Spring Dawn (Seasons of Faith Book 3) by Rebekah Lyn ~ Review

Spring Dawn (Seasons of Faith Book 3) by Rebekah Lyn

Spring Dawn

Spring Dawn is the third book in Rebekah Lyn’s Season of Faith series. In Book 1, we meet Elizabeth, Ian, Jeffrey, Stephen and Michelle. Book 2 continues the story of these five friends. In Book 3, the main plot is focused equally between Ian and Elizabeth’s growing romance and Jeffrey’s life and spiritual growth as a new Christian. You can read my reviews on Book 1 here and Book 2 here. By the time I finished reading the third book, I felt these five characters were also my friends. And because they are, I can’t wait to see more resolution in their lives.

In looking back over the scope of the books I’ve read so far in this series, I could see a pattern. The first book was a book of disasters where many people were thrown together in an effort to survive the season’s group of hurricanes. Our five main characters meet under different conditions and in different capacities. The second book was a book of mystery and adventure where Ms. Lyn’s readers become better acquainted with the friends. This third book is a book of testing: testing character, testing resolves, and testing relationships. An example of this is in the development of Ian and Lizzie’s relationship. In the second book, the reader may conclude that their relationship was on solid ground. Yet this third book creates uncertainty, tests their stability as a couple and stretching each one individually. That makes for very good reading.

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Lizzie begins to put distance between herself and Ian, while simultaneously drawing closer to Jeffrey, especially after his car accident. Ian becomes jealous of Jeffrey when he finds out about this. Michelle, too, feels some envy at Jeffrey and Lizzie’s easy camaraderie. Ian is already frustrated with the slow growth of his design business. He begins to wonder if Lizzie is the One for him to settle down with. Lizzie is not aware of these undercurrents. She is battling her own fears about falling back into her past lifestyle which she has kept hidden from Ian.

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After going through a hair-raising experience in the second book, Michelle feels much less secure in the current book. She’s dissatisfied with life, leans a little more on her friend Jeffrey for friendship while at the same time nothing seems to go her way. This subplot left me yearning for some type of resolution for her.

Jeffrey shares the limelight with Ian and Lizzie. After the events of the second book, Jeffrey resolves to stay closer to God, stay dry and away from former relationships that could lure him back to his old ways. He spends a little more time with Stephen. At the same time, he also resolves to reach out to Michelle in an effort to “be Jesus” to her. Of course, most of these resolutions are tested repeatedly, creating a sense of mystery about his relationship with Michelle. His accident temporarily takes him out of Michelle’s sphere and into the care of his parents. Happily this gives him an opportunity to gain some peace with them.

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I have thoroughly enjoyed this series so far. Rebekah Lyn’s writing style pulls us into the details of friendships and leads us to care for each of the five friends. The pace of this third book is slower than the previous books, which seems to be intentional in order to develop the tangled web of events, tests, and character development. If you enjoy delving into the details of life, watching how people going through life without God learn about Him and reach out to Him when others are not accessible, then you will enjoy this book.

Additional note: The fourth book in this series is soon to be released. Look for a December wedding!

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Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from the author. I was not required to write a positive review. 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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Winter’s End (Seasons of Faith, Book 2) by Rebekah Lyn ~ Review

Winter’s End (Seasons of Faith, Book 2) by Rebekah Lyn

Winter's End

Winter’s End is the second book in Rebekah Lyn’s Seasons of Faith series. In book 1 we meet Elizabeth Reynolds, Ian Cavanaugh, Jeffrey Robbins, Stephen Longbottom, and Michelle Burton. The first book’s emphasis was on Elizabeth and those involved in her circumstances. By the conclusion of that book, Elizabeth and Ian had begun a new romantic relationship. Their story continues in this second book as a subplot where the author explores their growth individually and as a couple, while LIzzie and Ian are in Vermont on a ski trip with his parents and her adopted parents.Click here to see my review on book One

In the meantime, the main plot is split between Stephen and Michelle. While Lizzie is away on vacation, Stephen is in charge of their concierge team at Hotel Lago. He is professionally tested when he spends the weekend overseeing a particularly fussy group of executives on a business retreat. Michelle, on the other hand, had just experienced an exhilarating night with her rock band, only to arrive at her office job the next morning to discover a co-worker had been brutally murdered and left in one of the office’s bathrooms. The three storylines, plus a subplot where the murder investigation moves forward in its own suspenseful timeline, weave and intertwine with each other in a similar manner to Debbie Macomber’s Cedar Cove series.

