Review: On Love’s Gentle Shore, by Liz Johnson

On Love's Gentle Shore, by Liz Johnson Prince Edward Island Dreams Book 3On Love’s Gentle Shore, by Liz Johnson (Revell, 2017)

Natalie O’Ryan fled a painful childhood on Prince Edward Island, Canada, and was never going back. Until her fiancé decided it’d be the perfect place for their wedding. Right in her hometown. Surrounded by people who’d be too happy to tell him all the things she doesn’t want him to know.

Even worse than the gossips, though, is facing her childhood best friend, Justin Kane. Natalie and Justin each blame the other for ending their relationship, and now they have to work together on the wedding venue… and readers can’t help thinking these are the two who should be getting married, instead of bringing Natalie’s work-obsessed fiancé into the picture.

On Love’s Gentle Shore is book 3 in the Prince Edward Island Dreams series, and it released just after Canada’s 150th anniversary celebrations. Readers who are new to the series can start here and not feel lost, but there is a continuity of secondary characters from the beginning, and if you’ve read the previous books you’ll recognize them and see the ongoing developments in their lives.

Reading this series is like coming home, to a place we wish home could be. Rose’s Red Door Inn, where the bridal couple stay, is warm and welcoming, and it’s staffed with the kind, caring people readers met in book 1.

There are caring people in the community, too, although Natalie has spent too long focusing on those who caused her to leave. It’s good watching her realize how many people did love her as a child, and who haven’t given up on her now.

My only issue after reading is that Natalie’s childhood was dysfunctional enough that in the real world, the people who loved her would have reported her parents. The fact that they didn’t changes how I feel about their goodness. Still, there’s much to appreciate in the novel.

As well as being a romance, it’s a story of forgiveness, and faith, and relationships worth mending. The scenery is brought to life until you can almost picture yourself there, and the descriptions of the food may add a pound or two just in the reading.

Favourite line:

That didn’t stop a bucket of dread from gnawing its way into his belly and settling in like it was paying rent. [page 32]

Liz Johnson has written over a dozen novels, both contemporary romance and romantic suspense. For more about the author and her work, visit lizjohnsonbooks.com.

[Book has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc. Available at your favourite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group.]

Author Interview: H.C. Beckerr

H.C. Beckerr writes Christian science fiction. His recently-released novel, Shadow of Tunguska, is the second and final instalment in the Hill of Great Darkness series, “an epic sci-fi thriller that spans two millennia and two galaxies.”

Janet: Welcome, H.C., and please tell us a bit about yourself.

H.C.: Well, Janet, I’m just an old-fashioned farm boy from the midwestern area of the U.S. I grew up in a time where folks sent their children to Sunday School to learn about Jesus and learned the difference between right and wrong.

Janet: That’s not too long in the past, but we’ve sure seen changes. Are your novels set in the near future, or farther distant?

H.C.: The entire story line of Hill of Great Darkness/Shadow of Tunguska is set in the spring/summer of 2037. So, it’s just around the corner and, truthfully, the world isn’t much different then, than it is right now.

Janet: Twenty years from now! Where did the story idea come from? [May not need this one if you were inspired by those locations I ask about next]

H.C.: Here is where y’all will go…WHAT???? Believe it or not, the idea for this story came from The Davinci Code. Yup…. that book. I gotta admit, when I read TDC I was inspired by the writing style of Mr. Brown. Especially since I had just finished a Church History class at Brookes Bible Institute (now College) in St. Louis, Missouri.  I saw how the author took real history and ‘twisted’ it into a lie (a technique I call twistery). You see, fiction is always better when based on truth. And, in my case, I wanted to bring glory to God, not shame.

Janet: Fiction based on truth feels more real, doesn’t it? The Hill of Great Darkness books are science fiction and venture into space, yet they’re tied to real but mysterious locations on earth. What kind of research did that involve?

H.C.: That was the fun part. Book 1 is all about a location here in the Midwest known as Cahokia Mounds Historical Site, an area of earthen mounds built by the Mississippian culture between about eight hundred to twelve hundred AD. Somewhere in the latter years the entire culture disappeared without a trace. Sounds like sci-fi to me (or, as I like to call what I write; Chri-fi…Christian science fiction).

