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The Way of Grace: Finding God on the Path of Surrender (Renovare Resources)
The Way of Grace: Finding God on the Path of Surrender (Renovare Resources)
by Glandion Carney
Edition: Paperback
Price: $11.10
61 used & new from $6.66

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars THE WAY OF GRACE is a book of poignant loss, resounding resilience and abiding hope., December 11, 2014
THE WAY OF GRACE is a book of poignant loss, resounding resilience and abiding hope. There, maybe I’ve said it all, but of course I haven’t. What’s the real story? Glandion Carney is an Anglican priest in Alabama, recently retired from a pastoral care church appointment. This seems a long way from his roots in Berkeley, California, and as a church planter in the Christian Reformed Church. It shouldn’t matter, but it seems to: that he’s African American, and the Alabama parish has been largely white.

Maybe reflective of Carney’s varied ministry and experience, including international speaking, the book’s prose includes allusions to and quotations from a refreshingly wide array of authors: Hannah Hurnard, Teresa of Avila and Fenelon, Tullian Tchividjian and Twila Paris.

This slim book covers so much ground, always within the framework of Carney’s 2008 diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease, which gradually but too quickly stole his energy, physical balance and dexterity, stamina, and clarity of thought and speech. For a season he wallowed in self-pity. “I also dulled my pain and soothed my sorrow by drinking too much alcohol.”

On one level, Carney’s journey is downward, toward debilitation and inevitable mortality. You can visualize the scenes: a priest stumbling at the altar; a once-hearty, self-sufficient man being humbled but grateful in an airport, realizing he’s at the mercy of strangers who offer physical assistance; a husband fumbling to button a starched shirt and ultimately relying on his wife for such basics. Here’s a strong, independent adult being broken down, back to a childlike dependence.

On another level, Carney’s journey leads the reader upward, to a dependence on the everlasting arms of God. The way is defined by various aspects of grace: the grace of acceptance, submission, trust, community, simplicity and hope, even while having the grace to be content.

He writes with an underlying foundation that rings true. It’s solid, yet, even in the last chapter, he expresses his own inadequacies, admitting, “I’m just a little boy who used all his tickets at the fair and has failed to set aside money for the bus ride home.

“I’m not sure what’s ahead for me, and I find I am increasingly like that frightened boy longing to get home.” He briefly relates the story of Jacob wrestling with God. And finally, “My story began --- and ends --- with grace. Sin and discouragement continue to grip my life, but God’s grip is stronger.”

He admits it might seem trite that he ends THE WAY OF GRACE by quoting the overused “Amazing Grace,” but he succeeds in prompting me to read the four cited verses as if they were fresh. Thank you, Fr. Carney.

Reviewed by Evelyn Bence.

A Promise to Protect: A Novel (Logan Point) (Volume 2)
A Promise to Protect: A Novel (Logan Point) (Volume 2)
by Patricia Bradley
Edition: Paperback
Price: $11.72
92 used & new from $3.31

5.0 out of 5 stars The storyline is solid and intense, the characters well-developed, and the mystery cleverly crafted., December 11, 2014
After a strong and excellent debut novel earlier this year, author Patricia Bradley comes out with her sophomore effort, A PROMISE TO PROTECT, the second book in her Logan Point series.

Dr. Leigh Summerall fled Logan Point to get as far away as she could from the love of her life, Ben Logan. Nine years later, she is back in her hometown, now a widowed mother of an eight-year-old son, TJ, and is harboring a secret. Leigh works her tail off at a local hospital to pay off her debt and put in enough hours so she can pursue her dream --- well, her late father’s dream --- of landing a position at the prestigious John’s Hopkins hospital. It can’t be soon enough for her. She can’t wait to leave Logan Point for good, especially since the last thing she wants is to run into Ben, who is now the town’s Acting Sheriff.

Leigh’s brother Tony is in trouble, and despite not wanting to see Ben, she feels she has no choice but to ask her ex-boyfriend for help. But before she can ask, her brother is murdered. And whoever killed him seems to think that Leigh is in possession of a flash drive she knows nothing about. Now Ben insists on being her personal bodyguard. After what seems like an attempt on her life, she and TJ move in with Ben’s parents. His father is unable to speak because of a recent stroke, but Leigh can see from the way he looks at her son that he has discovered the secret she is determined to keep.

