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Beguiled by Deeanne Gist & J. Mark Bertrand

Rylee Monroe is a dog walker in Charleston. Her clients live in the wealthiest part of the city. Recently their homes are being burglarized by a person the police have dubbed the Robin Hood burglar. Items being taken have little or no value while item valued at thousands remain untouched. The thief is giving the items to the poor, just like the mythical Robin Hood.

Logan Woods, a newspaper reporter, is writing a book on crimes in general and the Robin Hood burglar in particular. As he digs into the recent burglaries, he finds that Rylee seems to be at the center of everything. He tries to get close to Rylee, but she doesn’t trust him or anyone else. Her father left his family when she was a small child and her mother committed suicide, or so she has been led to believe. She only has her grandmother, who she supports, living in a nursing home.

As the burglaries escalate, the police suspect Rylee of the crimes as she has access to each of the homes being burglarized. She is arrested and put in jail. After being released on bail, she returns to her apartment only to find it has been trashed – everything has been destroyed. She turns to Logan for help. Their relationship is one of mistrust and secrets, but they really do need each other: Logan to find the ending to his book and Rylee to have someone to cover her back.

This is a very interesting romantic suspense novel. You will find yourself asking the questions – what really happened to Rylee’s parents, who is living in her ancestral home, who is the Robin Hood burglar – why has he/she committed these crimes?

Highly recommend the book. This is a well written suspense novel. The authors did an excellent job of collaborating the story – leading the reader to a surprising ending.

This book was provided by the publisher as a review copy.

Not a Sparrow Falls by Linda Nichols

The story centers mainly around three individuals – Mary Bridget, Reverend Alasdair MacPherson and Samantha MacPherson. Mary is a lost soul. After the death of her mother she went a little wild – running off with a local boy the town said was peculiar. She soon becomes involved in the making and distribution of drugs, and finds herself on the wrong side of the law. Reverend MacPherson is pastor of John Knox Presbyterian Church. MacPherson has been pastor of the church since its founding. McPherson is a widow with three children to raise on his own. The church elders and the Presbytery president are not pleased with the reverend, because they feel he is too involved with other activities, not taking care of his congregation and are asking for his resignation. Samantha is the Reverend ‘s daughter. After the death of her mother she went from a loving daughter to a secretive teen, skipping school and getting into all kinds of trouble.

Determined to make a new start, Mary takes on her mother’s identity and escapes to Alexandria, Virginia where she becomes nanny to the Reverend’s children. The reverend must come to terms with what is best for his family and the church. Samantha must learn to take responsibility for her actions and stop blaming others. Mary, or Birdie as she is now known, must learn to listen when God speaks to her and do his bidding. She thinks she can help this family.

One must read the book to experience the doubts, frustrations, cruelty of one person, and how each character overcame their own challenges. Do they come to realize that God has been with them each step of the way and he always keeps his promises? If God sees each tiny sparrow that falls, surely he will do even more for his children, right?

Linda Nichols is an excellent author of Contemporary Fiction. Highly recommend this book for all christian readers.

This book was provided by the publishers as a review copy.

New Living Translation Contest & Giveaway

Our friends at Tyndale are promoting their New Living Translation Break Through to Clarity Bible with giveaways!

Visit their Facebook page and click the tab that says “Sweepstakes.” Fill out the form, take a quick survey, invite your friends to join and you’ll be enetered to win. Tyndale is giving away a boat load of stuff, including Apple iPad 64G, Apple iPod Touch 32G, Kindle DX, and more. See the Facebook page for all the details.

I entered – you should too!

Never Say Never by Lisa Wingate

Donetta Bradford and her two friends, Imagene and Lucy, are going on a cruise. They have never been on one before and have high expectations. They start the drive from Daily, Texas in high spirits to sail on the Liberation docked in Perdida. A hurricane named Glorietta is brewing out in the gulf, but they are unconcerned. After all, the hurricane is predicted to miss them altogether. The trio is having a high ole time with their movies, food and good conversation until they run into a traffic bottleneck. Seems all predictions of Hurricane Glorietta were wrong and the storm is fast approaching land. They join the row of cars trying to exodus to higher ground, and soon find themselves out of gas and stranded on the side of the highway. Things are not looking too good for the women and the storm is really bearing down.

Kai Miller lives in Perdida and works on the Liberation. She arrives at the dock on the departure date to find the ship has already sailed in the middle of the night due to the approaching storm. Not knowing exactly what to do, she returns home to pack a few belongings and to find higher ground. Her landlord is not to be found and she just can’t leave his two dogs to fend for themselves. She load up the dogs in her van, joins the line of departing vehicles and hopes she can outrun the storm.

Kai is soon caught up in the stop and go traffic with no where to go, but follow the car in front of her. She sees the stranded van and stops to help. She loads the women, all their belongings in her van, with the dogs, and continues on her mad exodus. Everything is going fine until she has a flat tire. She is forced to pull out in the first available spot which is the driveway of an electric company station. Now what where they going to do? Suddenly they hear singing. Were they going crazy – who would be out on night like this – maybe there was a house close by. Soon a man emerges out of the darkness. He and the Holy Ghost Church congregation are stranded as well and he was trying to find a way out. He takes the women and the dogs to an abandoned church in the woods where his people are staying.