Anyway… Book 2 picks up three months after the end of Book 1. It really is not a sequel so much as the end of the story. I wanted to go somewhere else on Earth that would be just as much an enigma as Cahokia so I (more or less) immediately turned to the Tunguska Region of Siberia where, in 1908, some sort of cataclysmic explosion occurred. We are talking of a blast that was one thousand times bigger than Hiroshima. This event leveled over seven hundred square miles of deep forest. Now, there’s something to lie…um, I mean, write about!!!  

Janet: In your research, what’s the strangest bit of trivia you’ve picked up?

H.C.: That’s easy…. Cahokia Mounds at its zenith was a metropolitan area that was only equaled in size by Paris, France, which happened to be the largest city on Earth at that time.

Also worth mentioning is Lake Cheko in Siberia, which, according to eyewitnesses to the Tunguska Event, did not exist before that fateful morning in 1908.

That’s some cool stuff to think about!

Janet: Indeed! Now, your novels include strong female characters. Are they more difficult to write, as a male author?

H.C.: Not at all. The dynamics are individualized to the point that each character is a joy to create. And, if I may; the story itself is what allowed the characters to come alive. To be real.

Janet: Do you have a favourite character in the books?

H.C.:  That’s easy. Simone Sytte (that’s See-yet-tea). I don’t remember if I have shared this with you before, but Simone is a confluence of three people I have ‘met’. Her lineage as a Ugandan is from a young woman that I had taught alongside in a preschool class at my church. She was, if I remember correctly, from Kenya. I loved to hear her speak English with her deep African accent! Another person who is part of Simone’s soul is another lady from my church who was involve in our music ministry. A very strong Christian with the reality of not always being perfect. And…never hiding that fact. Thirdly… Simone’s physical stature is borrowed from a fictional character from (I know you’ve been expecting this) one of the Star Wars movies; Episode 2, on a planet where clones were being made into an army by a race of tall, slender aliens (and NO… I don’t believe in aliens. Ask me about that one sometime when you can afford the time…. Ha!).

Janet: Simone is my favourite character, too, as a reader, likely in part because she’s exceptional but not perfect – and she trusts Jesus even when there’s crisis all around her. Why is it important to you to include faith in your fiction?

H.C.: That’s probably the easiest question of all, Janet. My faith in the God of the Bible through His Son Jesus Christ is the only reason I write! I want to share the glorious hope of the Gospel message in any way I can.

Janet: Jesus used story, too! What got you started writing?

H.C.: Here is where you will get a laugh; In grade school!!! I can remember writing short little stories in 5th or 6th grade and selling them for a few pennies so I could get an extra half pint of chocolate milk… always an entrepreneur, LOL!!!!!!!

Janet: My friend, Kimberley Payne, would call you an authorpreneur. I love it. What do you like best about the writing life?

H.C.: Creating. That is the plain truth. To sit back, come up with an idea and start writing; all the while letting God have the reins to take the story where He wants it to go.

Janet: Do you have any advice for beginning writers?

H.C.: I think the main driving force behind Hill of Great Darkness was the fact that I refused to one day find myself lying upon my death bed wondering; What if I had only just tried? If a person has an idea or the urge/dream to write… write! Don’t worry about whether or not it will sell. Don’t listen to naysayers…WRITE!!!!

Janet: Simple advice, and wise. We never know until we make the effort. Is there a particular song or Scripture verse that’s made a big difference for you?

H.C.: I Can Only Imagine by Mercy Me. One day we will see our Savior face to face and I long/hope for Him to look at me and say, “Well done!” or…in the words of the President of the United States at the end of the movie Independence Day, “Not bad…not bad at all!!!

Janet: I love that song, too. And yes, one day… Now, from the profound to the superficial: Chocolate or vanilla? Morning person or night owl?

H.C.: C.H.O.C.O.L.A.T.E.  And not ‘white’ chocolate…I call that vanilla!  Morning or night, hmmm…that’s a tough one. Try getting back to me on that one after a gallon of coffee…

Janet: Tell us something you appreciate about where you live.

H.C.: Gotta say, the beauty of God’s world where I live. The midwestern United States has a beauty all its own and I am so blessed to live here. Not to mention the fact that I grew up going on picnics to the Cahokia Mounds Site. Always loved that place… the mystery and grandeur of it all.

Janet: What do you like to do to recharge?

H.C.: You know, even Jesus needed some down time to recharge! I like to hike and bike ride out in the great outdoors. There is something ever so precious about being alone with the Lord, outdoors in His creation! Then, there is also worship. Whether alone (in the aforementioned outdoors) or corporately with my brothers and sisters. Life is so good when you are in love with your Creator and God! Amen!!!