Ben is at Tony’s side as Tony dies from a gunshot wound. Tony begs Ben to watch over Leigh and TJ after he’s gone. Ben still doesn’t understand why Leigh left town all those years ago, not even bothering to say goodbye. No matter how difficult it’s been to get her out of his mind even after nine years, seeing her again doesn’t seem like a good idea. But he can’t deny the dying man’s last wish and finds himself agreeing. It’s difficult to be around Leigh, not only because old feelings are resurfacing, but because of her son. Ben likes TJ but feels uncomfortable around kids in general, due to the fact that he was unable to rescue a boy from drowning a few years ago. He has yet to forgive himself, and the father of the young boy is more than willing to remind him of how he “let” his son die.

Leigh is strong-willed and determined to do things on her own, resisting Ben’s help. Ben, on the other hand, is trying to face his discomfort while keeping his promise to Tony and protecting Leigh and TJ But the killer is just as determined to do whatever it takes to get the flash drive he’s certain Leigh has, even if it means leaving more dead bodies in his wake.

A PROMISE TO PROTECT is another impressive release by Patricia Bradley. As with the first book, the storyline is solid and intense, the characters well-developed, and the mystery cleverly crafted. While the romance between Leigh and Ben is sometimes frustrating, mostly due to Leigh’s stubbornness, there is an element of believability in her actions. A couple of characters from SHADOWS OF THE PAST, the first installment in the series, make an appearance, but the story stands alone, so reading the previous novel is definitely not necessary in order to follow this one. Still, once you read A PROMISE TO PROTECT, you may just find yourself heading to the bookstore to pick up a copy of the first.

On par with authors like Lynette Eason and Irene Hannon, Patricia Bradley seems to be on her way to becoming a more well-known name in the Christian romantic suspense genre.

Reviewed by Lynda Lee Schab.

The Patmos Deception
The Patmos Deception
by Davis Bunn
Edition: Paperback
Price: $11.48
66 used & new from $6.49

4.0 out of 5 stars The stories of Nick, Carey and Dimitri will keep you spellbound until the very last page...and hoping for a sequel., December 11, 2014
This review is from: The Patmos Deception (Paperback)
Nick Hennessy, journalist. Carey Mathers, forensic archaeologist. Dimitri Rubinos, tour boat guide/Greek Lothario. What do these three have in common?

At first blush, not much. Nick is eking out an existence as a freelance journalist in Paris after his newspaper’s satellite office closed. Dimitri, whose tour business has suffered the same hits as Greece’s economy, struggles to keep his livelihood afloat and his desperately ill father in medical care. And Carey has just arrived in Athens, after landing the dream job of a lifetime (for a forensic archaeologist, that is). She’s been hired by the illustrious Athens Institute for Antiquities, in the wake of thefts of major Greek treasures and artifacts, to work alongside the Institute’s director to search out the thieves.

As the taxi takes Carey in the pouring rain from the airport into the city, she sees evidence everywhere of the devastation of Greece’s economic woes: gypsies, beggars, boarded-up shops and businesses. When the taxi pulls up at her destination, the Institute, Carey is shocked and appalled to discover that the gates are chained shut with Greek notices tied to them. The building’s first-floor windows are broken and barred, the fountain is empty. And Carey’s job, which she had flown halfway across the world to assume, is apparently no more.

So what does a doctoral student do when she’s in a foreign country, she can’t speak the local language (and can only read the ancient one), and her promised job has evaporated? Carey is fortunate, for a guardian angel in the form of a young woman from a nearby taverna (or Greek neighborhood restaurant) has seen the whole thing. Elena brings Carey and her luggage into her family’s taverna from out of the rain. She feeds her and explains what has happened to the Athens Institute for Antiquities --- at least the little that she knows. Prior to the Institute’s closing, Elena was the administrative assistant to the Institute’s director. Observing the increasing numbers of art thefts, the director had formed a plan to investigate them and had hired Carey to help. Just as this theft task force was about to begin its work, government authorities shuttered the Institute and closed it down. Carey is left with nothing to do but to find a way forward.