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Then there’s Jeffrey. He noticed Michelle was on the news because she was the one who discovered the body and called 911. Although their last time together was a disaster, he decided to call her to check on how she was dealing with the shock. They got together and she immediately noticed how he had changed. Eventually she discovered he had become a Christian. His presence helped her cope with her new fears. Their relationship is yet another subplot that will apparently continue in one of the future books in this series.

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Winter’s End gives readers a little bit of everything. Suspense quickens the pace when Detective Mike Emerson and his assistant try to hunt down the murderer while the evidence is fresh and before he strikes again. Good character work is evident as we learn how Lizzie and Ian’s relationship is developing. Spiritual topics crop up naturally when Michelle’s experience shakes her to the core. Jeffrey plays an important role in answering some of life’s toughest questions. Continuity flows throughout the tale, connecting the books closely, allowing resolution in some relationships while anticipating how some other events will need to be resolved in the future.

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I have noticed that the best way to read these books is to read them back to back to enjoy the story’s flow. The first three books are already out. Another book will be coming out soon, in late 2015 or early 2016. I am looking forward to reading the next two books. If you enjoy Debbie Macomber’s Cedar Cove books and other author’s works with a similar style of writing, then I highly recommend this book and the series to you.

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The Dance: A Novel (The Restoration series Bk 1) by Dan Walsh and Gary Smalley ~Review

Dance, The

The Dance: A Novel by Dan Walsh and Gary Smalley

The Dance is the first book of Gary Smalley’s and Dan Walsh’s Restoration series. There are four books in the series. I have discovered that all the books can be read independently, but are easier understood and experienced if you read this first book before the others. I read this book after reading book four. Reading it filled in the gaps for me and helped me understand the underlying premise of the series. Book 1, at the time I have written this review, was/is a free ebook. You may want to check now to see if it is still free, before reading books two, three, and four.

Jim Anderson is the owner of Anderson Development, a commercial real estate company. He has built this company up from the ground himself. He is understandably proud of his accomplishments. His business has been successful for a long time, although recently it has reflected the slump in the American economy. In my opinion, Jim is a typical alpha male, in that the world must revolve around him, including his family. This has only created pain in his household, though he doesn’t see that. Suddenly and unexpectedly for Jim, his wife of 27 years left him. She quietly moved out, leaving most of her belongings behind.

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Marilyn Anderson love how she’s been protected and cared for by Jim. She loved her new home in the planned community. She took pleasure in choosing all the furniture and decorating the house right down to the smallest details. She could appreciate how Jim has worked hard to maintain they way of life. He provided well for their three children. He gave them nearly anything they wanted. But it wasn’t enough. He gave them everything but his heart. Marilyn had felt this lack the moment they were married until one day she couldn’t stand it anymore. Overwhelmed with sadness, she went out in search of a job, found an older person to board with, and left. The driving question in this book–what would it take for Jim and Marilyn to reconcile? This is their story and the beginning of the series.

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This book has so many elements I could relate to as I was reading it. First, both authors have been counselors and involved with Christian ministry and with marriage relationships for many years. Gary Smalley’s book on marriage helped my own marriage when my husband and I were a young couple. Dan Walsh admitted that Smalley’s books on communication aided his own young marriage as well. Through the expertise of both these men, this book is filled with nuggets of gold. The character development is heart gripping and real. The book is written just the way I enjoy reading character-based literature.