Janet: Amen indeed. Thanks for visiting, H.C., and sharing these behind-the-scenes details. All the best with your writing and with life!

===

Shadow of Tunguska, by H. C. Beckerr

Shadow of Tunguska: Hill of Great Darkness Book II presents the final chapters of a saga that weaves together the tale of the surviving crew members of the space craft Magellan as they wake up in a top-secret lunar base station. On Earth, tensions mount as the nation’s masses face a worldwide economic takeover. Meanwhile, a small contingent of American explorers braving the Siberian wilderness make a startling discovery at the site of the 1908 impact of an errant black hole.

Shadow of Tunguska website: shadowoftunguska.com

H.C. Beckerr’s blog: shadowoftunguska.com/blog

Review: Over Maya Dead Body, by Sandra Orchard

Over Maya Dead Body, by Sandra Orchard #bookreview #overmayadeadbody mystery romantic suspenseOver Maya Dead Body, by Sandra Orchard (Revell, 2017)

FBI agent Serena Jones is trained to spot illegal activity – even when she’s on vacation. A stranger’s suspicious behaviour makes her think he’s smuggling art antiquities, and the unexpected death of the man she and her family had travelled to visit has her looking for a murderer.

The evidence suggests that Jack fell, but what happens next convinces Serena otherwise. Unless she’s too obsessed by her job and these incidents are truly accidents like the local police say.

Serena, her parents, and her incorrigible Aunt Martha are joined by Nate (Serena’s apartment superintendent, who’s more than he seems) and Tanner (her FBI boss) to help untangle the clues. Aunt Martha brings a few of her contacts into play, as well.

It looks like Jack was killed to keep him from talking about an antiquities smuggling ring. Then, there’s his missing nephew. And rumours of drugs. In the middle of trying to solve the mystery, Serena can’t stop comparing her feelings for Nate and Tanner and wondering how she can be attracted to them both.

Many fans of the series have already voted on which guy Serena will choose, and it’s been a source of some contention. They’re both fine men, and my one hesitation about reading this book was I didn’t want to see either of them sad at the end. Author Sandra Orchard has that covered, though, with an epilogue that forecasts happiness in the future for the man who lost out.

This is a fast-paced mystery filled with banter, twists and turns, and pages that practically turn themselves. Aunt Martha is a hoot as she tries to help with the investigation. As Serena says,

As sidekicks went, she was the best. If I ever decided to quit my day job and become a PI, I’d hire her in a flash. Well, except for the fact that Mom would kill me. [page 121]

Over Maya Dead Body is book 3 in the Serena Jones Mystery series. I heartily recommend starting with book 1, A Fool and His Monet, and reading all three books.

Sandra Orchard is an award-winning, Canadian author. She has also written the Port Aster Secrets series, and a number of other romantic suspense novels. For more about the author, and to see the bonus features she provides for each book, visit sandraorchard.com.

[Review copy provided by the publisher.]

New Releases in Christian Fiction (July 2017)

July 2017 New Releases from Members of American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW)

More in-depth descriptions of these books can be found on the ACFW Fiction Finder website.


Contemporary Romance:

On Love’s Gentle Shore by Liz Johnson — When Natalie O’Ryan’s fiancé books their wedding in her hometown, Natalie didn’t know the only reception venue available would be an old barn belonging to Justin Kane–the best friend she left behind all those years ago after promising to stay. As they work together to get the dilapidated building ready for the party, Natalie and Justin discover the groundwork for forgiveness–and that there may be more than an old friendship between them. (Contemporary Romance from Revell – A Division of Baker Publishing Group)

Their Ranch Reunion by Mindy Obenhaus — Single mom Carly Wagner is surprised to learn she’ll have to share ownership of the home she’s inherited with her first love—and first heartbreak—Andrew Stephens. The man who fled their tiny Western town is back and standing in the way of her dreams to expand her B and B. Now a successful businessman, Andrew has eight weeks to buy Carly out. But Carly’s too stubborn to persuade—and too beautiful to ignore. When fire ravages her inn and she and her daughter move in to their shared property, Andrew’s in over his head. Time is running out and Andrew must decide: leave and chase another deal…or stay and chase Carly’s heart. (Contemporary Romance from Love Inspired [Harlequin])