After Nick’s Paris stint with the Dallas Morning News ends with their French office closure and him in Paris without a job, he chases down what he hopes will be interesting stories that he can pitch to other news outlets. He meets Phyllis Karras, assistant director of the UN’s World Heritage Sites, at a chance encounter outside the Paris Sotheby’s. Over coffee she shares tips with him about black market antiquities buyers. Phyllis’ inside information breathes new life into Nick’s writing, and he’s able to stay on in France’s capital.

Now, Karras contacts Nick with the offer of a lifetime --- one that will benefit his career and the UN World Heritage Sites at the same time. It seems that there are high-level thefts of priceless icons, vases and other items of national importance to Greece. Karras’ co-workers and bosses seem concerned, but no one really wants to do anything about it. She is troubled about the possibility of an internal conspiracy, and believes that Nick is just the person to uncover the deception.

Her only concern about using Nick to follow this story is his utter lack of experience in archaeological antiquities. He tells her he knows just the person to help: Carey Mathers, his lifelong friend and forensic archaeology expert. Karras agrees, but warns Nick that this exposé may be not only dangerous but also life-threatening.

Dimitri, on the verge of losing his business, has arranged for the sale of his ship’s valuable berth to his despised, albeit wealthy, competitor. But at the last moment, help comes from an unexpected direction: a Scot who’s willing to hire Dimitri, and his boat, for an incredible money-making opportunity that will save his business and provide for his ailing father. The only problem? He’s being hired to smuggle.

Dimitri, Nick and Carey delve into the dangerous world of artifact and treasure thefts and conspiracies. What they discover along the way will impact their lives, their freedom, and, for two of them, their relationship with a God they had ignored for most of their lives. Both men are deeply drawn to Carey, her vibrant life, and her faith in God. Will the three survive the perils ahead? Will a great treasure of the Christian church be lost? And last but not least, will Carey choose Nick or Dimitri?

Davis Bunn’s THE PATMOS DECEPTION intersects the world of John the Apostle and his writings with current-day art thieves and historians, settled into 21st-century Greece and her problems. The stories of Nick, Carey and Dimitri will keep you spellbound until the very last page…and hoping for a sequel.

Reviewed by Melanie Reynolds.

Learning from the Giants: Life and Leadership Lessons from the Bible (Giants of the Bible)
Learning from the Giants: Life and Leadership Lessons from the Bible (Giants of the Bible)
by John C. Maxwell
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $12.96
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Maxwell has designed a simple yet profound compact-sized primer for those in leadership., December 11, 2014
John Maxwell is a nationally known motivational speaker and author whose books have sold over 24 million copies. He is the founder of The John Maxwell Company, The John Maxwell Team, and EQUIP, a nonprofit organization that has trained more than five million leaders in 180 countries. In his newest book, Maxwell has designed a simple yet profound compact-sized primer for those in leadership (or those who aspire to lead) who would love to sit at the feet of the leadership giants from the Bible.

Maxwell has chosen these biblical characters to highlight their brief history and accomplishments: Elijah, Elisha, Job, Jacob, Deborah, Isaiah, Jonah, Joshua and Daniel. He begins the book by opening the door to his study where he has three chairs --- one for himself, one for the reader, and one for the leader/hero who walks through his door to sit down for a chat and mentor for a while. In each chapter, Maxwell highlights the leadership scenario for which each biblical character is most well-known and then offers life lessons, a prayer from the leader to the reader, and leadership lessons, followed by a discussion guide that includes questions for the readers and suggested scripture readings.

Since each leader on which Maxwell focuses has unique gifts and talents that make him or her particularly suited for the role that God gave them, he points out and capitalizes on these various strengths.

Elijah: God loves you on your bad days.
Elisha: Give your best wherever God puts you.
Job: God sees the big picture.
Jacob: Let God have control of your life.
Deborah: God specializes in the unexpected.
Isaiah: God has a reason for our encounter with Him.
Jonah: God always gives us a second chance.
Joshua: God is greater than your greatest challenges.
Daniel: Have a purpose bigger than yourself.