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Second, the turn around doesn’t occur overnight. It actually takes Jim about half the book length before he even began to look within himself to discover if he has done something to run off his wife and alienate his children. It easily provides us readers a character we “love to hate”. He is both despicable and a person we want to see turn his life around. I truly wanted to get my hands on his neck and choke the guy at the beginning of the story. I certainly yelled at him, in my mind, from time to time.

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Third, there’s a vivid analogy written into the storyline–that of a dance. The analogy which is responsible for the title, has multiple layers which we come to understand better as the story progresses. It is so well written and incorporated that it helps keep the storyline moving along at a good clip. Finally, I related very well with Marilyn’s plight. The break in their marriage wasn’t all Jim’s doing. Marilyn had much to learn before she could reconcile with her husband. In the series, the first step they take at the conclusion of this story is continued in the remaining three books. The three books each feature one of Jim and Marilyn’s children as they fit into the theme of the series. Jim and Marilyn’s story continues as a subplot, while the major plots are dedicated to each adult child in turn. That is why I not only recommend this book to you, but the series as well.

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In Firefly Valley (Texas Crossroads Bk 2) by Amanda Cabot ~Review~

In Firefly Valley

In Firefly Valley is the second book of the Texas Crossroads series by Amanda Cabot. Between the first two books we get acquainted with a trio of men and two close friends. The men were college buddies who kept in touch with each other for years after their graduation. In book one we met Greg Vange and Kate. You can read my Review of At Bluebonnet Lake by Amanda Cabot here. In this second book, we meet Drew Carroll and Blake Kendall, Greg’s friends who came to Texas from California to attend Greg and Kate’s wedding. Lauren and Marisa were childhood friends who had grown up in Dupree, Texas. Marisa moved to Atlanta and became an accountant at a large city firm. She has returned now after being scammed by a man posing as a private detective, who had been her boyfriend until he disappeared with her money. Her mother, Carmen St. George, got her a job working as an office manager at Rainbow’s End in Dupree. Drew met Lauren at the wedding. Blake met Marisa at the resort where he was staying. Dupree would be forever changed by these seemingly casual encounters.

The main plot involves Blake and Marisa. The moment they met, they felt an attraction. But Blake had a secret that eventually strained their budding relationship, while Marisa was dealing with past issues of trust and anger. Reacting to each other’s past nearly destroyed their relationship before it had a chance to get off the ground. Intersected with this storyline are two subplots: Lauren was being courted by Drew whom Marisa believed to be all wrong for her best friend and 7-year-old daughter; and Marisa’s father has suddenly returned to his family after he had deserted them eight years ago. While Eric began the process of proving his recovery from alcoholism to his wife and daughter, Marisa is resistant to reconciling with him. She doesn’t believe he has changed. This becomes a stumbling block in her relationship with Blake as well as her family. There are also several threads running throughout the book which makes the reader wonder if a satisfactory resolution is possible. It all works together to keep the reader’s interest until the conclusion of the story.

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After reading both the first and second books of this series, I realized this author has a talent for creating living, breathing, well-rounded, easily relate-able characters. It didn’t take long before I felt connected to the main players. Lauren is a widow whose young husband died of leukemia a year before. Fiona, Lauren’s daughter, wants a new daddy. Drew, who’d made it big as Greg Vange’s business partner, suddenly finds himself at loose ends. Greg sold his business and Drew is without work. He takes a good look at himself and doesn’t like what he sees. When he seeks out God, together they get his life turned around. Then he meets Lauren, falls in love and realizes he has a way to put his new resolves into action. Blake is an author. His books have hit the best seller list repeatedly. At the opening of the book, he has a contract for another book. But for the first time ever, he has writer’s block. Seeking a change of location in an attempt to stimulate his creative juices brings him to Rainbow’s End. But meeting Marisa, becoming aware of her “daddy” issues, creates a crisis for him in more ways than one.

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I could go on, but I hope you see my point. Amanda Cabot’s characters make mistakes, refuse to admit when they are wrong, need help from their friends, realize flaws in their beliefs and thinking, seek out God’s aid, make attempts at changes, are not perfect, and so on. These are all some of the dynamics that good character-based books use to draw us back to read the story a number of times. This author is a master at writing characters with flaws and heart. This particular “flavor” of weaknesses and strengths, conflict and resolution, is what I like to read. I believe many other readers enjoy this combination of traits too.