Time and Tide by Kristen Terrette — Recovering from addiction and a near death experience, Chad moves to Moanna Island, a small island close to Savannah off the Atlantic coast, to begin a job with his family’s real estate empire, a job he was supposed to have taken years ago. Free-spirited Ryan Mason is a Moanna local girl from a blue-collar family. She’s dropped her own dreams to help her father care for her schizophrenic brother. When Chad and Ryan meet at the rehabilitation center where her brother lives, feelings develop between them. Can their crazy worlds ever fit together once he learns her secret and she finds out he is the sole heir to the Cusher Empire? (Contemporary from Hartwood Publishing Group)


Just Look Up by Courtney Walsh — When a workaholic interior designer returns to her hometown to check on her brother’s welfare, she reconnects with a soldier, secretly in love with her, over a renovation project that will help the struggling town. (Contemporary Romance from Tyndale House)


Cozy Mystery:

A Tempting Taste of Mystery by Elizabeth Ludwig — Judging a pie contest leads Cheryl Cooper and friends into mayhem and mystery after someone begins methodically sabotaging the entries. (Cozy Mystery from Guideposts Publications)

Over Maya Dead Body by Sandra Orchard — FBI Special Agent Serena Jones arrives on Martha’s Vineyard with her family, ready for a little bit of R&R and a whole lot of reminiscing as they celebrate the engagement of an old family friend. But crime doesn’t take a vacation, and she’s soon entangled in an investigation of a suspicious death tied to an antiquities smuggling ring.When her investigation propels her into danger, Serena must stay the course and solve this case before anyone else dies. But just how is she supposed to do that when the two men in her life arrive on the scene, bringing with them plenty of romantic complications–and even a secret or two? (Cozy Mystery from Revell [Baker])

Historical Romance:

 

The American Conquest (Window to the Heart Sage, Book 3) by Jenna Brandt — Margaret must leave behind her title and wealth in Europe in order to escape and start a new life in the Colorado Territory. (Historical Romance, Independently Published)


Of Rags and Riches Romance Collection by Susanne Dietze, Michelle Griep, Anne Love, Gabrielle Meyer, Natalie Monk, Jennifer Uhlarik, Erica Vetsch, Jaime Jo Wright, and Kathleen Y’Barbo — Journey along in nine historical romances with those whose lives are transformed by the opulence, growth, and great changes taking place in America’s Gilded Age. Nine couples meet during these exhilarating times and work to build a future together through fighting for social reform, celebrating new opportunities for leisure activities, taking advantage of economic growth and new inventions, and more. Watch as these romances develop and legacies of faith and love are formed. (Historical Romance from Barbour Publishing)

A Rebel in My House by Sandra Merville Hart — Promises can be impossible to keep–especially when a Confederate soldier trapped behind enemy lines looks to a Gettysburg seamstress for help. (Historical Romance from Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas)

A Match for Melissa by Susan Karsten — Wanting a godly husband, Melissa’s only choice is to follow her father’s wishes, even when doing so may not achieve the desires of her heart. (Historical Romance from Prism Book Group [Pelican]).

My Heart Belongs on Mackinac Island by Carrie Fancett Pagels — Moor your heart on Mackinac Island along with resident sweetheart Maude Welling, an heiress trying to prove her worth by working incognito as a maid at the Grand Hotel. Meet Ben Steffans, a journalist posing as a wealthy industrialist who has come to the island to uncover a story about impoverished men pursuing heiresses at the famed hotel. Will a growing love between Maude and Ben be scuttled when truths are revealed in this Gilded Age romance? (Historical Romance from Barbour Publishing)

Salvation by the Sea by Kristen Reed — Life has been anything but easy for Muirigan thanks to a series of life-altering calamities, but she’s found peace with her new, understated life by the sea. However, the maid’s past comes back to haunt her when she saves the shipwrecked Prince Halvard one morning. Failing to recognize one of his dearest childhood friends, the prince invites Muirigan to live at court as a reward for her valiant heroism. As the two reconnect, something deeper than friendship blossoms, but will their newfound affection survive when Muirigan’s lies are revealed and Halvard learns the truth about what has befallen since their tragic separation? (Historical Romance, Independently Published)


Romantic Suspense:

