Love & War by John and Stasi Eldredge

All too often in our society we conform to the lie that marriage will inevitably fail as, after all, all good things come to an end. But that isn’t how it’s supposed to be. It is supposed to last a lifetime. The vows are supposed to mean what the words do, not what we pour into the words. In John and Stasi Eldredge’s book I found a message that transcends the societal pressures, and lives up to its message that the best things in life, like marriage, are hard work but not only worth it but exciting and rewarding.

Drawing generously on their previous works, the Eldredge’s offer an honest look at marriage from the perspective that they share that we humans are made male and female on purpose with unique needs and desires. This isn’t Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus – we aren’t talking about language barriers and differences that separate. We are talking about the way that the sexes compliment each other when understood correctly. What I liked most about this book was the honest and open peek inside this marriage that most likely assumed was always and would always be perfect. After all, they literally wrote the book(s) on the sexes! But what I found was a marriage that in many ways mirrored mine. The early struggles, the tough choices, coming to the edge of choosing to quit. The Eldredges opened themselves up to the reader and I can’t see a relationship that wouldn’t benefit from reading it.

For Valentines day, this year or any, you could give flowers or material goods or you could give a book like this one that says to your spouse that you are in it for life. Highly recommended.

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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.

The Silent Governess by Julie Klassen

Olivia Keene, at a early age, has the ability to cipher sums. Her father, being proud of her ability, often took her to the local pub and racetrack, placing wagers on her ability to give the correct answers. Around the age of twelve, something happened and her father lost interest in her, drinking to excess, becoming very quarrelsome, and making Olivia’s life miserable.

Coming home late one night she surprises a man trying to strangle her mother. She grabs a fire iron, striking him on the head and he falls to the floor. Thinking she has murdered the man, her mother encourages her to flee from the home and go to St. Aldwyns, a girl’s school where she might obtain a position.

On the way, Olivia overhears a conversation revealing a secret she should not have heard. Lord Bradley, occupant of the Manor, and whose secret she had overheard, forces her to take a position in the nursery, caring for his two young cousins. This way he could assure himself of her silence. Keeping her own secret, Lord Bradley’s secret, and his contempt for her makes for a very stressful life.

The story is moving, mysterious, and romantic as the writer keeps you focused on the life of a Governess in an English Manor where nothing is as it appears to be. Mrs. Klassen did a excellent job of holding my interest to the final conclusion. I strongly recommend you read the book to see if Olivia’s and Lord Bradley’s secrets are exposed, what impact the secrets have on the lives of those living at the Manor. A must read for those who enjoy historical fiction, you will become a fan of Mrs. Klassen and look forward to reading all of her books.

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

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.

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.

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