their former classmate, Alena Kominsky, have been found. The last thing Jessica does is panic. She assures Erika that they have nothing to worry about --- that there is no way the police can tie them to Alena’s death.

But Erika has always been a hot mess and loose cannon, freaking out over everything. It is up to Jessica to make sure that Erika keeps quiet, no matter what. The same goes for Joe, the third member of their secret alliance. Fortunately, Joe has moved away and isn’t as likely as Erika to fall apart and blow their secret out of the water. And Jessica will do whatever it takes to make sure that doesn’t happen.

There is not much mystery included in BURIED SECRETS. In other words, there is no guessing or speculating on the identity of the culprits. However, that does not take away from the suspense, as Mac and Lisa work to uncover the clues that lead them to proving the guilt of those culprits. The story is told from multiple perspectives, including those of the criminals, so the reader is fully immersed in the complete picture. The cat-and-mouse chase is well done and allows plenty of intense and even shocking moments that make BURIED SECRETS a great read. The final scenes provide a bit more action and should satisfy suspense enthusiasts.

The romantic element was certainly present from the first time Mac and Lisa meet. Their chemistry is undeniable and electric, while maintaining the clean standards of Christian fiction. Both Mac and Lisa are Christians, and their faith is acknowledged throughout. Family is highly celebrated, and the book introduces readers to Mac’s two single military brothers, providing a peek into potential main characters in the next couple of Men of Valor novels.

Irene Hannon is an exceptional storyteller, and has an easy and down-to-earth writing style that justifies her large fan base. They should not be disappointed with this one.

Reviewed by Lynda Lee Schab

The Friends of Jesus (Life-Changing Bible Study Series)
The Friends of Jesus (Life-Changing Bible Study Series)
by Karen Kingsbury
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $14.11
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5.0 out of 5 stars Kingsbury can take even the slimmest facts found in the Bible and build life-changing storylines around them, July 27, 2015
New York Times bestselling author Karen Kingsbury presents another title in her Life-Changing Bible Study series with THE FRIENDS OF JESUS. While many viewers were enthralled with the “A.D. The Bible Continues” television series that highlighted the events and biblical characters found in the book of Acts, readers are sure to respond with equal enthusiasm to Kingsbury’s book. She brings to life six of Jesus’ friends and how they met Him, interacted with Him, failed Him, struggled to understand Him, and how each one eventually gave their lives over to Him.

Readers will value how in depth Kingsbury goes into the inner thoughts, emotions and reactions of each character she depicts. In fact, her details read “so real” that readers will find themselves feeling similar emotions to these individuals as they are forced to face their own inner demons and are confronted by Jesus’ claims of being the Messiah.

Kingsbury presents Simon the Leper and weaves his story of contracting leprosy so vividly that readers will cringe as they read about his own horror of succumbing to this unclean disease and how he may have reacted to the news when he was told to leave the city. His suffering is so intense that when he finally meets Jesus and is healed, it is with an immense sigh of relief on his behalf. Martha and Mary’s story of losing their beloved younger brother Lazarus is another stark tale when all the forces of life and death mingle with faith and doubt. Again, Martha is wrestling with what Jesus told them, and the events surrounding her brother’s death come to a head when she sees Jesus again and He brings Lazarus back to life.

Readers will also learn more about Jairus and his 12-year-old daughter who lay dying (then does die). His own doubts about who Jesus claimed to be are revealed when he has nowhere else to go but to the Savior. Jairus contemplates everything he’s heard about Him, but does he believe the stories? Crisis once again forces the hand and the heart of this man who earnestly cries to Jesus to bring her back…and He does. Equally as moving are the accounts of Mary Magdalene, who was possessed by demons; Peter’s up-and-down experience with Jesus culminating in his redemption; and how John’s pride was transformed into true humility.

Each of these biblical characters’ accounts are fleshed out in story form by Kingsbury so that readers can richly experience their struggles in a more profound manner. She has a way of bringing exuberance and enthusiasm to her characters’ words and actions that enriches the whole scene with lively humanity.

Closing out THE FRIENDS OF JESUS are questions for individual reflection or group discussions that will aid readers in a deeper takeaway of each story. Kingsbury is a dynamic author, and she’s proving that she can take even the slimmest facts found in the Bible and build life-changing storylines around them.

