Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Are You Listening?

Are you ready to Listen?

I don't usually burn through a book in a day. I'm too busy, and I'm ADD enough to get tired of reading all day, unless it is really good.

Listen is one of those books.

This is the latest book from Rene Gutteridge, who writes both comedic and suspenseful novels. After finishing her Occupational Hazards series (hopefully not forever!) and releasing a humerous book with a co-author last year, she has turned her attention back to suspense. This is a good thing.

Marlo seems like the perfect little town. Nothing bad happens, and it is a picturesque example of what America should be. Until private conversations start ending up on an anonymous website entitled Listen to Yourself. Now people are finding out what is really said behind their backs, and it isn't pretty.

As paranoid citizens start fighting each other, Damien Underwood and his wife Kay are dealing with the disconnect they feel from their teenage kids, Jenna and Hunter. As a newspaperman, Damien believes strongly in the power of words. He may be proved right, as life in Marlo unravels from the power of the tongue to hurt people. It may get very personal for the Underwoods before it is all over.

As I thought about this book, I realized comedy and suspense are not far apart. Both rely on setting the proper mood to be able to unleash a surprise. The difference is whether the surprise causes laughter and smiles, or goosebumps and shock. Rene has a wonderful gift in setting the mood and plot in such a way to unleash either effect. This book has humor interlaced with a twisting, suspenseful storyline that kept me hooked early on.

She sets sympathetic characters up throughout town, but they aren't always clearly marked at first. One character may be disliked at first, only to turn out to be one of the "good guys" later on. The trouble with the Underwoods seems believable and drives the story. You care about them even as you see trouble coming, and you want to see how they will make it.

However, the book is more than an entertaining read. The theme of the power of words is well-crafted, and it invites anyone to take a thoughtful look at their own use of language to hurt or heal. Some books try to beat you over the head with a message - this story takes you along for the ride but leaves you pondering it afterwards. It is not preachy, but it is a valuable part of the whole message.

No book is perfect, and to me the ending was so twisty-turvy that I got a little lost at the end. There were also some consequences that seemed a little too convenient as well. Still, it was like an exciting amusement park ride with a little bumpy landing at the last.

Rene Gutteridge is one of CBA's best authors, and I encourage any fan of suspense or clever writing to check out her work. You can also find out more at her website for the book, Listen to Yourself. Also, at her blog she's doing a video blog explaining the process of writing the book, for those who have already read it - interesting!

Do yourself a favor, and Listen...

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Book Review - The Book that Transforms Nations

My friends and regular readers of this blog believe that the Bible is a special book.

If we only knew how much...

I recently finished The Book That Transforms Nations, the latest book by Loren Cunningham. He is the founder of Youth With a Mission, and if there's anyone who is qualified to write this book, it is him. He has ministered in EVERY country on Earth, as well as numerous territories that don't count as countries but are distinct areas nonetheless (how many of you have been to Pitcairn Island?).

The book has a straightforward structure. The first part of the book explains the problem, especially in the West, of our turning away as a society in general from God's Word. He then spends a majority of the book describing ways the Bible has been used to transform cultures, from whole countries like Norway and South Korea to Calvin's Geneva and yes, Pitcairn Island. Third, he describes how what we believe about God affects how we act in life, and shows how exceptions to the rule actually prove his point, with examples such as Japan and Latin America. Finally, he casts a vision on how we can get the Word out there.

We don't hear stories anymore of the way God has transformed societies. I was impressed by Hans Nielsen Hauge, the Norwegian who skied to much of Norway spreading the Word, and the difference it made in that land. We may know a little about William Carey and his ministry in India, but I didn't realize the extent of work done there.

Some of this information isn't all that new. The idea that how we believe about God affects our culture comes admittedly from Francis Schaeffer (and it isn't necessarily original with him). Loren touches on the various areas of culture that shape it, the Seven Spheres of Influence, which I have blogged about (after learning them from YWAM). There could be more practical information about how to do what the book is trying to promote: getting the Word out to people and let it transform hearts.

Still, Loren (and his sister Janice Rogers, who has written other books with him) has an easy style to read, and he excels at getting the reader excited about the proposition in the book. I finished and was immediately ready to start tossing Bibles on co-workers' desks (however, I believe I would better serve the Lord by staying employed for a longer term basis).