Beneath Copper Falls by Colleen Coble — As a 911 dispatcher, Dana Newell takes pride in being calm in tough circumstances. In addition to her emotionally-charged career, she’s faced enough emergencies in her own life. She recently escaped her abusive fiancé to move to tranquil Rock Harbor where she hopes life will be more peaceful. But the idyllic town hides more danger and secrets than it first appeared. Dana is continually drawn to her new friend Boone, who has scars inside and out. Then she answers a call at her job only to hear a friend’s desperate screams on the other end. Soon the pain in her past collides with the mysteries of her new home—and threatens to keep her from the future she’s always wanted. (Romantic Suspense from HarperCollins Christian Publishing [Thomas Nelson and Zondervan])


Speculative:

The Genesis Tree by Heather L.L. FitzGerald — Deception is rampant, the enemy is subtle, and love dares to tug at Sadie’s heart amid the turmoil that forces her and her family back to the Tethered World below. (Speculative/Contemporary Fantasy from Mountain Brook Ink)

Review: Serving Up God, by Colin MacDougall

Serving Up God: My Workplace as Ministry, by Colin MacDougall #bookreview #ChristianlivingServing Up God, by Colin MacDougall (WestBow Press, 2017)

This book is subtitled “My Workplace as Ministry,” and its memoir-style vignettes illustrate author Colin MacDougall’s premise that “Your purpose in life, simply put, is to live Christ where you are” [page xi].

With candour and gentle humour, chapters explore various facets of work and relationships: with customers, co-workers, and employees. It’s clear that the author doesn’t consider himself to have achieved perfection. As he “serves up God” in his business, as much as that impacts those around him, they in turn impact him – for the better.

Since most Christians spend far more time in the marketplace than in faith-based settings, books like this are a valuable resource on how to avoid a Monday morning disconnect from the Sunday morning worship.

The book begins with the idea that work is a gift given by God to be given back in worship, and that doing so involves seeing those around us as children of God: not judging, not trying to push people into their final identity as mature believers, but doing our best to help them move one step closer to God.

Employers and managers are encouraged to take time to know and pray for the employees in their charge, to lead by example, and to discipline fairly and always with the goal of helping employees reach their potential. Jesus is cited as the ultimate example of how to be a leader, as well as how to be a follower (in how He followed God the Father).

Favourite lines:

No matter how big or how small you may feel your job is, do it for the glory of God, and who knows the lives you will be able to impact. [page 6]

It’s important for me to recognize that, although I refer to my workplace as my ministry, it is really God’s ministry. I am quite fortunate to be along for the ride. [page 32]

This book is only 110 pages, but it’s filled with wisdom for Christians who want to live their faith on the job. Some sections apply specifically to managers/owners, but employees will find insights for co-worker and customer relationships as well.

Colin MacDougall has an extensive background in management, and at present he and his wife, Joanne, own a thriving cheesecake restaurant in Halifax, Nova Scotia, called Sweet Hereafter. Serving Up God is his first book. For more about the author and his book, visit servingupgod.com.

[Review copy from my personal library.]

Treasured Release (Guest Post)

Treasured Release

by Steph Beth Nickel

This post was first written for Stephanie’s “Hunting Treasure” series of devotionals, which can be read (and heard) at HopeStreamRadio.

Do you have things or do things have you?

My mother-in-law was a perfect example of the former but definitely not the latter. After moving into a nursing home and before selling the house that had been her home for decades, Dave’s mom took one last look around.

My mother-in-law’s observation? “There’s nothing here for me anymore.”

Many people place great sentimental value on material possessions, even those not worth much monetarily. But not Dave’s mom.

Oh to hold things with such an open-handed grasp!

We’re in the process of decluttering our home, getting rid of those things we’re not using. The progress is slow going, but it’s very rewarding. We’re making room not only in our home but also in our heart and mind.

However, I have a not-so-secret stash. You won’t find it in the spare room or the basement, not even on my bookshelves. But if you knew where to look in cyberspace, you would be amazed—but not necessarily in a good way.

There is no way one person can possibly get through all the online course material I have stored up … at least not if that person wants to actually implement any of what she’s learning. I’m an e-course addict.

And what does the virtual weight of all these courses do to me?

It preoccupies my thoughts. It distracts me from my already overflowing To Do list. And, worst of all, it keeps me from focusing on that heavenly treasure I very much desire to store up. The treasure mentioned in Matthew 6:19-21.

Outstretched hand, with text: Hold things with open hands.

[image: Pixabay]

What are you clutching?

Money? Possessions? Reputation? Career? Relationships?