One of the strongest elements of Maxwell’s text is that it doesn’t simply sugarcoat each biblical leader and only highlight his or her strong points. Rather, he allows readers to see their weaknesses as well and then gives evidence about how God used each person despite their character flaws. Readers will appreciate this insider’s look into each leader’s life and find especially helpful the section in each chapter where Maxwell offers them the leadership lessons these characters learned through their lives. He doesn’t shy away from some of real life’s most challenging enemies of developing into a strong leader. Instead, he places them front and center and then dismantles each one by teaching would-be leaders how to overcome obstacles in their own lives and work.

Of course, no Maxwell leadership book would be complete without at least a smattering of his distinctive personal style that get readers smiling, laughing and chortling along with him. There is good reason why America loves John Maxwell so much. He’s utterly transparent and aims to encourage and inspire everyone with whom he comes into contact, whether that’s in person, through the radio, or via the written word. And he succeeds.

Reviewed by Michele Howe.

A Lifelong Love: What If Marriage Is about More Than Just Staying Together?
A Lifelong Love: What If Marriage Is about More Than Just Staying Together?
by Gary Thomas
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $16.55
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Whether you have been married for decades or are newlywed, you will discover ample wisdom to begin applying in your life., December 11, 2014
Author Gary Thomas serves on the teaching team at Second Baptist Church in Houston, Texas, which has five campuses and over 60,000 members. His books have sold in the hundreds of thousands, and he has been given numerous awards for his many bestselling titles, one of which is SACRED MARRIAGE. Here, Thomas focused on the character that God builds within us through marriage. In his newest effort, A LIFELONG LOVE, he addresses the ever-deepening intimacy that God offers believers as they grow to cherish each other more and more as time passes.

In this three-part text, Thomas focuses on several specific areas and then breaks down each into usable, practical ways and means to implement each principle in real life. First, readers will discover what it means to experience a magnificent obsession with God (creating a marriage that blooms through worship of God). Second, Christians will gain a better understanding of what passion to excel at a deeper kind of love looks like and how to achieve it. Finally, Christ followers will grasp the meaning of intentionally pursuing oneness in their marital relationship.

Specifically, when Thomas delves into the section on developing a magnificent obsession with God, he helps readers better understand that as they take responsibility for making their spiritual walk with God the dominant force in their lives, out of that deep worshipful relationship with their Creator, they necessarily will be equipped to love their spouse more fully. It only makes sense that those who completely surrender themselves to God’s will for their lives will be the same folks who are able to daily surrender their rights in order to sacrificially love their mate. Thomas also makes the point that no one is able to love their spouse in a way that honors Christ without His Holy Spirit’s enabling grace and strength. For those who think they can do it in their own strength, he states that they are either deceiving themselves or have no idea of how high the bar has been set.

In the second section on “Growing Together,” Thomas spends time discussing what artificial intimacy looks like and why so many couples live that way. He helps readers recognize the power shifts and how to push past them when they rear their ugly heads. He also equips men and women who are married to a spouse who simply doesn’t care anymore, and provides a real-life scenario of how one couple rescued their “love lost” marriage.

Whether a reader has been married for decades or is a newlywed, each will discover ample wisdom to begin applying in his or her marital relationship. Like all of Thomas’ books, he supplies countless true-to-life stories from his own marriage and tops off many of these with comical asides that will have readers laughing right along with the author and shaking their head in knowing agreement. Thomas most definitely holds the marriage relationship in high esteem and inspires others to the same high calling. Read this helpful text from cover to cover, and rest assured that you’ll never look at your mate in the same way again.