What really challenged me was page 198, where he talks about how easy we have it to finish the job, as previous generations had to hand copy the Bible, and travel by foot or animal to get it anywhere. Modern technology puts reaching the whole world with the gospel as a doable goal in our lifetime! His challenge is that "our willingness to obey the Lord and move out is the only real limitation" (p 198).

I encourage anyone who has a love for Jesus and His Word, and a desire to see our country and the other nations changed to check out this book.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

CFBA Tour - Love Finds You in Bridal Veil, Oregon

This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

Love Finds You in Bridal Veil, Oregon

Summerside Press (January 1, 2010)

Miralee Ferrell


In October 2007 Kregel Publications published The Other Daughter with excellent reviews. The Romantic Times Review magazine gave it Four out of Four and a half stars, with a very strong review. Two different major motion picture studios are currently considering the book as a possible family movie, and my second book in the series (Past Shadows) is on my publishers desk being reviewed for a possible contract offer now.

In February of 2009, Love Finds You in Last Chance, California was published by Summerside Press

And Finding Jeena will release in April 2010 from Kregel Publications.

Miralee Ferrell lives in Washington with Allen, her husband of more than 37 years, ans has two grown children. She serves on staff at her local church ans is actively involved in ministry to women.


Against a backdrop of thievery and murder in Bridal Veil Falls, Oregon, a historic logging community, a schoolteacher is torn between the memories of a distant love and the man who could be her future.

Sixteen-year-old Margaret Garvey had given her heart to Nathaniel Cooper the night he disappeared from town. Four years later, just as she's giving love a second chance with Andrew, a handsome logger, Nathaniel suddenly returns. He steams back into Bridal Veil on a riverboat to work at the nearby sawmill to town with a devastating secret.

While grappling with the betrayal of those she trusted most, Margaret risks her reputation and position by harboring two troubled runaways who might be involved in the murder of a local man.

When disaster strikes the town and threatens the welfare of its citizens, Margaret will be faced with the most important choice of her life.

If you would like to read the first chapter of Love Finds You in Bridal Veil, Oregon, go HERE


Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Trials into Gold

Super Bowl XLIV had a thrilling finish, a victorious underdog, and a great backstory, with the trials that the city of New Orleans and the Gulf Region have endured. This helped it to be the most watched TV program ever.

At the heart of this was New Orleans QB Drew Brees. He had his own hard-luck tale. He was drafted by the San Diego Chargers, but struggled his first few years. The Chargers grew frustrated and drafted a replacement, Philip Rivers. Just as they did this, Brees became a good quarterback. He was undersized, but his intelligence, mobility, and competitive nature helped him keep his understudy on the bench.

The last game of the 2005 season was momentous for Brees. The Chargers were out of the playoffs, but he fought hard in the game. He lost a fumble in the end zone, and rather than staying out of the fray, he dove to try and save his mistake. Instead of getting the ball, his right throwing arm was crushed under huge bodies, and he had a terrible tear in his shoulder.

The Chargers were considering what to do with him, so the injury made it easy to say goodbye. Brees had surgery, but was looking for a team to pick him up. The Dolphins sorely needed one, but they felt he was too risky.

This opened the doors for him to become a Saint.

He spoke in interviews leading up to the Super Bowl that he and his wife felt like coming to New Orleans was "a calling." The team was displaced during Katrina, and the owner thought about moving his team elsewhere, perhaps San Antonio. It was a risky place for players to go, but New Orleans took a chance on several people discarded by their prior teams.

Four years later, Drew Brees is a champion QB and MVP of the Super Bowl. It was hard to miss his teary eyed celebration with his young son after the game. I hadn't heard whether Brees was a Christian or not prior to the game, but he started using the platform he won to give glory to God. As he says in the interview before (which was before the Super Bowl, but I hadn't seen it), what was the worst thing that could happen to him actually turned out to be a huge blessing, considering it brought him to New Orleans. He is more than just an athelete. He and his wife are spearheading charity work to help rebuild a city that still needs lots to recover.

This made me think of a trial of my own. When I first started blogging in 2006, a couple of months into it I lost my job for fluke circumstances. The funny thing was, God set everything up. It was a hard time to be unemployed even though my bosses had said they liked me and couldn't fault my work. I knew God would see things through, as He promises in the Word, but it wasn't easy.

