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Beaded Hope by Cathy Liggett

At the beginning of Beaded Hope, we meet four very different wormen, each with her own reason for taking a mission trip to help women in South Africa.  Cassandra’s motives are purely selfish, Gabby is running away from her grief, and Heidi and Katie (mother and daughter) are both searching for a way to find each other.  What these four women encounter in a small South African town will change them all forever. Cathy Liggett’s beautifully written tale has the power to change the reader as well. 
Liggett weaves the tale of hope and despair, loss and redemption, and ultimately, the power that our Savior has to both heal and change. As the four women grow closer to the women they are helping (all of whom are either infected or affected by HIV/AIDS) and to each other, we see their lives genuinely changed.  Liggett’s adeptness at descriptive language serves to transport you to a land of poverty, sickness, and above all, faith and beauty.
The women of this village possess indomitable spirits.  They live in harsh conditions and watch those they love become ravaged by a fierce disease.  If anyone has a right to complain about the lot in life delivered, it would be these women.  And yet, they humble me (and the other American women) by continuing to praise God for all He has given them instead of focusing on what they do not have or what they are losing each day. They never question His outcome for their lives; they merely continue to serve Him.
Be forewarned, you WILL need a box of tissues.  Liggett’s characters face hard choices and circumstances head-on.  She does not shy away from thought provoking subject matter; rather, she leaves you wondering what you would do if you were in the place of any of these women.  Would you give unconditionally?  Put yourself aside to put others first?  Would you step out of your comfort zone to do His will and live as He commands?  
This is a novel that I will read again and again.  It touches my heart specifically, as my husband is from Kenya and the people of his country remain strong in the face of adversity.  I would urge you to visit www.beadedhope.com to learn more about these women and how you can help them.
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.tyndalefiction.com for more information on this book. No payment was provided in return for this review. 

Latter-Day Cipher by Latayne C.Scott

Journalist Solonnah Zee is assigned to cover the murder of Kristen Young, a young Utah heiress. The murder is not a ordinary murder, but one with strange carvings on the body and a note written in the weird symbols of the Deseret Alphabet of the early Mormon Church. This alphabet was designed by Joseph Smith with the writing of’ ‘The Book of Mormon’. The crimes soon escalate with the mutilated body of a long dead prostitute, the death of a hunter, a nameless man, a homeless old lady and the kidnapping of three men from a nursing home. Messages written in the Deseret Alphabet were left at each crime scene.

Who is behind these crimes? Are these incidents occurring to embarrass the LDS (Latter Day Saints) Church? What ties these crimes to the recent bombings of the Masonic Temples in Salt Lake City, Utah? Publicity like this is the last thing the LDS Church needs and it will do almost anything to protect themselves.

The author, an ex-Mormon, goes to great lengths to point out the differences between modern LDS doctrine, the Book of Mormon, and Joseph Smith and Brigham Young’s Mormonism. She has first hand knowledge of workings of the Mormon Church, but it is clear she had never been a worker in the temple. The book can be very confusing and hard to understand as it is sometimes difficult for Christians to comprehend the acts and rites of the LSD members and their doctrines.

Fundamental and practicing Mormons will be offended by the book, no doubt. However, it is recommended for those considering joining the LDS Church or have questions or doubts about their faith. It is a true eye-opener.

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

Eternal on the Water by Joseph Monninger

When I saw that Eternal on the Water was going to be the January’s First Look book selection, I have to be honest and tell you that I didn’t know much about either the book or its author, Joseph Monninger.  However, the blurb regarding the book was enough to incite my curiosity.  So, I sent my message and eagerly awaited the arrival of this novel and the opportunity to discuss it.

I would love to be able to say that the book lived up to the promises in the blurb from the start.  Alas, the opposite was true.  In sticking with a current trend in fiction, the ending was revealed in the prologue.  I am not sure why this trend exists.  For me, it is akin to skipping to the last couple of chapters of a book, just to see how it ends.  I personally prefer to be kept in suspense, wondering what might happen in the next chapter and around the bend.

Still, I kept going.  The book is only 344 pages long, which should be an easy two-hour read.  Unfortunately, it was actually very slow going.  The lead male character (Cobb) is on sabbatical tracing Thoreau’s trip down the Allagash river.  It is here that Cobb meets Mary.  Stories about crows and pretentiousness about Thoreau ensue for about six chapters.  It is here that we meet the Chungamunga girls and the story picks up for a little while.  But, like the river, this story ebbs and flows, picks up speed during the rapids and then slows to a babbling brook.

There are many references in the novel that make me wonder if there is a companion novel where the characters show and if I am missing something.  While I live my life in randomness, I am not sure if I appreciate that in what I read.  There are many points where Monninger interjects comments that had me checking several pages earlier to make sure I didn’t miss something (and no, I didn’t).

In the last few chapters, Monninger almost redeems the story…almost.  The resolution leaves you wondering if you would help your loved one make the same choices if faced with the same inevitable ending.  If you knew there was nothing you could do to change the fact that life would end, would you help it to end on his or her terms?