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Second, besides great characterization, the author introduces a subtle underlying theme that may make the readers pause and ponder. Can people change who they are, fundamentally? The answer is complex–not an easy yes or no. How a person believes about that question depends on their worldview of humanity. Some use the old idiom that “leopards do not change their spots.” Others believe change and even transformation is possible. This demonstrates an excellent use of a theme that drives a storyline forward toward some type of conclusion. In this case, it helps bring about a satisfactory ending. It worked so well I read the book twice before writing this review.

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Finally, this is a faith-filled story, something I thoroughly enjoy reading. There is no preaching here, just people who naturally include God in their daily lives. They pray and talk about Him as if He is a friend that walks with them daily. None of it is hard hitting or forced. God is just there. When people want to include Him, they do. When they don’t want to include Him, they don’t. The author demonstrates faith that’s as natural as breathing. This is a factor that’s important to me, so that’s what I read. For all these reasons above, I highly recommend this book and the series. A third book is to be released soon. I am looking forward to reading and reviewing it as much as I plan to enjoy other books from this author.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from Revell Reads (a division of Baker Publishing). I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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A November Bride (A Year of Weddings Novella Book 12) by Beth K. Vogt ~Review~

A November Bride by Beth K. Vogt

A November Bride

Sadie McAllister and Erik Davis have been friends since junior high school. Now that they are in their early 30’s, they were both beginning to question the purpose of their lives. Did they really want to continue the direction they were going? Erik has his dream job, self-employed in marketing and working on a novel. He’s just landed a plum account and is happily established. Still, he has been yearning for something more. He just couldn’t decide what that more was. Sadie went to a culinary institute and graduated at the top of her class. She is now a personal chef, cooking for two families in the Denver area. She is satisfied with her life, if you didn’t consider her pathetic dating habits. But she was feeling the tug of her internal clock, desiring a family and home of her own.

When Sadie is asked by one of her employers to consider moving to Oregon with the family and be their chef, she is faced with a dilemma. She has friends, a church family and a home in Denver. Should she pull up roots and start her life over at the age of 30? Why is making this decision so difficult? Her friend, Mel, also a chef, has a few ideas about that. In the meantime, Sadie’s quandary wrenches Erik out of his complacency. He and Sadie are best friends. He doesn’t want her to leave. One day, during a talk with his friend Phillip, he realizes he may be in love with Sadie. What will he do if she moves away? He decides to take her out on a date, but Sadie refuses to take him seriously and turns him down. Should Erik try to change their status from friends to more? Would it even be possible?

trust unfailing love

There are several reasons why I enjoyed reading this faith-based novelette. First, it is a quick read, uncomplicated in structure and plot. It can be read in just a few hours, perhaps one or two sittings. The theme is light and breezy, without being overly shallow, perfect for a weekend read.

Second, I love the author’s sense of humor. Ever since Erik helped Sadie find her first apartment, he would surreptitiously disrupt her orderliness such as change a few books around on a compulsively neat bookshelf, or re-arrange items on a coffee table or mantle. Then he would sit back and wait to see how long it took her to notice. He’d also spent the past 17 years trying to guess what her middle name was. How many names could there be that started with “J”? One of my favorite moments occurred when Sadie’s friend finally made arrangements for her to appear on a televised cooking show as a guest chef. Things went so completely awry that she felt shamed months later.

don't allow stupid things steal happiness

Third, it is a faith-based book, and despite the story’s brevity, the character development in this book involves searching their hearts for the reasons why either Erik or Sadie were holding back on their relationship. Erik avoided commitment beyond a few months with his girlfriends, and Sadie wouldn’t allow herself to let go and trust the men she dated. No wonder they kept dumping her by text. These issues had to be taken before the Lord in prayer before they could move their own relationship forward. The author deserves kudos for bringing satisfying depth to such a simple storyline. I enjoyed reading this upbeat story very much.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from NetGalley on behalf of Zondervan books. I was not required to write a positive review. 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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Petticoat Detective (Undercover Ladies Book 1) by Margaret Brownley ~Review~

