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The Hidden Flame by Davis Bunn & Janette Oke

The story begins in Jerusalem A.D. 33 just six weeks after the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth, the Messiah. A group known as the Followers of the Way, led by Peter, a disciples of Jesus, is gathering believers by the thousands. This group is dedicated to peace and brotherly love, converting Jews and Greeks to the teaching of Jesus. A group known as the Zealots is dedicated to the overthrow of the Roman rule.

Abigail, a beautiful young woman, is one of the believers. She has two suitors desiring her hand in marriage. One is a wealthy Jewish merchant, with strong ties to the Sanhedrin, the council of Jerusalem’s religious leaders, who is looking for a mother for his two young children. The other, a young Roman legionnaire, who only wants to possess her because of her beauty. Abigail doesn’t want either one of the men, but fears she has no say in the matter as the ruling council and her guardian will decide what is best for her. She only wants to stay with the believers and do the work she feels the Lord has called her to do.

Jerusalem is in turmoil as the religious leaders and the Roman Governor wish to stamp out the fledging church. The cruelty, trials and death that Abigail and the believers face keeps the reader turning page after page. The authors clearly depict the uncertain times of first century Jerusalem along with the Roman cruelty and debauchery. Roman games play a part in the book as well, particularly the arenas where the final conclusion of one man’s revenge and the conversion of another.

Highly recommended for readers of all ages – believers and non-believers. Bunn and Oke did it again. They are two of the best contemporary authors of religious historical fiction.

I received this book as a review copy from the publisher.

Becoming a Woman of Faith by Cynthia Heald

 One in her Becoming a Woman of […] series, Cynthia Heald examines the issue of faith in Becoming a Woman of Faith. In this volume, Heald examines the question of faith, doubt, and how we can increase our faith in God.  The book is arranged in 11 chapters, each dealing with a different idea or area of faith.  Heald starts with showing you how God proves he is faithful.  She then walks through overcoming doubt, how we can put faith into action, how to keep our faith going, and several other areas of faith.
I love that Heald takes an in-depth approach to faith and provides many, many examples in scripture throughout the study.  She interjects personal thoughts on faith throughout the study as well.  There are scriptures for memorization and suggestions for ways to increase our faith.
I will be the first to tell you that I am not a Bible scholar.  I need more direction when it comes to studying and understanding God’s word. From that perspective, Heald’s book along does not offer this.  I think it would work much better for someone who has a much more in-depth working knowledge of God’s word.  For beginners, it could leave you wanting more.  In all fairness, Heald’s book does state up front that some additional references (Bible commentary, study Bible with references, etc) can be helpful when going through this study.  
Still, I think beginners can still get some insight into walking in faith, even if it is a little ahead of where a beginner would be in studying the Bible.  There are a lot of thought-provoking questions that really do a great job of having the reader study and ponder the meaning of God’s word, leaving you with more knowledge and understanding than you had in the beginning.  I would certainly recommend this book and will be looking into other books in this series.
This book was provided free of charge by the publisher as a review copy. The publisher had no editorial rights or claims over the content or the conclusions made in this review. Visit www.navpress.com for more information on this book.

Sense and Sensiblity Insight Edition by Jane Austen

If given the opportunity to travel through history, one of my first stops would be the Regency Period of England and the world of Jane Austen.  I have been a fan of  Austen’s since I read the first page of Pride and Prejudice.  I currently own all of her published works, some having been replaced a couple of times due to wear.  Since my latest copy of Sense and Sensibility bit the dust a month or so ago, I was thrilled to get Bethany House’s copy in the mail this week.

In terms of the actual novel, no changes have been made to Austen’s original work.  The novel is printed in all its glory with my favorite characters and places still in tact.  What has been added by several of Bethany House’s writers are notes and annotations about the life and times of Austen.

The book comes complete with a key, which indicates the type of note/annotation being applied in each instance.  The notes fall into the following categories: “historical and cultural details […] from England in the early 1800’s,” “fact and tidbits from Austen’s life,” “references to S&S in today’s culture, particularly in film,” “unscientific ranking of the novel’s most frustrating characters,” “themes of faith drawn from the novel or Austen’s life,” “comments and asides on the book’s characters or plot,” and “the parts of the novel that just make us smile.”