This is where the story become interesting. You will find yourself laughing, crying and right in the middle of the hurricane. What happens to this bunch of unlikely strangers makes a very heart warming story. I just couldn’t put the book down until the final page.

One must read the book to appreciate Lisa Wingate’s unique style of writing. She is an excellent writer of contemporary fiction. I can’t recommend this book too highly. You will thoroughly enjoy her way with words. She has written two other books about life in Daily, Texas which I plan to read.

This book was provided by the publisher as a review copy.

The Lost Virtue of Happiness by J.P Moreland & Klauss Issler

The Lost Virtue of Happiness is about accessible, balanced Christian spirituality.

In a bipolar culture overrun by two diametrically opposed philosophies of happiness, Moreland and Issler offer an alternative. They assert while that happiness comes not through the mindless pursuit of pleasure through consumption, neither does pleasure darken virtue into shades of vice. They help us understand that true happiness comes from within, not without and that it is actually a virtue—the natural outcome of giving up the things that diminish our joy.

Having laid a strong foundation, Moreland and Issler move on to an remarkably simple presentation of how engaging our whole lives in spirituality through discipline is related to happiness. And then, chapter by chapter, they provide a framework of simple disciplines and suggestions to improve our relationships with God and others, focusing on opening our hearts, strengthening our minds, and taking risks.

There is even an entire chapter on applying some of these disciplines when dealing with anxiety and depression. While this particular application may not speak to everybody, it is certainly relevant in a culture where we are anxious for nearly everything.

I found The Lost Virtue of Happiness an intellectually stimulating, personally challenging, and practical book. It was easy to read and is well organized. But make no mistake, this is no “one-size-fits-all” self-help road map to supposed success. Rather, its goal is that we be united with God and formed into the image of Christ and enter into his joy.


Bryan Entzminger is a saxaphonist, supply chain analyst, elder at Springhouse Worship & Arts Center, and a superhero to his wife and daughter. His widely read personal blog is bdentzy – Thoughts for the Journey.

This book was provided by the publisher as a review copy.

The Gospel According to Lost by Chris Seay

Lost is a television phenomenon with strong cult following; combining strong character development with mysterious plot lines, bound together by strong writing. The premise of this book is to connect Lost to the gospel of Christ. The unsaved who follow this series might well be attracted to such a book and Mr Seay, for the most part, does a serviceable job of making this connection.

I say “for the most part” because several of the chapters involve something of a reach causing a few of the “connections” to feel contrived. Nowhere is this more evident than the chapter on Jacob where the biblical references even get a little fuzzy. Still, there is some good stuff here for a seeker.

Another group that might find this book worthwhile would be a gaggle of Lost geeks in search of material for a Bible Study / Lost discussion.

I basically enjoyed this read but couldn’t help the feeling that it is a bit premature. I doubt that the writers of Lost really have the gospel in mind and where they take this last season could completely undo much of this book’s premise.


Ronnie Meek is is a guy who likes to share good reads with other people and warn them about boring or bad stuff. His personal blog is It’s In There Somewhere where he is currently blogging through the New Testament.

This book was provided by the publisher as a review copy.

A Measure of Mercy by Lauraine Snelling

-Review by Tammy Millwood, a friend of AshertopiA

A young girl in turn of the century North Dakota has the opportunity to train to be a doctor. She will be faced with everything from everyday struggles and decisions to faith challenging crisis and disappointment. The author takes us from the idyllic country setting to the fast paced city life of downtown Chicago, where she will ultimately persevere and accomplish what she has set out to do.

When I first sat down to read this book, I was overwhelmed with the flood of names and relations that the author seemed in desperate need to rush into within the first few chapters. As one who has not read any prior books related to this family or any of the previous storylines I found myself completely confused several times, re-reading pages and flipping through looking for some sort of reference I may have missed. Not finding any I continued in hopes of eventually making sense of all of the people laid out before me. I had also hoped to find an index or list of pronunciations for all of those names, since I could not find one I kept stumbling over them continually and finally settling on what I am sure was not the right one.

A little slow at first and almost too sweet. Everyone blending in together as almost the same character one for the men and one for the women, most of the characters seemed interchangeable, not really set apart in any way. All with the same ideas and flow of writing that added to my consternation trying to get these people straight in my mind.

Right around Chapter 4 things begin to pick a bit. A few of the characters seem to begin to have life breathed into them as their personalities begin to show through and if you have the “perseverance” to get that far, you will be rewarded with a sweet and down to earth story that overall was enjoyable. There are several storylines emerging at once intertwining and leaving plenty of room for a continued story. I found myself looking forward to the next book, wondering what will become of the main characters I feel I did manage to get to know.

This book was provided by the publisher as a review copy.

The Eastern Stars by Mark Kurlansky

This is a very complex book! – Is it a history of the sugar mills and the town of San Pedro de Macoris … or a history of baseball and its players? Yes to both.