Petticoat Detective

Petticoat Detective by Margaret Brownley

Combine historical fiction, a female Pinkerton Detective Agency operative, a former Texas Ranger, a bandit who’s adept at keeping his identity hidden even from the best of sleuths, mistaken identity, false assumptions, a killer on the loose, a recent murder, a Madame who sells boots, and you get an adventure you won’t quickly forget. Then add some sly humor, a little bit of romance, some great character work, and the combo makes this book irresistible.

Former Texas Ranger Tom Colton was on a mission. His brother Dave’s last letter to him had indicated a change of heart and a desire to be reconciled with his young son, whom Tom was raising. Now his brother was dead, and Tom wanted to find his murderer and bring him to justice. His recent investigations brought him to Goodman, Kansas, right to the doorstep of Miss Lillian’s Parlour House and Fine Boots. Dave had written about a Rose, one of Miss Lillian’s girls, whom he had fallen in love with and intended to marry. Tom wanted to talk with Rose, hoping to elicit her help in finding Dave’s killer. This part of his quest made him uncomfortable, but he would do whatever it took to get his man.

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Jennifer Layne was a highly trained agent for the Pinkerton Detective Agency. Her job often placed her undercover on a case where she could accomplish more than a man often could. Her quest had also brought her to Miss Lillian’s Parlour House where she was to talk to a Miss Rose whom the Pinkertons believed was a key to their investigation to the identity of the Gunnysack Bandit. She decided to apply to become a “resident.” She had just become established in a room and been made over to look more “decent” in Miss Lillian’s estimation, to get close to Rose. But a complication occurred when Miss Lillian discovered Rose in her room, killed but without evidence of a struggle. Jennifer’s job suddenly took a serious turn for the worse. She wondered if Rose’s death had anything to do with her investigation of the bandit.

Just moments before Rose’s death, Tom was directed upstairs to her room. He was told she was expecting him. Somehow he entered the wrong room–Jennifer’s room (as Amy Gardner). He assumed she was Rose, and Amy assumed he was a john! What ensued was a comedy of errors and gaffs until they heard Miss Lillian’s scream, sending them both out to investigate. From that point on, Amy in disguise as a “lady of the night” and Tom worked together on the case. Amy could not divulge her true identity so she had to keep her mouth firmly shut in spite of Tom’s concerns over her chosen profession. The tale comes to a satisfying conclusion, and all the misunderstandings, assumptions, clues and surprises make this a fun read.

faith trust God even unknown plan

This is the first Margaret Brownley book I have read. I’m pretty certain it won’t be the last. There are many reasons why I like this one in particular. First, there is a “who done it” thread running all throughout the story that’s well written. Tom wants to find his brother’s killer. In the process of picking up clues, he believes they lead him to the Gunnysack Bandit. Finding who this bandit is becomes his central focus. Between the Tom and Amy, clues begin to look as if Dave Colton might be the bandit. Disheartened, Tom returns home after the Pinkerton Agency concludes the same thing. But Jennifer doesn’t like the way the clues don’t exactly add up. Eventually she has an idea after the case was closed. The end solution took me completely by surprise. Kudos to the author for keeping the readers guessing right up to the end.

Second, the pull of attraction between Tom and Jennifer (as Amy) is everywhere in this tale, twisted up in the main plot, complicating the urgency of their respective tasks. It is especially evident in Tom, a man of faith. Since he believes Amy is a “sporting woman” he fights his attraction to her all the way to the final chapters. In the meantime, Jennifer has her own conflicts because she too is a person of faith. She barely manages not to compromise her convictions without revealing her involvement with Pinkerton. I was a little surprised whom she took into her confidence. I think you may be too. But it works out well in the end.

Third, the book is heavily laced with good humor from mixed up identities to misunderstandings to just plain silliness. The strands of humor and adventure work well together. This coupling brought me back to re-read the book more than twice.

