Be Brave: Saving Lives With Your Problems by Zack Quilici ~ Review

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Be Brave by Zack Quilici

Zack had “frat boy” down to a T. He lived, breathed and nearly died in it. When he lived it, he lived it to the fullest maximum. And then things changed. Now he’s being brutally honest about his story in this book. This is Zack’s story before he hit rock bottom, before Christ. He doesn’t clean it up, but presents it to the reader in all its painful glory. His purpose is twofold: he doesn’t ever want to forget where he had come from and he wants others to know his story. Perhaps they can benefit from his pain.

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In spite of the “fun” in the stories, there is a lot of pain and remorse in the telling. He knows his life was messed up. He knows he was a jerk. He knows to which extent that he missed several opportunities to be the good guy. He knows that he hurt others in so many ways. That’s one reason the book is called “Be Brave.” He wrote the book anyway, regardless how bad it makes him look.

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The point of the book is to reach out. In that manner, I believe Zack’s book is a success. Others will read his book, cluck their tongues and be amazed at the work Jesus has done in him since the stories. I realize that with a book like this, God can bring about some pretty amazing results. So if you have a person this could speak to, by all means, use this book as an outreach tool. It’s unique, and the writer is indeed brave.

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Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a review copy of this book from CKN Christian Publishing on behalf of the author. I was not required to write a review, positive or otherwise. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

 

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Isaiah’s Daughter: A Novel of Prophets and Kings by Mesu Andrews ~ Review

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Isaiah’s Daughter by Mesu Andrews

Talented award winning storyweaver Mesu Andrews paints a vivid picture with words of ancient life, choosing a handful of the major players in a story from Second Kings, a book in the Old Testament, and puts faces to them, gives them a voice, and personalities we grow to love or dislike, whichever is appropriate at the moment. It is then that we discover how very alike we are in spite of cultures that are nearly three thousand years apart. Our faith journeys are the same.

Ms. Andrews honestly portraying the horrors of living in fear of marauding neighboring nations, man-made customs created to appease non-existent gods, the consequences of falling away from the Torah (Scriptures we know of today as the Bible), and the rewards of trusting the real God of creation.

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One of my favorite features of this book is the love story between young Prince Hezekiah and a resident of Isaiah’s household, Ishma. Because Isaiah was a cousin to the king, they lived near the palace and saw each other often. Prince Hezekiah lived in the shadow of his wicked father, King Ahaz. The prophet Isaiah was the royal household’s tutor. He made sure they were instructed in the Lord’s ways in hopes of restoring the nation to the days when David was king. Eventually, Isaiah and the prince realized how sharp Ishma was, so they broke tradition and included her in their tutoring sessions. She became Hezekiah’s intellectual companion; they challenged each other continually. All the while, Isaiah was preparing Hezekiah to become the nation’s next king. Would Hezekiah follow his father, or go back to the ways of King David?

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A second feature I loved is how the author portrays the biblical characters as human, flawed, sometimes faced with the enormity of the responsibility they faced for so many human lives. Decision were sweated over. Hezekiah sometimes second guessed his decisions. He made mistakes in judgment. He allowed others to sway his decisions. Even Isaiah, as God’s prophet, admitted he did not always understand what God told him.

There is a good lesson in this for us. Because even now as we look back on prophecy, we have a greater context to look back upon than King Hezekiah and Isaiah had, so when something applied to Jesus’ day, we can see that. They were unable to. But even though we have a larger context to draw from, we still do not understand it all because not all prophecy has been fulfilled. Some applies to the future yet to come. Believing in God’s Word is all part of our faith journey. Sometimes we have to trust in God without completely understanding it all first.

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Overall, this was an exciting, action-packed historical fiction that sought to balance out the fiction and the facts of a familiar to some Bible story. I admire the author’s hard work and ability to bring together this story spread out over several books of the Old Testament. She did a remarkable amount of research and to a reader who enjoys biblical historical fiction as well as other types of historical fiction, the story rings true. I highly recommend this book.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from Blogging for Book on behalf of the author. I was not required to write a review, positive or otherwise. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

More info: For More information

Read Chapter one: Read Chapter One

Author bio: Author bio

 

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Unimaginable by Jeremiah J. Johnston ~ Review

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Unimaginable by Jeremiah J. Johnston

Ask me to imagine something and I can usually comply pretty easily. I love history and the understanding of why something has happened. I can thank my grandfather for that innate curiosity and thirst for knowledge. He knew just how to feed it. The nice thing about learning is that you never need to stop, unless you’ve lost interest. It can go on and on and on. It tends to feed on what you already know. But one requirement about imagination is that you need a knowledge base to build upon. If you don’t have that basic requirement, your imagination is going to suffer.

That seems to be a problem those of us who live in the modern Western World have to face. Somehow, we have construed that if we study how things were in history we are somehow blaming or criticizing or being intolerant of those events and peoples. So we avoid history and study current events instead. That blinds us to patterns repeated over time and makes us susceptible to repeating mistakes from the past. The author, Dr. Jeremiah Johnston, has seen this problem and has written a book to aid both Christians and non-believers in appreciating the events that occurred in the past, especially those we need to avoid repeating in the future.