Reviewed by Michele Howe.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 31, 2015 9:57 PM PST

To Everything a Season (Song of Blessing)
To Everything a Season (Song of Blessing)
by Lauraine Snelling
Edition: Paperback
Price: $11.36
87 used & new from $7.68

5.0 out of 5 stars You’ll discover and savor a world you’ll never want to leave., December 11, 2014
Miriam Hastings and her family live a hard life in a tenement in Chicago circa 1905. Along with her ill and widowed mother, the Irish-American nursing student and her younger siblings struggle to survive after their father’s death. Each of the children has picked up odd jobs on the street to help, and the youngest daughter has even left school to care for her mother during the day while the others are working to provide a meager subsistence. Miriam is deeply concerned about her mother’s health, and does all she can to make the family’s home stable while learning to be a nurse.

One day, Miriam faces a shocking development. Due to her excellent skills, she’s been selected along with two other students to go to Blessing, North Dakota, to work in the small hospital there to gain the practical experience she’ll need to graduate. She’s torn about leaving, though. While longing to go to learn and serve, she feels a deep responsibility to her struggling family. How will they survive without her personal care and assistance?

Suddenly, the necessary assistance is provided from an unexpected source, and her mother is even able to enter the hospital for professional care as Miriam leaves for Blessing. And yes, this is the same Blessing that readers of Lauraine Snelling’s previous titles have come to know and love. Ingeborg, Haakan, Sophie, Grace and Astrid, and all the other beloved characters of Blessing, reappear in TO EVERYTHING A SEASON. Miriam and her fellow students are heading to North Dakota to work for doctors Elizabeth Bjorklund and Astrid Bjorklund Jeffers. Trygve (I finally learned how to pronounce his name in this book) Knutson is working for his prosperous businessman, Onkel Hjelmer, digging wells for farmers in outlying areas, yet he senses that he might be needed closer to home.

Those new to Snelling’s works will enjoy Blessing, an unusual town founded by Norwegian immigrants. It is a place in which residents are deeply connected with one another, by business, relationship and prayer. All the townsfolk attend the only church in town, pastored by Reverend Solberg. But like any family who loves and cares for one another, they don’t always get along and conflicts do arise. The difference in Blessing is that there are faithful believers who undergird all conflicts, tragedies and joyful happenings with prayer, so Blessing grows and prospers.

Trygve, Lars and Kaaren Knutson’s son, is one of these faithful community members. He returns home from his traveling well-digging work in time to meet Miriam at the train station, along with her fellow nurses Vera and Corabell (not that he has eyes for anyone besides Miriam). Miriam didn’t come to Blessing to meet a man, but Trygve’s unexpected presence, faithfulness and strength capture her attention. She’s just not quite sure if she can juggle a relationship with her need to return home to Chicago to care for her family.

TO EVERYTHING A SEASON is not only about Miriam and Trygve, and their budding friendship and romance. We are able to eavesdrop on Dr. Astrid’s growing medical practice and look in while she cares for patients, including, of all people, a 12-year-old bank robber. We also meet a sort of undercover priest who comes to town not only to pursue honest labor, but also to serve spiritually where necessary. Haakan and Ingeborg face their own challenges, and readers are able to observe all of these and more: bank robberies, hostages, life and death, and the sure hand of God’s providence and guidance underlying all.

Lauraine Snelling has a unique ability to create characters and places that her readers actually feel they know and, therefore, love. We sense that they are real people and places, not simply imaginings on a page. And so, because of this outstanding writing gift, we can read TO EVERYTHING A SEASON as if it’s detailing the lives of people with whom we’re actually acquainted, fully entering into the joys and griefs, relationships and adventures that the characters of Blessing experience. Fortunately for us, this latest novel is the beginning of a new series, Song of Blessing. Go out and get yourself a copy, and enter the wonderful world of Blessing. You’ll discover and savor a world you’ll never want to leave.

Reviewed by Melanie Reynolds.

Deceived: A Novel (Private Justice) (Volume 3)
Deceived: A Novel (Private Justice) (Volume 3)
by Irene Hannon
Edition: Paperback
Price: $12.31
83 used & new from $6.44

5.0 out of 5 stars Irene Hannon’s latest effort is proof as to why she has been the recipient of several awards in Christian fiction., December 11, 2014
Three years ago, Kate Marshall’s husband and four-year-old son died --- presumably drowned --- while on a leisurely fishing trip. At least, her husband died; her son Kevin’s body was never found. The police refused to pursue the idea of foul play, chalking it up to a tragic accident, in spite of a couple of things about the “accident” that just didn’t add up for Kate. Her period of grief included an addiction to Valium, but she overcame it and is now doing her best to move on with her life.