True friends love you as you are

Finally, I was given this book on CD to review. Jaimee Draper reads the book with so much talent and gusto that her acting ability made the story come alive. She added accents, hesitations, and mispronunciations at all the appropriate places with hilarious results. I thoroughly enjoyed listening to this audiobook. For all the above reasons, I highly recommend you read it too.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from The Book Club Network on behalf of the author. I was not required to write a positive review. 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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Top Ten Reasons to Read the Bible Today: The Life Changing Benefits of Daily Bible Reading by Wayne Davies ~Review~

Top Ten Reasons to Read the Bible Today: The Life Changing Benefits of Daily Bible Reading by Wayne Davies

Top 10 Reasons to Read the Bible Today

If you wanted to learn to ride a horse, you wouldn’t begin by standing on its back like a circus rider. If you had a desire to write a book, you would want to know some basic information like how to construct meaningful sentences, paragraphs and
chapters. And if you wanted to build the world’s tallest structure, you would probably not begin by slapping together boards and wires and pipes. You would need to study basic knowledge such as the physics and mathematics of creating a safe building, reading and learning to interpret blueprints. In essence, trying to accomplish something without learning the basics first used to be called “putting the cart before the horse.”

Using much the same thought processes as the eager beavers in the previous paragraph, many in Western society today seems to think they know God, understand what He’s like and how He wants us to live, without consulting the only written document we have that provides us all the basic information we need: the Bible. That is why I recommend this book by Wayne Davies. Just as you wouldn’t consult a cookbook to repair a computer, the author has not consulted our culture and society’s norms to help us understand God. Instead, he’s gone straight to the source many people call The Word of God. He then shares his story of discovery in “Top Ten Reasons to Read the Bible Today: The Life Changing Benefits of Daily Bible Reading” because what he experienced changed him. He shares with his reader his love/hate relationship with God.

Top 10 Reasons to Read the Bible Today quote1

Wayne Davies begins his book by explaining why he wrote it and who should read it. His story is interesting to me because I can see some of my own life story in his. When he talked about different types of people groups who may need this book, I identified with at least two of the groups. The remaining pages are divided into ten short chapters representing the reasons and benefits for reading the Bible. I enjoyed reading this book for many reasons.

The first reason I like it is that Mr. Davies uses language that is straight forward and authoritative. He does use some “religious language”, but he explains the meaning of most of the terms very well. He was able to avoid, as much as is possible, loaded vocabulary that have vague or ambiguous definitions. His explanations are simple and clear of most cultural nuances. It’s nearly impossible to write a book of this nature without reflecting some cultural preferences. But it was obvious to me that his source of information is the Bible. Period.Top 10 Reasons to Read the Bible Today quote2

The second reason I like this book is how it reflects the passion and heart the author poured into it. His excitement about the topic is the result of the journey he experienced and explained in the opening preface. There is no doubt for me that Wayne Davies wrote it out of a genuine desire to share what he discovered with his reading audience. I believe in his earnestness.Top 10 Reasons to Read the Bible Today quote3

Finally, I can see many ways the short book could be useful for discipleship. Years ago I learned an acrostic applied to the letters that spell BIBLE: Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth. The Bible is essential to our knowledge of God, biblical history, God’s laws, the life of Jesus, and the early days of Christianity. This booklet is like a primer for young Christians or those who want a little more than a cursory explanation of foundational beliefs. Do you know someone seeking information on the basics of Christianity? Give them a copy of this book. Are you acquainted with some young believers who need a short, concise introduction to the basics about God? This would be a good book for them to read. Another way this work could be helpful is to aid in meditation on the foundations of what the Bible teaches us. Many Christians need that once in awhile. It serves as a plumb line to determine how far we may have drifted from the core issues of Christianity. I also feel this book is a good source of encouragement for young and mature Christians both. For all these reasons and more, I highly recommend this book.Top 10 Reasons to Read the Bible Today quote 4

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from the author, Wayne Davies. I was not required to write a positive review. 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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