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The author of Unimaginable, Dr. Jeremiah Johnston, begins his task by asking this question: What would the world be like if Christianity had not emerged, and what would happen if Christianity disappeared today? This is something that’s not really as difficult to understand as it may seem. Through extensive and careful research the author presents to his readers what the world was like before Jesus appeared on the scene. That’s the topic of the first of three sections. What we read in this part of the book may just surprise many people.

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The second section refreshes our memories of a group of men who at the early part of the nineteenth century turned their backs on the Christian world. Their influence led the Western world in the name of Enlightenment into bloodbath after bloodbath. It is not a pleasant part of world history. The third section introduces the idea that in spite of the philosophies of these influential men, Christianity continued to instill in its followers the value of life and human dignity. This led to humanitarian efforts that spread all throughout the world to every corner of the earth, including the world in which we presently live. Trying to imagine what it would be like if faith-based humanitarian aid was never sent to areas in America affected by fire, floods, storms, and illness is taxing. Try to imagine what the health situation of the countries without healthcare offered by faith-based hospitals and other care organizations is almost impossible.

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These three sections are short and written in conversational manner, making this book approachable for nearly anyone. In reading these parts, I got the sense that Dr. Johnston was sharing with us only the very tip of the iceberg. There was so much more he could have shared in this book. But one of the things I have noticed about the author is that his purpose is to communicate what is important to his listeners or readers. He didn’t get lost in the details. He is an intellectual that instead of preferring to stay isolated in a bubble away from everyone else, wants to reach out and assist people with understanding the “why” behind his assertions. I have watched some of his speaking engagements on You Tube and was impressed with his personable mannerism. His is truly a mission of the heart.

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For me, the true gold of this book is in the references. In reading through all the pages of references Dr. Johnston includes in the book, I realized how much more in depth we could read and learn. His sources are scholarly and wide reaching. This is the part of the book that can offer more if you have an inquisitive friend who isn’t satisfied with the interpretation the author offers. That makes this book a great resource, not only for yourself but for others who want to know more.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a review copy of this book from Cross Focused Reviews on behalf of Bethany House, a division of Baker Publishing Group. I was not required to write a review, positive or otherwise. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

 

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My Big Book of Bible Heroes Devotional by Glenn Hascall ~ Review

My Big Book of Bible Heroes Devotional pic

My Big Book of Bible Heroes Devotional by Glenn Hascall

What a wonderfully designed devotional book this is for children around the pre-teen ages. The pages are thick and every devotional has a full page of colorful paintings of each hero mentioned in this 159-page book. The pages are thick and glossy and well able to be handled by children. The binding is strong and sturdy. The illustrations are eye catching.

Each of the 50 devotionals has a title and a Bible reference where the story may be found. Below that is a Bible verse that emphasizes the theme of that day’s story. The devotional itself is only one page long. It is written in simple enough terms that I feel confident a third grade or fourth grade child could easily use the study book on their own. The emphasis on each person is a character trait that the hero depicts. The lesson is followed by a simple, honest prayer and a list of questions to help the child ponder God’s truths.

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What I love about this book is that the message is exactly what I would want my children to learn about trusting in God, following Biblical heroes, and about life in general. There are clear messages of salvation, growth in character, and development of your emotional being geared especially for the young child who wants to know more than just Bible stories. This book helps a young reader think how to apply the principles talked about. And the reader hears enough of the actual story in the first few paragraphs that they don’t have to have prior knowledge of the story before they use this book.

If a child is too young to handle devotionals on their own, this would also make a great read-aloud/picture book for a parent or guardian to do with the child. Both my own children would have loved this book when they were young. I highly recommend the book for your children, for the church library, for gifts for grandchildren and so on.

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Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from Shiloh Kidz, an imprint of Barbour Publishing on behalf of the author. I was not required to write a review, positive or negative. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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Coldwater by Samuel Parker ~ Review

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Coldwater by Samuel Parker

Have you ever read a book where you are not sure where it is going? Where there seems to be no certain protagonist or antagonist? Where the plot is undetermined except to move forward in a perpetual chase? Have you ever read a book where the driving question seems to be, “What is going on?” That is what reading this book by Samuel Parker made me feel.

I’m not saying this in a negative sense. Some authors make their plots and characters easy to figure out and predict to varying degrees. That is not true with this story. There’s a looming question mark hovering over the events as you read on. Yet the action drives the reader to continue if for no other reason than to try to make sense of what the characters were doing. The author is determined to show rather than tell what is occurring.

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Dotted throughout the tale were rare “Ah ha!” moments of insight, motive or reasons. But for the most part, the action moves forward relentlessly without explanation or narrative. It caused me to pause once in awhile and reflect back to a writing style used in the ’50’s and ’60’s in programs where they used only words and the unknown to develop expectations without special effects. The Twilight Zone and possibly Outer Limits were examples of this. Alfred Hitchcock, writer/producer of thrillers and melodramas, could produce the same effects. The results were often unpredictable and sometimes left the viewer pondering.