But in one brief moment, her world is turned upside down again.

On a crowded escalator at the mall, something familiar catches Kate’s attention. She hears a child say the word “Poppysicle,” exactly what her son used to call Popsicle. She turns toward the voice and sees a young boy heading the opposite way on the escalator with a man in a baseball cap. The boy is about the same age as Kevin would be now, with the same wheat-colored hair. She calls his name, and he turns to look up at her. There is no mistaking that face. It is her son. But by the time she struggles through the throng of shoppers, Kevin and the man are gone.

Did she imagine the whole thing? Was her mind playing tricks on her? No, Kate decides she is not crazy. She knows in her heart that she had seen her son. But now what? She is sure the cops won’t believe her, so going to them is out of the question. She is hesitant to hire a private investigator because she knows how far-fetched her story sounds, but feels she has no other option. So she gathers her courage and walks through the doors of Phoenix, Inc.

P.I. and former Secret Service Agent Connor Sullivan can’t help but be a little skeptical as he listens to Kate’s claim that she saw her dead son at the mall. But it’s evident to him that Kate is not a crazy person, so he agrees to take the case, while gently cautioning her not to get her hopes up. Connor’s colleagues tease him that he took the case only because Kate is a beautiful woman, and while he denies it, he can’t deny the “beautiful” part. If she weren’t a client, he definitely would be interested in the gorgeous blonde.

Connor uncovers clues that Kevin may indeed be alive and well. Now he needs to get enough concrete evidence to take the kidnapper into custody.

DECEIVED has an intriguing plot that certainly captivates the reader. Author Irene Hannon takes a mother’s worst nightmare of losing a child and puts a spin of hope on it: “What if my child isn’t dead, after all?” Kate Marshall is a wonderful heroine. She is strong, believable and admirable in her determination to find her son. The chemistry between Kate and Connor is electric and dynamic, adding the perfect measure of romance for which Hannon is known.

An interesting element is how the kidnapper is portrayed. Rather than a revolting villain, the character of Greg Sanders is sympathetic and, in many ways, “normal.” Sanders kidnapped Kevin (now Todd) and has raised him as his son for the past three years. He’s been a good “dad,” and Todd is a well-adjusted seven-year-old. When Todd starts asking questions and having dreams about the woman he saw on the escalator, Greg begins to panic. It is then that his “evil side” appears. Greg will do anything to protect Todd, even if it means killing Kate --- the woman who could take away the “son” he loves.

DECEIVED, the third novel in the Private Justice series, is an impressive and exciting romantic suspense with a few twists and turns, and lots of page-turning drama. Irene Hannon’s latest effort is proof as to why she has been the recipient of several awards in Christian fiction. Fans of Hannon and of romantic suspense will appreciate this one.

Reviewed by Lynda Lee Schab.

Evergreen: A Christiansen Winter Novella (Christiansen Family)
Evergreen: A Christiansen Winter Novella (Christiansen Family)
by Susan May Warren
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $13.20
66 used & new from $8.08

5.0 out of 5 stars A cornucopia of love, hurt, redemption and forgiveness, immersed in small-town spirit and nestled in a story that doesn't quit., December 11, 2014
Heading into the Christmas season, Ingrid Christiansen can’t shake a sense of foreboding as she imagines an empty-nest Christmas, void of her grown children. Not so for her husband, John, who is confident that a surprise Christmas trip to Europe will expunge his wife’s melancholy spirit and bring the laughter and romance back to their marriage. But Ingrid, and God, have other plans.

Before John can spring the surprise, Ingrid agrees to coordinate the annual live nativity at church. John perseveres, believing he can still make the trip happen, until their beloved dog needs expensive emergency surgery. Before John can come to grips with his foiled plan, Ingrid’s estranged sister asks if her son can stay with them while she’s in rehab. In the midst of triple-play chaos, will they be able to heal old wounds and keep their marriage “evergreen”?