San Pedro de Macoris is a small town in the Dominican Republic. For centuries their main industry has been sugar – exporting it to Europe and the United States. The great mills are no longer being operated, just abandon empty rusty buildings. The few left employ very few for four to six months per season. The town is extremely impoverished. Each ruling government party has bought in European and American developer to build large hotels to encourage tourism, but few tourist have come. San Pedro is one of the most ethnically diverse areas of the Dominican Republic and one of the poorest.

The main mill is controlled by the existing ruling government party and at the start of the sugar season, a big banner goes up over the mill which reads “Gracias Presidente por ina nueva zafra” – Thank you President for a new cane harvest, as if he has anything to do with the good or bad harvest.

The second industry in San Pedro de Macoris is baseball. “Baseball is not just a way of life – it’s the way of life.,” says the author. Make shift stadiums are everywhere – boys of all ages play baseball in dirt filled lots with sock balls and cane stick bats. Their dream is to make it in the United States big leagues – becoming rich and famous, returning to San Pedro to build big mansions and drive SUVs. The town is overrun with scouts from all leagues – sorting through all the promising candidates. Boys as young as 14 years are signed with a major US teams to be groomed to their full potential. Some never make it to even the A league, being released and sent home. But a select few have made it to the big leagues, keeping the dream alive for all the other boys.

Seventy-nine boys from San Pedro have made it to the Majors – Jose Cano, Alfonso Soriano, and Sammy Sosa to name a few. Sammy is the only batter to hit 60 or more home runs for three consecutive years. He is one of only five players to hit 600 home runs.

The book is a story of many who sought freedom from poverty through baseball. However,the total failures are almost the same as successes. When one asked the question – Why does the town of San Pedro produce so many baseball players? The answer – Because we don’t have anything else to do and we aren’t tall enough for basketball.

Good book for baseball fans and historians. They will thank this small impoverished town for turning out such great players in a sport that has become America’s pastime. The Dominican Republic may be a challenged nation, but it sure turns out some great baseball players who have the dream of making it in the Big Leagues.


Mary Asher, the Golden Reviewer, is a founding book blogger for BookGateway.com. She describes herself as “An 80 year old avid reader reviews the newest in Christian fiction and non-fiction with a sprinkle of the secular on top.”.

This book was provided by the publisher as a review copy.

Mornings In Jenin by Susan Abulhawa

This is the story of a young Palestinian girl named Amal borne in the refugee camp of Jenin. Her family had been evicted from their home during the 6-Day war between Palestine and the soon to be State of Israel. One must read the book to follow her journey from Jenin to a Jerusalem orphanage to Beirut, Lebanon to America and her decision to return to Jenin.

Mornings In Jenin
by Susan Abulhawa
Bloomsbury USA
Feburary 2010

Young Yasser Arafat had just formed the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and the world would soon label him a terrorist. Tears will be streaming down your face as you experience her fear in being constantly under Israel’s guns/planes/tanks, the watchful eye of the Israeli solders, and the war crimes of Ariel Sharon. You will hear the voices behind the headlines of the massacres in Lebanon. Who are the terrorists – Israel or Palestine – the PLO or Israel’s Prime Minister. Will she survive her return to Jenin?

The author was born to refugees of the 6-Day War and has first hand knowledge of what it is like to be a Palestinian under Israel’s thumb. The story will keep you turning pages to learn how she survives the death of her family, her marriage, the birth of her child and the hardships she endures in America trying to fulfill her father’s dream of getting an education. You will experience the family’s struggles to survive through over 60 years of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

A must read book for all ages. When you have finished I believe you will come away with a different view of the Israeli government that is supposedly an ally of the United States.


Mary Asher, the Golden Reviewer, describes herself as “An 80 year old avid reader reviews the newest in Christian fiction and non-fiction with a sprinkle of the secular on top.”.

This book was provided by the publisher as a review copy.

Raven’s Ladder by Jeffrey Overstreet

-Review by Scott Asher of AshertopiA.

Raven’s Ladder is the third book in a planned four book storyline entitled The Auralia Thread. (The first book in the series, Auralia’s Colors was nominated twice for a Christy Award.) The series is a fully realized mythological world called the Expanse with a complete history, its own language, and fully fleshed out political and religious systems.

In this book, King Cal-raven attempts to lead the survivors of his kingdom, House Abascar, after a cataclysm detailed in the previous books, to a new home. On the way his people are forced to stay at Bel Amica, the sea kingdom of House Bel Amica, which is filled with temptation and focused on self-gratification. A sect of magicians, called Seers, secretly hatch a plot that could mean the end of House Abascar completely. Cal-raven must find a way to take his people away from Bel Amica and towards their new home, New Abascar, which he has seen in visions.

I read this book prior to the other two books in the series and struggled at first with the language and history that I was obviously missing. However, the strong story telling and exciting fantasy adventure theme kept me pushing in to the story. Within 100 pages I was hooked. This is a fantastic fantasy novel – and possibly the best “Christian” fantasy I’ve read so far. All too often Christian authors hold to their allegories too tightly and don’t allow for characters to live and stories to flow. Not so this series. I am so enamored with the series that I plan to read the first two books as well.

I highly recommend this book to fans of fantasy – believers or not.

This book was provided by the publisher as a review copy.