Reviewed by Michele Howe

In Good Company
In Good Company
by Jen Turano
Edition: Paperback
Price: $11.89
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5.0 out of 5 stars Jen Turano’s books always bring a smile to my face, and IN GOOD COMPANY is no exception, July 27, 2015
This review is from: In Good Company (Paperback)
Millie Longfellow, like Anne Shirley, is an orphan. And like Anne, she has a love of the English language. However, she has a significant problem with remembering definitions. So she carries her trusty dictionary around in her apron pocket. This helps her in situations when she says “disintegrated” instead of “disenchanted,” or when an employer informs Millie that she has allowed her charges (the woman’s children) to behave in an “execrable” way. If Millie doesn’t know what a word means, she does need to look it up, right? Millie thinks that this is the epitome of common sense, as is letting children run, play and get dirty from time to time. Unfortunately, her employers rarely agree, resulting in periods of employment that are rather short, despite the adoration the children always have for Millie and her excellent child management skills.

Society favorite Everett Mulberry is looking for a good nanny who’s even-tempered, longsuffering and difficult to irritate. He has inherited three young children upon the death of his dearest friend. Alas, while Everett is quite successful in business and in the top tiers of New York’s elite society circles, he is completely at a loss when it comes to raising children --- especially children who have lost their parents and he doesn’t actually know all that well. His solution is to pass them off to a rapidly growing number of nannies, all of whom seem to have the habit of handing in their resignations after a few weeks, days or even hours with the kids.

Calculating Miss Caroline Dixon, the elegant woman Everett has determined will be the perfect wife for him, has an alternate solution. She is convinced that the only way she (er…Everett and the children) will be happy is if the three siblings are sent away to boarding school. That will free her of the aggravation and bother of having to deal daily with children who aren’t even her own --- and who, by the way, politely detest her.

Upon the unexpected departure of Everett’s latest nanny and Millie’s most recent dismissal, the two literally collide outside the employment agency. Due to mutual friends, the two have met before. While Everett admires Millie’s fine eyes, he’s quite sure (due to the rather exuberant stories he’s heard about her nannying) that she is the very last person who should care for his new wards. Millie herself finds Everett fascinating, yet she’s rather put off by the way he rejects her as an appropriate governess for the “brats,” as he affectionately calls them.

Despite the misgivings both have about the other, Millie is indeed hired to care for Elizabeth, Thaddeus and Rose. And immediately, the three put Millie to the test. To their surprise, she’s quite familiar with the tricks they try to play on her, and she has a few surprises up her sleeve for them. Yet as Millie and the children form an understanding and even a friendship, Caroline discovers that she is not at all fond of such a lovely young woman working right under Everett’s nose. And she is quite willing to do everything she can to sabotage Millie’s job, all to get her away from the man she considers the perfect society husband-to-be.

The summer they all spend at Newport proves to be an illuminating one for both the children and the adults (some of whom definitely behave like children at times). Will Everett allow the rules of society to dictate his future happiness…or determine what might be his extreme unhappiness? Will Millie ever not be fired from a nannying job? And what about the suspicious circumstances of the deaths of the children’s parents? Will that mystery be uncovered?

Jen Turano’s books always bring a smile to my face, and IN GOOD COMPANY is no exception. Her characters and stories are captivating and fun. Millie Longfellow’s engaging adventure, with all its unexpected ups and downs, will charm your heart as you cheer her on to victory (and then you’ll want to read all of Turano’s previous books!). Be sure to find yourself a copy.

Reviewed by Melanie Reynolds

The Wonder of You (Christiansen Family)
The Wonder of You (Christiansen Family)
by Susan May Warren
Edition: Paperback
Price: $12.62
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5.0 out of 5 stars Faith, family and all the complexities of life’s roller coaster ride can be found in this engaging romance, July 27, 2015
Amelia Christiansen, the youngest of six, is back at the family’s resort in Deep Haven, Minnesota, after returning early from her semester abroad. Life in Prague was everything she had imagined and more, especially after meeting Roark St. John. Handsome, smart and fun, with a sexy English accent, Roark stole her heart, then shattered it when she saw him in the arms of another woman. Mortified at her inability to remain on her adventure, Amelia settles back into life at the resort, hoping to put Roark behind her. When he follows her back to the states to beg forgiveness, her protective family boots him out. But Roark never met anyone like Amelia, and is determined to explain his actions, win back her heart and reveal his true identity.

Months after his first attempt, he returns to Deep Haven and settles in, ready to do whatever it takes for Amelia to give him another chance. But in THE WONDER OF YOU, Roark is not the only one set on winning Amelia’s heart. Seth Turnquist was Amelia’s boyfriend for years until she left for Prague. Now that she’s back, and done with the European playboy, Seth is ready to take their relationship to the next level --- marriage. But before Amelia can give her heart to anyone, she must figure out who she is, what she wants, and where God is leading her.