When my kids were little, we watched a Berenstain Bear video over and over and over. The one thing that has stuck with me over all these years is the song Sister Bear sang, “I Want It All.”

And although there are many things I’m quite content to do without, I am still eager to jump at almost every opportunity that sounds interesting. And even though I know I can never complete all the online courses—or read all those books on my aforementioned bookshelves—I’m still far too tight-fisted.

In a way, I want it all. How about you?

I can’t help but think of Jesus’s disciples.

In Matthew 4:18-19, we read that the Lord commanded Simon Peter and his brother Andrew, two fishermen, to follow Him, promising to make them fishers of men.

Their response?

In verse 20, it says, “Immediately they left their nets and followed him” (ESV*). (emphasis mine)

In the next verse, we read that Jesus also called James and John to follow Him.

Their response is recorded in verse 22. “Immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him” (ESV). Note the word immediately in this verse as well.

In Mark 2, Jesus came upon a tax collector named Levi. In verse 14 we read that Jesus simply said, “Follow me” (ESV).

And without apparent hesitation, Levi “rose and followed him” (ESV).

These men and others didn’t cling to their careers, what was familiar, their apparent source of security. Instead, they left it all behind to follow One they barely knew.

The things I cling to seem silly in light of the disciples’ example.

Maybe it’s time for some treasured release.

How about you? Are there things holding you back from following the Lord and His teachings as revealed in the Scriptures? Are you willing to leave them behind? Are you at least willing to be made willing?

Does this mean He wants you to turn your back on your job, your material possessions, your online courses? Not necessarily.

But if we’re so busy storing up treasure on Earth, we just may be missing out on what’s most important.

Tweetables

What are you clinging to? (click to tweet this)

Do you have things or do they have you? (click to tweet this)

Hold things with open hands. (click to tweet this)

*English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

Steph Beth Nickel

Steph Beth Nickel
(Photo by Stephen G. Woo Photography)

Stephanie (Steph Beth) Nickel is an award-winning co-author, a freelance editor and writer, a labour doula, and a former personal trainer. She also loves to speak, teach, and take slice-of-life photos. She would love to connect with you on Facebook or Twitter, on her website or blog.

Review: Soul’s Gate, by James L. Rubart

Soul's Gate by James Rubart | Well Spring series, book 1, book review, spiritual warfare, Christian fictionSoul’s Gate, by James L. Rubart (Harper Collins/Thomas Nelson Fiction, 2012)

Years ago, a tragic experience took Reese Roth out of a key role in spiritual warfare. Now, he must train and unite the four people who prophecy says are needed for the coming battle. It doesn’t help that two of them have a previous, unreconciled and painful history.

Soul’s Gate is the first book in the Well Spring series, and the trainees face significant pressure to turn away from the path to spiritual maturity and power. For the most part, even though the novel includes demonic opposition, it feels like a safe read because the trainees have Reese looking out for them. He usually senses their times of crisis and has a word or prayer to help them keep fighting.

It’s a compelling story, but what I most appreciate is the spiritual application to readers’ own lives. The characters experience things we likely never will – it’s fiction, after all – but there is clear (non-preachy) teaching on aspects of spiritual freedom that we can take for ourselves.

Much of the novel deals with the characters learning to recognize and refute the lies of their spiritual enemies, and the lies that they’ve internalized over the years. At one point, they’re challenged to write down every negative name or label that had ever applied to them, and to destroy the list before God, asking Him to give them new names.

There’s an ongoing focus on using Truth to refute and replace the lies. And throughout the novel, we see how spiritual healing and growth is a progression, not an instant fix.

These are things many of us already know, but there’s value in being reminded. Favourite lines (from when Reece asks Brandon a hard question and won’t back down):

“Why are you going for the throat, Reece?”

“Because the throat is where we swallow things. Good and bad. And I think you’ve been swallowing lies.” [Kindle location 2661]

Soul’s Gate won a 2013 Christy Award in visionary fiction and a 2013 INSPY Award for speculative fiction. James L. Rubart is a multi-published novelist, speaker, and consultant. His website says, “No matter where you’re at, I believe you can find life-altering freedom. Getting there is at the heart of all of my novels.” For more about the author and his books, visit jameslrubart.com. Or check out his blog: Going Deeper.

[Review copy from my personal library.]