I end in the middle on this novel.  I again rate a book based on its re-readability.  I would probably read this one again, but it wouldn’t be at the top of my have-to read pile.

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.simonandschuster.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.

Between Sunday’s by Karen Kingsbury


In Between Sunday’s, Karen Kingsbury takes you into the world of the NFL, specifically the San Francisco 49ers. While the players are fictional, the stadiums and games are come across as accurate and genuine. The novel mainly focuses on three players. Derrick Anderson, an older, seasoned quarterback who comes to the 49ers to mentor and encourage the other players; Aaron Hill, a younger quarterback with several seasons under his belt, and Jay Ryder, a rookie punter and wannabe quarterback.

This is Derrick’s last season and he wants desperatly to win another championship ring to fulfill a promise he made. He already has two rings, but needs a third for a reason only he and his wife know. Derrick is a family man, deeply rooted in his faith, living his life by God’s grace.

Aaron is an arrogrant playboy, king of the hill, living only for the moment and the adoration of the fans and media, with no time for God. Aaron has a couple championship rings and thinks that winning this season would be great, but it’s not something he is overly concerned about. After all, he has his whole life ahead of him to win Super Bowls, right?

Jay is young and a little shy, this being his first season in the NFL. He wants to fit in with the team and is awe struck by Derrick and Aaron. He has some faith, but is not completely committed.

San Francisco has a large contigent of foster kids. Megan Gunn volunteers at the Youth Center as well. She is a single foster mom to Cory. Amy, Cory’s mother, had been a close friend to Megan before she died tragically. Cory is a big fan of the 49ers. Derrick is a very compassionate person and tries to reach out to the kids. In the off season, he hosts pizza parties at a Youth Center. Derrick gives away five game tickets each week at the pizza party. Cory wants desperately to win a ticket and attend a game because Cory has a secret – he believes he is the son of one of the 49er players. Megan, of course, doesn’t believe him, attributing his belief to the fact that he so wants a father. She thinks this is just his fantasy and tries to discourage him, but Cory insists his mother told him and his mother did not lie.

Kingsbury takes you through the hopes, dreams, injuries, disappointments and trials of the coach and his players in the NFL. Will they make it to the Super Bowl, and if so, what are their chances of a win? The novel clearly points out that we are not defined by what we do on Sunday, but what we do Monday through Saturday. Between Sundays is a novel for all ages, and especially NFL and 49ers fans.


Note: In real life, Alex Smith, the current 49er quarterback founded the Alex Smith Foundation for foster children. His foundation provides provides support, funding, and a chance at a fuller life.

Mosaic Holy Bible

-Review by Scott Asher of AshertopiA.

As the culture moves away from modernism, simply understood as a way of understanding what we know based upon logic and “factual” foundations, to post-modernism, simply understood as understanding what we know based upon our perceptions and worldviews and not on foundationalism, the church has likewise moved away from foundationalism or modernism. Questions are being asked about why we believe what we do and how do we know what we believe is right. A key theme has emerged in this rapidly becoming post-modern society of rejecting the recent period of foundationalism from the Enlightenment till today. We understand that the world cannot be completely black and white based simply on what those before us believed. We want to know for ourselves.

As the society and the church move away from the last few centuries of so-called logic, rejecting much of the last several centuries’ worldviews, we have become interested in the ancient past and the non-westernized cultures for our roots. So while some in the post-modern church question the last several hundred years of Western scholarship we at the same time are hungry for what the original Christians believed and understood. We search for ties to the universal church and the roots of our faith.

Mosaic Holy Bible by Tyndale helps the reader connect.

The second half of the Bible is simply the New Living Translation but the real focus of this book is the first half. There we find a weekly devotional unique in its breadth and scope. Each week includes scripture reading, meditations and quotes by historic Christians – both ancient and modern, foreign and Western, as well as works of art, and empty space for notes. The weeks follow the liturgical calendar tying the reader further to the roots of Christianity.

The Bible is beautiful. Artwork is produced in vivid colors and clarity. The first section with the devotional is printed on sturdy paper allowing for note taking, while the back section is standard Bible paper. The Bible is hard bound. All together a very nice package.

I enjoyed skimming the artwork and the poetry. Seeing depictions of Biblical stories by Africans, Asians and Latin Americans served to bring home that our Church is bigger than we recognize. Quotes from modern writers like Mark Drischoll and J.I. Packer find a home along side John Wesley, Ignatius of Antioch, and Gregory the Great. We find contributions from Eastern Orthodox, Catholic, Pentecostal, Baptist, Calvinist and more. The quotes and meditations were amazingly deep and varied.

The only thing I found myself wishing for was more. Reading one weekly devotion in 20 minutes left me wondering why there wasn’t a daily suggestion instead of a block of info that the reader decides when to read during the week. Needless to say, I found myself ranging far ahead of the week I was supposed to be in.

I very much enjoyed this Bible. I believe it serves as a precious reminder of how big the Church is. It is thousands of years and thousands of miles wide. I highly recommend Mosaic Holy Bible to you.

This Bible 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 Tyndale.com for more information on this book.