I LOVE the additional comments, quips, and bits added to Austen’s work.  They serve to add the insight intended into a world of ladies and gentlemen.  The authors who have offered their take on Austen’s work compliment the novel by adding interesting references and inserting a little comedy into one of the best loved novels of all time.

On the minus side (if you can really call it that), the novel did take more time to read.  I found myself reading a page, seeing the notations, and reading the page again to see if the added information changed the image I create in my head of Austen’s world.  In most instances, it certainly did! It did make the reading more cumbersome at some points, but overall  I really enjoyed this take on one of the best loved works of literature.  I plan to order the Insight Edition of Pride and Prejudice and look forward to many more such editions.


Robin Gwaro is a founding book review blogger at Bookgateway.com and has generously supplied this review. She describes herself as “a woman just trying to keep it all together. Most days, I have the juggling act down! Others, I have the broom and dustpan handy to clean up the mess. My life is not always easy, it is not always neat, but it is always worth every minute!” Her personal blog is Just Wandering. Not Lost.

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

Support BookGateway.com by purchasing this book through Amazon: Sense and Sensibility Insight Edition

The Silent Governess by Julie Klassen

In her novel The Silent Governess, Julie Klassen weaves the tale of Olivia Keene and Edward Bradley.  One evening, while escaping her own demons, Olivia overhears some information that Edward would rather not be revealed.  In an effort to ensure that she not spread this damaging evidence, Edward insists that Olivia take a position in his house in the nursery. As time progresses, more intrigue and deception come to light.  The meaning of family is tried and tested, with the definition being changed at every turn.
Klassen, a lover of Jane Austen and writer of Regency-period set fiction, has woven a beautiful tale of mystery and romance.  The cast of characters display a range of personalities, each one surprising the reader with unexpected depth.  As the tale continues, twists and turns abound.
That would be one concern I can express with this novel.  Those twists and turns can become very difficult to follow, and I had to reread some passages to figure out who was who and what exactly was happening.  While it does keep the story interesting overall, too many of these trails can leave a reader lost in the woods. I personally would have also liked to see Klassen follow the personal journeys of faith of both Olivia and Edward.  She begins to do this at several points, but she does not ever follow them to any personal spiritual revelation.
Overall, Klassen’s novel was a quick, inspiring read.  As it is set in one of my favorite periods of history, I really did enjoy reading her tale of a family where not everything is as it seems. Klassen’s tale is well-written and riveting.  She tells the story eloquently, adhering to the time period with only a few liberties taken that do not rewrite the history of the period.   I certainly look forward to reading other work by Klassen in the future.
This book was provided free of charge by the publisher as a review copy. The publisher had no editorial rights or claims over the content or the conclusions made in this review. Visit www.bethanyhouse.com for more information on this book.

This is Your Brain in Love by Dr. Earl Henslin and Dr. Daniel Amen

In This is Your Brain in Love, Dr. Earl Henslin examines the impact brain disorders can have on our relationships.  The book comes with five tests included that are intended to help you determine both your own and your partner’s loive style. From there, Dr. Henslin describes those love styles and details first how to control the issues associated with that particular style if it is your own, and then how to communicate with your partner if he/she is of that particular style.

First: the high points: I do like that Dr. Henslin attributes some of the issues we have as couples to issues that we might be facing in brain chemistry. I think too often people attribute poor choices with a lack of personal responsibility. There are instances where obsessive and depressive behaviors are simply not something a person can “get over.” I also like that Dr. Henslin both details the problems people may be facing in brain chemistry and ways those can be overcome. He details behavior modification, diet, supplements, and finally medication as options for treatment. I am very excited that he doesn’t skip straight to medication as a fix all method.  Dr. Henslin also relates the stories of his patients in each of the five categories, which helps to put a real world feel to the information he is relating.