Ingrid doesn’t know that John has visions of leaving their resort behind to spend Christmas with their daughter in Prague, with a stop in romantic Paris. By the time he tells her, too many unforeseen situations have blocked the way. He doesn’t know that Ingrid would not have gone anyway. With her heart and mind fragmented over her children, her dog, and now her nephew, she wants the comfortable familiarity of her home. But there is more to Ingrid’s disinterest in going abroad. Unlike John, she knows that even the most romantic city in the world can’t warm the chill that has settled on their marriage like a winter frost.

Ingrid’s nephew, 16-year-old Romeo, has grown up with a mother who “launched her two children into a life with live-in boyfriends, eviction notices and welfare.” When Ingrid’s sister asks if Ingrid and John will take care of Romeo temporarily, Ingrid agrees. The boy is quiet and sweet, but broken. John is guarded, not wanting Ingrid to get attached, with no intention of doing so himself. But once again, God has a different plan. The more John and Ingrid spend time with Romeo, the tighter their hearts wrap around the sullen young man. The same holds true for Romeo, who is discovering a new way of life with the Christiansens…until his brother returns from the military, tempting him with false hope and promises. Will the Christiansens have an empty house for Christmas after all?

Award-winning author Susan May Warren is known for her enchanting, character-driven novels, and this one does not disappoint. A perfect Christmas read, or gift, EVERGREEN is a cornucopia of love, hurt, redemption and forgiveness, immersed in small-town spirit and nestled in a story that doesn’t quit. It is a tale of letting go, holding on, and remembering that God is always there to give us hope and a future. And it is a love story for anyone who has ever given their heart to a kid, a dog or a spouse, and experienced the joy and ache inherent in doing so.

Reviewed by Susan Miura.

The Christmas Cat
The Christmas Cat
by Melody Carlson
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $12.98
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5.0 out of 5 stars It will leave readers with a warm and fuzzy feeling that goes perfectly with the holidays., December 11, 2014
This review is from: The Christmas Cat (Hardcover)
Besides penning dozens of published novels for teens and women, author Melody Carlson is known for releasing an annual Christmas book, which I personally look forward to each year. Her 2014 title is THE CHRISTMAS CAT and, as always, provides an easy and gratifying read, just in time for the holidays.

Garrison Brown was raised by his grandmother after his parents were killed in a car accident when he was 12. He has spent the past several years as a missionary in Uganda, and since his return to the states, he hasn’t visited his grandma as often as he would like. This is partly due to miles that separate them, but also --- if truth be told --- because he isn’t thrilled about the fact that she owns six cats. Garrison is highly allergic to felines and avoids cats at all costs. Not to mention he is slightly irritated by the fact that his grandma always treats her cats like they are her children.

Garrison is devastated when he receives notice of his grandma’s death a few weeks before Christmas, and he sadly heads to her house to sort out her affairs. Her lawyer informs him of her request that he find homes for her six beloved cats. But there are stipulations for these homes. Some requirements are basic, like the location, while some are based on the particular temperaments and personalities of the individual cats. When his grandma’s neighbor and longtime friend, Ruby, quickly agrees to take in the first cat, Garrison is hopeful that the remaining five will be easy to adopt out. But the task isn’t as simple as Garrison thought it would be. As he waits for responses to newspaper ads he has posted, he takes his allergy pills and busies himself with cleaning up his grandma’s house, with a little help from Ruby’s difficult grandson, Elliott. Garrison even entertains the idea of pursuing his dream and turning the home into a halfway house for troubled young men trying to turn their lives around.

Discouragement begins to set in with the lack of response to his ads. Then, fortunately, new friend Cara --- to whom Garrison finds himself very attracted --- starts spreading the word. One by one, the cats are placed into good homes. In the process, much to his surprise, Garrison finds himself warming up to one particular cat, Harry. When only Harry remains, Garrison considers keeping the cat for himself and staying to fulfill his dream. His decision would be easy if only Cara was interested in exploring a relationship with him instead of her next-door-neighbor. But she’s clearly not, so the better option would probably be to accept a job offer he recently received and leave the house, Harry and Cara behind for good, and move on with his life.