I’ll be the first to admit this would not be a book I would have chosen to read for myself. That is the consequences of entering a review program and trusting someone else’s choices. But ultimately, it worked out well. This book stretched my tolerance for suspense since suspense is the main driving force in this story. The events are strange, creepy and dark. And there is a message, but it’s subtle. And even though the book is dark, it is not a horror story, nor gruesome or filled with blood lust. There is definitely some kind of spiritual warfare going on, but the author does not comment on it.

There is a resolution of a sorts for this story. The events do come to an end. This is not a happy book, so you can’t really call the ending a happily ever after (HEA). Rather, it is a serious book with suspenseful momentum. Eventually it resolves but leaves the reader in a pondering state where we are allowed to come to our own conclusions. I’d like to offer kudos to the superb writing talent of author Samuel Parker.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from Librarything.com on behalf of the author. I was not required to write a review, positive or otherwise. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

 

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Uninvited: Living Loved When You Feel Less Than, Left Out, and Lonely by Lysa TerKeurst~ Review

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Uninvited by Lysa TerKeurst

At some point in our life, we are going to feel left out, left behind, or lonely. It is an inevitable part of being a human being and of human nature. We are inherently social creatures for the most part. Of course, it fluctuates throughout our lives in stages, as if it is a pendulum swinging back and forth. And some people naturally seem to need more social contact than others. But that normalcy is not what the author addresses in this book. Instead, she delves into the deep end of the pool when life hits us with a hammer blow and we find ourselves rejected, left out or even turned out deliberately. How do we survive such a blow?

The author tells some of her own story. She’s done research on rejection in humans and found two core fears that feed a person’s sensitivity to rejection: the fear of being abandoned and the fear of losing one’s identity. Her story confirms that she understands these fears well. She had once been abandoned, and with her father went her identity. She knows how it feels to lose in this deliberate way and writes from this knowledge one of the most powerful books I have ever read. Her core beliefs led her to feel unwanted, even by God. How do you overcome that?

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For me this book was so powerful that I would read sections of it over and over to get all I could out of it. I couldn’t just sit down and read the book as a fiction novel. I had to read it piece by piece and leave plenty of time between the reading to contemplate what I learned. I’m also a book underliner. When I find something especially meaningful to me, I underline or highlight or circle or bracket it in some way to bring my attention back to that part. Judging from those markings in my copy of the book, the entire volume spoke to me in a very personal way. Every few pages were marked in some way. Lysa TerKeurst’s words touched me. They confirmed that I was not alone in this struggle. They affirmed that someone else had floundered around feeling lost on the inside while trying to look normal on the outside.

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Several months ago I happened to read about this book on a Bible Study website. I knew immediately that this book would be able to help get me out of the funk I had fallen into. So I ordered the Bible Study material to go along with the book and the online group sessions. For me, the most valuable resource was the book itself. The study material was nice, and the online videos were uplifting, but it was the book that I needed the most. It helped pave the way for my inner healing.

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My opinion is that Lysa TerKeurst’s book is an effective tool that God can use to bring healing to the parts of us that have been ripped apart and torn to shreds by people and circumstances determined to stomp us into the ground. What she writes is much more than an affirming pat on the head and empty promises of a kinder future. We don’t need that. There are already plenty of books that do that. The author goes way beyond mere platitudes and gets down to our core beliefs and builds on them. She clarifies them and helps us understand them so they can provide a stable foundation where God teaches us to do life in spite of setbacks and heartbreak. This book has my enthusiastic endorsement. Get the book and share it. You’ll never regret that decision.

 

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Mac’s Way by Reg Quist ~ Review

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Mac’s Way by Reg Quist

Like many of the other books I reviewed for this author, this is a historical fiction Western. Because of the author’s background and family history, and the family lore he grew up with, much of what he writes is authentic and true to history. His books are a great read for their historical content. They are clean but realistic in their form. His stories do not focus on sensational events, crooked people or gore.

In this story we meet Mac. His actual name is Walker Samuel McTavish, born and raised on a small Missouri farm before the War Between the States. He was the eldest son of a hard-working family. Frustrated with his life and seeing nothing profitable in his future he set out to make something of himself. He experienced the life of a mule driver for a freight company which took him all over the country. He was involved in the Civil War. After the war, he worked with other men in Texas to drive cattle to northern markets for cash. This book is filled with his adventures on some of those drives.

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What I liked best in this particular book is the character development of Mac, as he was called during the war. His character was forged through tough times, making him a man I would be proud to call my ancestor. Through these rough times, he gained leadership abilities, gathered around him lifetime friendships and loyalty, and lead them straight on to success.

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In the end, it was fitting that he found not only a piece of land to call his own, but had collected his own herd, a large group of friends, including his family members and leads them to a fertile valley out West with enough land for them to spread out and begin their own lives over. Of this author’s books, this one is my favorite so far.

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