On the down side, Dr. Henslin relies too heavily on brain chemistry and less on the fact that people can still make different choices.  While I will concede that there are some instances where brain misfires can override good decision making, I would like to believe that these are the exception and not the rule. Otherwise, it would mean that I have absolutely no control over my own actions and decisions.

I also had a difficult time relating to this book, as I didn’t fit into any of the five love styles Dr Henslin details in the book. Rather, I exhibit some of the behaviors in all five of them. It was also difficult to apply any of the love styles to my husband, as he also had some of the attributes in each of them.  Without any definitive path, it would be hard to put any of the principles into action.

In addition, much of Dr. Henslin’s book reads like an endorsement for Dr. Daniel Amen (who is a brain researcher). The brain scans on which the test and theories are based are from Dr. Amen’s research. In addition, many of the supplements recommended by Dr. Henslin are from Dr. Amen’s practice.

In the end, I have to put this one in the land of the middle as far as my recommendation. If you are able to relate either your spouse or yourself to any of the five love styles, then many of his principles could be put to good use. Since I was unable to do that, I simply find it to be an interesting read.

A note of warning: if you are looking for ways to improve your relationship based on Godly principles found in his Word, you will not find them here. There are biblical references as far as God’s plan for marriage and the marriage bed in the book, but the actions needed to improve a relationship (from Dr. Henslin’s view) are based on scientific research and not the theological variety.


Robin Gwaro describes herself as “a woman just trying to keep it all together. Most days, I have the juggling act down! Others, I have the broom and dustpan handy to clean up the mess. My life is not always easy, it is not always neat, but it is always worth every minute!” Her personal blog is Just Wandering. Not Lost.

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

Once An Arafat Man by Tass Saada

Each time that I hear about deaths due to conflicts in the Middle East, my heart breaks. I will be the first to tell you that I know very little of the history of the conflict there.  That being said, my feelings do not change about the pain I feel in the wake of the loss of human life.  Any loss of life appeals to my humanity and always triggers the need to pray for the families that will now be morning the loss of those they love.
At one point in his life, Tass Saada had a hand in causing many of those deaths.  Throughout his youth, Saada was sent from place to place with his family, a refugee family tossed about as the turmoil in the area and the conflict grew stronger.  Saada became more and more angry as he developed the belief that he and his people had been robbed of the land that was rightfully theirs.  As a teenager, he enlisted in an organization under the leadership of Yassar Arafat, bent on doing what they felt the government could not.  Saada allowed his anger and resentment to fuel the violence and took the lives of countless people in the name of recovering what he felt he and his people were due.  If the story stopped there, it would be fitting to admonish Saada for glorifying a life that led to the deaths of so many.  But, as is always true of a conversion story, that is not the end.
Many years after Saada managed to leave that life behind and emigrate to the United States, his life was changed by a man who epitomized everything Saada had learned to despise in his youth: a Jew.  Saada’s rebirth in the holy spirit happened in a flash, and he began to examine what the Bible had to say about the promised land and in whose hands the land should actually be.  He learned through God’s word that the land was to be shared and made it his life’s work to bring the people of the Middle East to a point of reconciliation.
Saada’s story is one that truly displays the awesome power that Christ can have to change a life if He is simply allowed into a heart to make the change. This book is broken into three parts: the first details Saada’s life before Christ, the second details his life after accepting Christ, and the third details his beliefs about what can bring true peace to the Middle East.  Through God’s word, he feels that true peace can only be brought through reconciliation and details how he thinks that can be accomplished.
The point that strikes me as the most harrowing in this book is not the image that Saada paints through the eye of a sniper’s rifle, not the one where he details God speaking to him, but of a man whose life has been changed so wholly that he can stand in a room of Israeli widows and ask forgiveness for the part he played in the destruction of their families.  Saada recounts his story without glorifying his actions, giving all of the credit for the change in his life to the almighty.  He speaks about hope for humanity in the face of great odds, counting on God to bring the peace that is so desperately needed into a tumultuous region.  It is that hope that can be taught to each member of the world, ensuring that we love like Christ loved, without malice, prejudice, or conditions.