The question is: Will he follow his head or his heart?

THE CHRISTMAS CAT is a heartwarming tale, perfect to curl up with on a cold night in front of the fireplace or cozied under a blanket. There are no complex storylines or deep takeaways, but it likely will leave readers with a warm and fuzzy feeling that goes perfectly with the holidays. Being a cat lover is not a prerequisite for this book, though it can’t hurt. The general overall themes include faith, following your heart, and keeping an open mind to the things --- or creatures --- God uses to get our attention.

If you’re searching for an uplifting and enjoyable read this Christmas season, THE CHRISTMAS CAT is a wonderful choice, guaranteed to bring a little cheer to your holidays.

Reviewed by Lynda Lee Schab.

The Cradle, Cross, and Crown
The Cradle, Cross, and Crown
by Billy Graham
Edition: Paperback
Price: $2.99
46 used & new from $0.01

5.0 out of 5 stars This collection of poems, devotional writings, Scriptures and lyrics of Christmas carols wonderfully prepares us for the season., December 11, 2014
Billy Graham’s newest inspirational booklet, THE CRADLE, CROSS, AND CROWN, arrives just in time for your Christmas celebration. This collection of poems, devotional writings, Scriptures and lyrics of Christmas carols is a wonderful instrument to aid us in preparing our hearts for the Advent season. As Graham reminds us, there’s more to the message of Christmas than what we see in stores, Christmas trees and the presents under them each year. It’s really the threefold message of the baby born in the manger who went to the cross for our sins and will return one day triumphant as the King of kings and the Lord of lords.

Every December, a local radio station begins playing Christmas carols back-to-back. In Christmas songs and hymns both old and new, the truths of the Bible resound in our hearts. They fill us with longing for God’s presence in our lives and our homes, as well as the utter joy of the way God began to fulfill His promises at the stable in Bethlehem; the cost of the price Jesus paid on the cross; and all that we have to look forward to in His coming. Graham well understands the power of these carols, and you’ll find some of their lyrics interwoven throughout this devotional.

In the booklet’s first section, “The Cradle,” you’ll find morsels on which to meditate that are centered on Jesus’ birth. Readings by Graham, poems from his wife, Ruth Bell Graham, and others’ writings give us pause to stop and think about the many aspects of a Savior who was born in Bethlehem, and the varied perspectives of those who witnessed the birth. Scripture and carols calm our hearts and spirits, and remind us to rejoice at the birth of the promised Christ.

In section two, “The Cross,” Graham carries us to what Jesus’ disciples initially feared was the final chapter of the Son of David, His death on a cross. How wrong they were! For first-century Jews who were looking to throw off the yoke of Rome, the Messiah looked very different from what they were expecting. Yet in all Jesus did, there was fulfillment of both Scripture and the words of the angel: “He shall save His people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:21) Jesus knew the purpose for which He had come, and He expresses this repeatedly in the Gospels, in both word and deed. In “The Cross” we’re reminded again and again of our need for a Savior, and how Jesus met all these needs in ways we’d never be able to ourselves. Scripture, devotional writings and hymn lyrics underscore these again, as well as our own need for a response to God’s Savior.

The last section, “The Crown,” points us toward the future. As Handel’s Messiah and the Scripture from which it’s taken remind us, there is a day coming when “He shall reign forever and ever. Hallelujah!” Scripture promises us, and Graham reminds us, that we can have hope that a wonderful country awaits us, with a just and righteous King. The baby born in a manger, who gave up His life for us on the cross, will return someday as that King of kings and Lord of lords. In the meantime, we can choose all that we do --- to follow Him, to love Him, to receive Him as our Lord and Savior. And to “fear not,” because God is good and Jesus is coming.

Whether you’re looking for a personal devotional for your own use this Christmas, a book of before- and after-Christmas readings for your family, or even someone’s stocking stuffer, THE CRADLE, CROSS, AND CROWN will encourage and delight you as you move towards the celebration of the Savior’s birth. Enjoy!

Reviewed by Melanie Reynolds.

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