Seth is the obvious choice. He has loved her forever and is embedded in her world. He is reliable, hardworking and shares her faith. His blond hair, rugged features and lumberjack muscles turn women’s heads. And there is zero doubt he’d be a wonderful husband and father. With Seth, she could stay in Deep Haven, be with her family, and with any luck work as a photographer for the local paper. But Roark sends her head and heart spinning at breakneck speed. Why has he returned? Just to shatter her heart again? He flits around the world taking classes and going on adventures without any direction or roots. Even if she lets herself get swept up, where could it possibly lead? And yet he crossed the Atlantic, again, just to talk to her. The least she could do is give him a chance.

Roark wants more than anything to tell Amelia the truth --- that he’s heir to a European hotel dynasty worth billions. More importantly, he wants to tell her why he has kept that a secret, why she saw him hugging another woman, and why he’s been on the run for far too long. His heart is sure that Amelia is his reason to stop running. Perhaps she is also the one who can stay by his side in whatever plans God has in store for him.

In the meantime, a tragedy at the river brings a new little resident to the Christiansens’ resort. Seven-year-old Yulia, adopted from Russia, finds herself without a family after only a week in the United States. As Amelia’s sister and new brother-in-law take care of her until another adoptive family can be found, they begin to see Heaven-sent possibilities for their future.

Amelia, too, begins to open her eyes to possibilities as God shows her that, with Him at the helm, she can soar beyond her own limitations. When a life-threatening accident sends her to the hospital, Amelia gets a clearer vision of what she wants and what she can accomplish with God’s guidance.

Book five in the Christiansen Family series is as compelling and delightful as its predecessors, including the two novellas. Faith, family and all the complexities of life’s roller coaster ride can be found in this engaging romance. Like the other books in the series, it is told from multiple perspectives, with captivating subplots that keep the reader fully engaged with the secondary characters. In THE WONDER OF YOU, Susan May Warren proves yet again that she is a master storyteller, gifted in creating imagery, relatable characters and storylines beautifully woven with faith-based messages.

Reviewed by Susan Miura

Blindsided by God: Disappointment, Suffering, and the Untamable Goodness of God
Blindsided by God: Disappointment, Suffering, and the Untamable Goodness of God
by Peter Chin
Edition: Paperback
Price: $11.21
69 used & new from $0.41

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars We can find comfort in the knowledge that blessing and suffering can co-exist, June 23, 2015
Peter Chin is a Korean/American pastor and writer who chose to share the most difficult year of his life in order to demonstrate the “untamable goodness of God.” He does not approach the subject of suffering from a theological perspective but from the perspective of an average person trying to reconcile the reality of pain with the purpose of a loving God.

As a Christian, Pastor Chin had been educated at Yale and Fuller Seminary, planted (Christian-speak for “started”) churches, and written timely articles for several popular publications. Yet when the year of suffering began to unfold, he was unprepared for how to deal with the barrage of calamities. “In just one month, my view of life and of God had been quickly and totally destroyed by a quick succession of trials.”

"[."Peter Chin] does not approach the subject of suffering from a theological perspective but from the perspective of an average person trying to reconcile the reality of pain with the purpose of a loving God

“What had betrayed me were my modern and privileged sensibilities, which were obsessed with keeping suffering at arm's length, and my diluted and selfish understanding of faith, which equated hard times with an absent or unloving God.” A refreshingly honest self-appraisal for anyone but especially so for a pastor. It is this kind of honesty that raises BLINDSIDED BY GOD above many in the same genre. It makes me wish I lived in Seattle so I could listen to him preach every week.

For a pastor to admit that he did not know how to comfort his wife after she had a miscarriage takes an amazing amount of transparency. Yet, because he had no idea how deeply she felt the loss, he knew that platitudes and pats on the shoulder would not suffice. Nothing in his education neither formal nor informal had prepared him to deal with the suffering that his wife was experiencing. So he turned to God for answers.

As he cried out to God, weeping and mourning in the basement of his house, he heard a voice inside of him that clearly said, “Stop crying.” “Stop Complaining.” “This is real life, and this is your life.” Pastor Chin admits that he wasn't certain if it was actually the voice of God, but he heard it deep within him and was shocked. How he reconciles his belief in a loving God with the harsh realities of life make up one of the best books on the subject, sure to become a classic that we'll share with many who need encouragement.

This section of the book reminded me of the Bob Newhart segment in which his psychiatric advice to the paranoid patient, who couldn't stop thinking about death, was “Just stop it!” In the face of hard reality, one does not need platitudes or esoteric promises. Lamenting has to have a limit or one will get sucked into the abyss of depression. Pastor Chin's own unique sense of humor is both engaging and endearing --- and no doubt makes him an “in demand” speaker.

Eventually, Pastor Chin concludes that God does indeed see the “end from the beginning,” and we can find comfort in the knowledge that blessing and suffering can co-exist. As a matter of fact, he acknowledges that it was at the “Seminary of Suffering” that he got the degree he never wanted but now uses the most as a pastor.

Reviewed by Maggie Harding

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