This book was provided free of charge by the publisher as a review copy. The publisher had no editorial rights or claims over the content or the conclusions made in this review. Visit mediacenter.tyndale.com for more information on this book.

Fool’s Gold by Melody Carlson

In Fool’s Gold,Melody Carlson introduces us to Hannah, the daughter of missionaries to Papua New Guinea who is staying with family for the summer while her parents are trying to raise funds for their mission work. Hannah is thrown into a lifestyle completely opposite from the one to which she was accustomed in PNG.  Over the course of a summer, Hannah turns away from the God she has always followed and falls into the age old trap of serving the worldly gods of money and popularity.
The book is definitely geared towards teenagers and addresses the age old issue of peer pressure.  Carlson’s story of fall and redemption certainly speaks to legions of teenagers who feel, succumb to, and overcome the pressure to be one of the crowd.  Hannah must learn through her mistakes that it takes true strength  to turn away from the things of the world and to turn to God.
What I like about Carlson’s novel is that she really does relate to teenagers and relays a story that can truly make an impact.  As teenagers, most of us felt the pressure to fit into a mold.  Carlson leads Hannah on this journey of losing herself to the crowd and then finding her way back to the One who asks us to break the mold, not fit into it.  Carlson’s story is an easy read and one to which it is easy to relate.  While I wouldn’t necessarily recommend this novel for adult readers, I would certainly recommend this for their teenage children. Carlson has truly found her niche in writing for young adults and does a wonderful job of addreessing the issues that face them in their daily lives.
This book was provided free of charge by the publisher as a review copy. The publisher had no editorial rights or claims over the content or the conclusions made in this review. Visit www.navpress.com for more information on this book.

Saving Cicadas by Nicole Seitz

Saving Cicadas picks you up in once place and puts you down in someplace else entirely.”   I honestly have to say I agree with this statement.  Please note that  I also do not necessarily think this is a good thing.  First and foremost, however, I have to applaud Nicole Seitz for taking on subject matter that is most often ignored.  As a woman who struggled with infertility and lost a child, I am probably more sensitive to the subject of abortion than others.  Nicole Seitz chooses to take this subject and tackle it head on.  She does not shy away from expressing her complete distaste for this practice in the novel.  That being said, she also does not spend the entire novel condemning her own character for making the decision once and considering the decision a second time. Seitz gives great insight into the struggle to make a decision as weighty as that one and also the grief and guilt that can come from choosing to abort a child as opposed to having him/her.
From the opposite side,  the issue I have with Saving Cicadas is in the execution.  The transition from chapter to chapter was choppy and a bit confusing at times.  Also, Seitz  has a tendency in this novel to set up the end of a chapter with a climactic lead into the next, with the delivery of the climax falling flat. Once could have been overlooked, but she chose to do this multiple times throughout the novel.  In addition, 8 1/2 year old Janie Doe Macy is wise beyond her years. The narrative in most of the chapters is intended to come from her point of view.  As it was written, I had to keep checking to see if it the chapter was in Janie’s point or Mona’s, as there was no real differentiation between the voice of the two characters.  If the majority of the story was to come from the eyes of a child, this mark between the viewpoints should have been more defined.
In the end, I land on the fencepost in my opinion of Saving Cicadas. The first two parts are slow and were a struggle to complete, with the third part almost making up for it.  Notice the almost.  I usually recommend a book based on the likelihood that I will read it again.  With only one third of the novel keeping my interest, it is not very likely that I would choose to read this a second time.  The ending was fantastic but getting there was not half the fun.
This book was provided free of charge by the publisher as a review copy. The publisher had no editorial rights or claims over the content or the conclusions made in this review. Visit www.thomasnelson.com for more information on this book.