I don't have a Super Bowl ring (and never will, unless I buy the Cowboys from Jerry Jones), but looking back, I am in a much better situation. I have a good, secure job with a great schedule for my family. Since then I have a new house and a wonderful daughter. I will soon have some financial flexibility, and I hope to be able to do some things for the Lord through this.

Trials will come. People who claim Bible promises don't usually turn to the passage that talks about there *will* be suffering, but it happens to the best of God's people. Hopefully, stories like mine and like Drew Brees can be an encouragement that God truly does work all things good to those He loves and has called according to His purpose.
Check out the interview with Drew Brees below for more insight. He's a cool guy, and one of my new favorite NFL players.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

CFBA Tour - Harvest Moon

This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
Hunter's Moon
Bethany House (February 1, 2010)
Don Hoesel

Jason says: I'm reading this book. It is much slower paced than his first novel, so I didn't have time to finish. I'm pushing through and hope to have a fuller review later. Until then, check this out:

Don Hoesel was born and raised in Buffalo, NY but calls Spring Hill, TN home. He works as a Communications Department supervisor for a Medicare carrier in Nashville, TN. He has a BA in Mass Communication from Taylor University and has published short fiction in Relief Journal.

Don and hopes to one day sell enough books to just say that he's a writer. You can help with that by buying whatever his newest novel happens to be.

He lives in Spring Hill with his wife and two children.


Every family has secrets. Few will go as far as the Baxters to keep them. Bestselling novelist CJ Baxter has made a career out of writing hard-hitting stories ripped from his own life. Still there's one story from his past he's never told. One secret that's remained buried for decades. Now, seventeen years after swearing he'd never return, CJ is headed back to Adelia, NY. His life in Tennessee has fallen to pieces, his grandfather is dying, and CJ can no longer run from the past. With Graham Baxter, CJ's brother, running for Senate, a black sheep digging up old family secrets is the last thing the family and campaign can afford. CJ soon discovers that blood may be thicker than water, but it's no match for power and money. There are wounds even time cannot heal.

If you would like to read the first chapter of Hunter's Moon, go HERE

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

CFBA Tour - Beguiled

My wife was "Beguiled," will you be?

In the shadows of Charleston, someone is watching her...

Rylee Monroe, a dogwalker in Charleston's wealthiest neighborhood, never feared the streets at night. But now a thief is terrorizing the area and worse, someone seems to be targeting her.

Reporter Logan Woods is covering the break-ins with the hope of publishing them as a true-crime book. The more he digs, the more he realizes this beguiling dogwalker seems to be at the center of everything.

As danger draws ever closer, Logan must choose: Chase the girl, the story, or plunge into the shadows after the villain who threatens everything?

I have Deeanne Gist and J. Mark Bertrand to thank for taking my wife away for a day. I "met" both of these authors when the faith*in*fiction blog and forums were active. Deeanne was the first acquistion from that eclectic group, and Mark was the philosophical heart.

When Deeanne's first books came out, I bought them for my wife (I've actually ALWAYS wanted to read them too, but I forget to grab them in my large stack of to-be-read books). She became an instant fan. When I saw that she teamed up with Mr. Bertrand, I knew I couldn't resist.

I wondered how my wife would like this blending of the styles (since Mark fancies crime/mystery novels).

She loved it.

She finished it in one day. I have to get up quite early to get to work, but she wouldn't come to be with me ("I only have 30 pages left!"). And before I could get my hands on it, she lent it out to a friend.

Thus, I don't have my own opinions on the book yet, but she shared her thoughts. She loved the characterization, feeling that she really knew the characters in the pages. The suspense really drove her to stay up late and finish, as the twists and turns had her hooked. She especially enjoyed the hook at the end. Her final words to Deeanne and Mark: write another one!

Deeanne Gist, the bestselling author of A Bride Most Begrudging and The Measure of a Lady, has a background in education and journalism. Her credits include People magazine, Parents, and Parenting. With a line of parenting products called "I Did It!® Productions" and a degree from Texas A&M, she continues her writing and speaking. She and her family live in Houston, Texas.

J. Mark Bertrand has an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Houston. After one hurricane too many, he left Houston and relocated with his wife Laurie to the plains of South Dakota.

If you'd like to read the first chapter of Beguiled, go HERE