Saturday, December 20, 2014

Great New Mystery Series: The Man from the Yard Trilogy

Dark of Night is a thriller that has an eclectic cast of characters.  One woman is tormented by a teenage prank that still haunts her and seems to be catching up to her.  Can she be saved by a brilliant Englishman who became an American sheriff in a small town?  Perhaps there is hope if he enlists his comrades: a Native American, some young men eager to make their mark, and a good old boy from a neighboring town, for starters. 

It would help greatly if they knew exactly what they were up against, but the murderer they seek is unlike anything they’ve ever encountered.  It will take logic, faith, and courage to figure out the truth--and to confront the murderer before he/she/it kills everybody!

I found this book refreshingly free of gratuitous sex and violence, while full of suspense and likeable characters.  The murders are gruesome, but not described in unnecessarily graphic detail.  The writing is well-paced and the story moves right along--a real page-turner.  I also appreciated the respectful treatment of faith in the story: skeptics, Native American spirituality, and Christian faith are all part of the story and none are ridiculed or maligned.  They are simply part of the journey made by the various characters.

I received a free review copy of Dark of Night by Marios Savva, and am happy to recommend it for adult and young adult readers who enjoy mysteries.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Dark Places by Gillian Flynn - A 30-minute Instaread Summary

I have seen Gillian Flynn’s books in stores and wondered if this was an author I would enjoy.  It seemed a good way to decide would be to check out an Instaread Summary of one of the books, since I have found those summaries helpful in the past.

The broad overview of the book indicates that it is written with chapters alternating between the present and flashbacks from various characters.  I enjoy reading books with this element, as I have never been a linear thinker--I like to see the big picture from many vantage points instead.  A woman survived the home invasion that resulted in the murder of her mother and two sisters and the conviction of her brother.  As a child, she couldn't have known anything about betrayal, murder-for-hire, or other dark forces at work in her own family.

From the chapter summaries I can see that Dark Places is a murder mystery with a number of twists: a family member who may have been wrongly convicted, a child witness/survivor, and a club full of people who investigate old cases and resolve them if possible.  I was also informed, however, that none of the characters were particularly likeable.  This may be a deal-breaker for me, as my fiction reading is driven by well-developed characters who exhibit flaws, grow, and achieve some sort of satisfactory resolution of their conflicts.  I might find this novel disappointing.

I received my copy of Dark Places by Gillian Flynn - A 30-minute Instaread Summary free for my review.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Compassion Does Not Require Compromise of Biblical Truth

This excellent book covers the issues churches and individual Christians face now and increasingly in the future--how to deal with homosexuality within and without the church.   From loving neighbors to handling a kid your children's ministry with two "dads" or 'moms" this book offers practical advice and sound spiritual teaching.

Adding credibility to this book is the fact that one of the authors was involved in a homosexual lifestyle before Jesus.  He can identify with struggles and offer hope for others.

I received a free review copy of Compassion without Compromise from Bethany House Publishers.

Meet the Kurds

Stephen Mansfield, the author, fell in love with a people who trace their roots back to the ancient Medes.  These hearty warriors live in the mountains of what is now northern Iraq.  They have survived generations of atrocities, including Sadaam Hussein's vicious chemical weapons.  Despite their hardships, however, the Kurds are building a modern nation.  As Mansfield states, Kurdistan is becoming what America had hoped Iraq would become.

I enjoyed reading the stories of Kurdish hospitality.  It is refreshing to know of a mostly Muslim people who welcome Jews, Christians, and religious minorities of all sorts.  It was sobering to read of the many times Kurds have faced extermination.  The world is fortunate such resilient and determined people of goodwill exist, as the Kurds could show the rest of the Middle East a better path--if only they would take it.

I received a free review copy of The Miracle of the Kurds from Worthy Publishers.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Susie's Hope: Movie Giveaway!

Susie's Hope is a movie about survivors.  Donna Lawrence survived an attack by an abused dog in her neighborhood.  Susie survived being beaten and set on fire by a human abuser. Thanks to the Guilford County Animal Shelter and many in the North Carolina community who donated money and prayed, Susie survived.

When Donna and her husband, Roy, adopted Susie, they couldn't have known how they would be used to change animal cruelty laws in North Carolina.   They couldn't have known how much Susie's story would inspire people to give, educate, and adopt.  As you will see in the movie, however, Donna and Susie healed more than each other.  Today Susie's Hope teaches about responsible pet care, advocates for abused animals, and teaches children about safety around strange dogs.

The movie was done with plenty of input from Donna and Roy.  Emmanuelle Vaguer does an excellent job of capturing Donna's beauty--inside and outside.  While some details of the story were changed for the movie, the main story line is there in painful detail.

I am happy to recommend this movie to anyone.  My own review copy will be placed in the library at Life Community Church, where many know and love the Lawrences--2-footed and 4-footed!  Some scenes are disturbing, particularly Donna after the attack and the photos of Susie's actual burns.  Truth, however, is a powerful teaching tool.  Just be aware that young children will need to watch it with a parent who is ready to discuss the problem of evil in our world and offer positive things a child can do to help animals.

See the trailer, then get your own copy of the movie on DVD.

Comment on this blog post below to get a chance to win a drawing for a free copy of Susie's Hope.  One reader will win, so comment now!

"Disclosure (in accordance with the FTC’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”): Many thanks to Propeller Consulting, LLC for providing this prize for the giveaway. Choice of winners and opinions are 100% my own and NOT influenced by monetary compensation. I did receive a sample of the product in exchange for this review and post.
 Only one entrant per mailing address, per giveaway. If you have won the same prize on another blog, you are not eligible to win it again. Winner is subject to eligibility verification.”

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

The Crumbles Chronicles: A Children's Book for Dog Lovers

Those of us who have adopted shelter pets love to hear stories of rescued animals.  Crumbles is a dog with some hang-ups and eccentricities.  His family loves him, though, and he loves his family.

The story uses Crumbles himself as the narrator, so we get to see things through his eyes.  Paper bags become a menace to his family and must be destroyed.  Crumbles will need some help, but he's fortunate to have some good neighbors like Napoleon, the dog next door.

Rescue dogs are not perfect, but they can still be great family companions.  Laura Scott Schaefer has done a good job of telling this engaging story as a short chapter book for children.

I received a free review copy of Battle of the Paper Bags for my honest review.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Learn about Saudi Arabia through the Eyes of a South African Girl

Girl of the Book by Princila Murrell is an interesting and engaging story about a South African family that moves to Saudi Arabia for the father’s two-year work assignment.  I was concerned that this would be a preachy book for kids about how all Muslims are wonderful and all Christians are intolerant and arrogant, but I was pleasantly surprised by a balanced story line with realistic characters that struggle with real life situations.

The new-girl-in-school problems found in many tween and teen books are magnified in this book.  Despite her parents’ careful instructions, Courtney still manages to violate cultural rules regularly, even though she tries not to cause trouble.  Many of her classmates at school don’t help--and even work to get her into more trouble.  Two young people, a girl and a boy, are the only ones kind to her. Unfortunately, their kindness to Courtney causes them problems with some family members and classmates, too.

This was a wonderful book that respected both religious traditions while showing how difficult it can be for the two cultures to understand one another.  There are no objectionable elements, so parents can confidently hand this excellent story to young readers, even very young children who read well above grade level. 

I received a free copy of Girl of the Book  for my honest review.  It will be available on December 1, so you won't have to wait long to read it for yourselves!