NKJV Greatest Stories of the Bible

For the reader looking to get a picture of how God has touched us on Earth, Thomas Nelson Publisher has provided the  NKJV Greatest Stories of the Bible.  The book is arranged from Old to New Testament and uses the actual verses from the NKJV of the Bible to recount 250 “stories,” starting with Genesis and the beginning of the world and ending with our “Final Victory” in Revelation. 
As the book points out in the foreword, it is important to remember that this is not the Bible.  While the entire book is comprised of verses from the Bible, it does still leave out most of the what you will find in an actual Bible.  From a format perspective, that is what required the most adjustment for me when reading.  I kept expecting to see verses with which I am very familiar, only for them to be missing in this collection. 
However, that is the point of this book.  Thomas Nelson Publishers set out to create an “heirloom edition [that] provides readers with the tales of the Bible in an easy-to-navigate, storybook format.”  I believe that they have achieved this goal.  I am often concerned with devotions or companions that will interpret the verses in a way that does not hold to the true meaning or content of an actual Bible.  By maintaining the format (NKJV), Thomas Nelson was able to alleviate those concerns for me.  I was also able to locate the Biblical figures from whom I have found the most inspiration in my times of trials quickly and easily. 
The book is hardbound and comes with a ribbon attached to be used to mark a favorite story.  It would serve as a perfect gift book for special occasions.  Thomas Nelson also advises that it can be used to “improve family devotions.”  I would only recommend this if you have a family with older children.  I tried it on my younger son, who is still much more a visual than an auditory learner. As the book is entirely text, the stories were not very effective in holding his attention for long enough to finish one.
Overall, I was very pleased with both the layout and the content of this book.  I would certainly recommend it to others as a companion to their Bibles and an easy way to spend some time learning about how God has touched the lives of those who came before us.
This book was provided free of charge by the publisher as a review copy. The publisher had no editorial rights or claims over the content or the conclusions made in this review. Visit www.thomasnelson.com for more information on this book.

Tea With Hezbollah by Ted Dekker

Ted Dekker along with Carl Medearis, his guide, and Samir, their man with the contacts, travel from Egypt to Syria and many points in between in an effort to sit with many of the ideologues of the Muslim world. The authors state that the goal is to find out what the important Muslims at each of the stops, be them Hamas or Hezbollah or unaffiliated (officially) think about Jesus’ teaching on loving our neighbors as ourselves. Dekker calls the book a travelogue and it is a fitting description as the book documents their travels in the Middle East, more than actually deals with the issue at hand, which is to say that the question of how important Muslim thinkers and influencers think Jesus’ teaching fits with their agenda and actions. Each of the conversations that Dekker has with each of the Muslim leaders is shared verbatim in transcript form so that there can be no issue of out of context quotes or agenda driven choices of quotes.

There are parts of this book that are absolutely fascinating. The history and perspectives were, in many cases, completely new to me even though I consider myself well read on current issues. On occasion, Dekker would go into depth on the history of a specific area and how the temples to such and such god were taken over by the Jews, then the Christians, then the Muslims. I also found the transcripts to be fascinating in that I gained insight into the background and character of those being interviewed. Unfortunately, I found that the book didn’t actually answer the question posed in the introduction.

I found most of Dekker’s worrying about going into the dangerous areas to be whiny. I get that he was scared, but he went for a book so I found that I didn’t connect emotionally with his plight. If he had gone for a more altruistic reason I may have cared more. I also found the story of Nicole to be distracting. Sure it was an interesting aside, but I read this book to hear from the leaders of the Muslim world about the idea that we are called to love our enemies and I just didn’t get that. In fact, the biggest let down in the book were the interviews. Dekker had an opportunity to discuss non-violence and love with very influential Muslims and he spent most of the interview asking inane questions like, “What is a joke that makes you laugh?” and “What kind of car do you drive?” The important questions came only at the end and little or no follow-up was made to them. I understand that Dekker is trying to humanize our so-called enemies so that we can do a better job in loving them, but I felt at times that humanizing them with the shallow questions did less to answer our concerns than to fill the pages of a book. An interesting read that ultimately fails to deliver on its promise.


Scott Asher is the founder and administrator of BookGateway.com. Along with his contributions to BookGateway, he reviews for the commercial site BuddyHollywood.com. His personal blog is AshertopiA – a land flowing with milk and honey… and a lot of sticky people where he cartoons and writes on anything he finds funny and Christianity, which sometimes overlap.

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