Review: The Kidney Donor’s Journey, by Ari Sytner

The Kidney Donor’s Journey, by Ari Sytner (Sytner Publishing House, 2016)

When Ari Sytner wanted to learn about live kidney donation, most of the resources he found were medical, and the connections he made often wanted his contact information… way before he was ready to take that step. Persistent and patient research over time did answer his questions and help him and his family to make the decision to donate one of his kidneys to a total stranger, but he knew there should be an easier way.

The Kidney Donor’s Journey is a safe, commitment-free way to learn more about what’s involved physically, medically, and morally. The author emphasizes that, as much as he encourages people to consider live kidney donation, this book isn’t about convincing readers. It’s about sharing the information and starting the thought processes necessary for an informed choice.

Kidney donors tend to be reluctant to discuss what they’ve done, because some sacrifices are best kept private. Nonetheless, Ari Sytner chose to share his story with the goal of raising awareness of the opportunity to save another person’s life (and by so doing to impact that person’s family).

This book is subtitled “100 Questions I Asked Before Donating My Kidney,” although the author laughingly admits that he didn’t really ask if he could get pregnant afterward. That question’s included for women who are investigating the prospect.

Chapters address specific topics, from what prompted Rabbi Sytner to start his journey, to the screening process, to how to tell the various people in one’s life that one’s considering such a thing, and on to the surgery, recovery, and future life.

The Kidney Donor’s Journey is written in a gentle, easy-to-read style, carefully worded for clarity. It’s an approachable resource that tells one man’s story in a way that allows others to discover if they want to go further in the process. Even if they decide against donation, they’ll be better informed on the subject and can share what they’ve learned with those around them.

The book is based on the author’s experience in the US health-care system, so readers around the world will find differences in their local opportunities. Even within the US, there will be differences between states. More personal investigation would be needed anyway, for the reader who wants to go ahead with kidney donation. As the author points out, he’s not a doctor or a lawyer or other official expert. He’s just giving us the layperson’s insider view of his own story.

The back cover of the book tells us that “Ari Sytner is a serial optimist. He is a rabbi, social worker, therapist, inspirational speaker, Huffington Post contributor, blogger, CEO, organizational strategist, consultant and proud kidney donor.” For more about the author, visit asytner.com, and stop by his blog.

[Review copy provided by the author.]

New Worship Song from Matt Maher

I used to share a song every Wednesday, to go with my weekly devotionals. Worship music (and Bible reading!) are still a big part of life for me. Here’s the new song from Matt Maher, in case you haven’t heard it yet: “Your Love Defends Me.” I love how it reinforces the truth that God is the source of our security. (Download and streaming links are at mattmahermusic.com)

 

Review: Miramar Bay, by Davis Bunn

Miramar Bay, by Davis Bunn Miramar Bay, by Davis Bunn (Kensington Books, 2017)

Sometimes you need to run away to find yourself. And so we meet Connor Larkin, up-and-coming actor, seeking anonymity on the midnight bus out of Hollywood after his highly-publicized engagement event.

Connor has been to the town of Miramar Bay once before, and he thinks it’s the place he’ll find some clarity. He’s not expecting to find an ally in the local police chief, or to be brought to tears by the music drifting from a local restaurant.

Sophie Cassick, the restaurant owner, can’t let her own troubles keep her from hiring “Connor Smith” when he pleads for a job. Whatever his secrets, he’ll fit in with the rest of her loyal crew of misfits.

Miramar Bay is a heart-warming, feel-good novel, perfect for a summer read. Complex characters and meticulous details make it more than a romance. It’s also a story of friendship, loyalty, estrangement, regrets, and second chances. It’s about remembering to dream again.

Internationally-bestselling author Davis Bunn is most known for his Christian fiction. Miramar Bay is a general-market book, so don’t expect an overt faith thread. As a Christian reader, I see God’s work through the characters and circumstances and in response to one woman’s cry of “I need help,” but the characters themselves don’t fully think that through on-page.

Although lawyers only play a small part in the novel, my favourite lines both describe them:

Everything was very normal about Harold. However, Sylvie often suspected that given the right motivation, the top would spring open to his tight little box, and out would pop the evil clown. [p. 181]

Sol offered a cat’s smile, all teeth and malice. [p. 257]

For more about the author and his books, visit Davis Bunn Books. Writers and aspiring writers are strongly encouraged to check out his blog, Notes from Davis. Curious readers may find it interesting too, to peek behind the scenes at the struggles many writers face.

[Review copy from the public library.]