Monday, March 30, 2015

Review of Too Many To Jail: The Story of Iran's New Christians by Mark Bradley

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Although I often read and review fiction, I recently had the opportunity to review a nonfiction book that was pretty powerful and thought-provoking. Too Many to Jail: The Story of Iran's New Christians is an account of how Christianity has grown and expanded in Iran, despite the persecution against them.

From the book's description:




Documents the remarkable rise of the Iranian church, despite fierce persecution, as Iranians grow disillusioned with Islam
In 1979, there were fewer than 500 known Christians from a Muslim background in Iran. Today there are at least 100,000 new believers. Church leaders believe that millions can be added to the church in the next few years--such is the spiritual hunger that exists. The religious violence that accompanied the reign of President Ahmadinejad drained its perpetrators of political and religious legitimacy, and has opened the door to other faiths.
This book sets the rapid church growth in Iran in the context of the deteriorating relationship between Iranians and their national religion. There is a major focus on the Ahmadinejad years, but the author also covers the history of the church before 1979, developing the central idea that the spark may have become buried in the ashes but has never been extinguished.
Careful, proportionate, well-informed, and accurate, Too Many to Jail is a powerful reminder of the Christian revival that the headlines ignore. The stories of faith, persecution, and encouragement will inspire every reader to see anew God’s work in the world.


Mark Bradley begins by sharing statistics of the growth of house churches and the spread of Christianity in Iran since 1979. During this time, persecution of Christians in Iran has increased, but the growth of Christianity has also increased. Although the author can't give specific numbers, his information is backed up by much research referenced in many footnotes.

It was interesting history to read as the author shared what happened in Iran with religion and government through the last few decades. The reader gets a clear picture of the Iranian government's hatred of Christians in the first few chapters as he gives information about the connection between government and religion since 1979 when Ayatollah Khomeini became the supreme leader and combined the Shia religion and the Islamic state.

He continues to follow Islamic history as the country slipped into crisis when Iranians were being punished for any minor offense and the economy was suffering. In 2009 there was a presidential election held that was rigged and highly protested. As the "supreme leader" continued in office, Christians were continually targeted more and more.

Throughout this time of persecution, house churches have continued to grow and thrive in the country. And the author shares the stories of five particular churches and their founders. As we read these stories, we can understand the passion that the Christians of Iraq have for God and their desire to spread the gospel.

The book ends with detailed examples of specific Christians who have been arrested, imprisoned, tortured, or executed for the sake of Christ. The author's purpose is to help the reader to be aware of the situation and to spur us to pray for our fellow Christians in Iran.

This book was a hard one to read. The things that the Christians of Iraq have suffered are things that are difficult for me to even imagine. But I walked away from the book glad I had read it. I'm glad because I was reminded and encouraged to pray for the Christians and the spread of the gospel throughout Iran. And I was encouraged. Because when I read about the amazing faith that these believers have in the face of persecution, my own faith can't help but be strengthened.



You can find Too Many To Jail at the Kregel website here. Throughout this launch week (until April 5, 2015), you can find Too Many to Jail on Kindle for $.99.




Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are entirely my own, and I was not compensated in any other way.


Visit As We Walk Along the Road for homeschool support and encouragement.


Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Review of Who You Are by John Crolye

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Last year I had the opportunity to review a book written by John Croyle. John Croyle was an All American college football player who declined an NFL football career and went on to found the Big Oak Ranch for boys who had been abused and been in dangerous situations and then a home for girls as well. He and his wife have been a part of raising hundreds of kids through the Ranch homes. The book I reviewed last year was Raising a Princess, a book about teaching your daughter virtues to help her become a real princess.

I've recently had the opportunity to read for review Who You Are, the story of how John came to open Big Oak Ranch. Throughout the book, though, he doesn't just share his story. He wants readers to know that God has a plan for them as well. And the book isn't as much about who John is and who the kids are who have been impacted by Big Oak Ranch but about who the reader is in God' scheme of things.

From the book's description:

“Tell them who you are!” This is the immediate request from child advocate John Croyle to any one of the Big Oak kids when they are introduced to someone. It’s a declaration that who they are carries value. Value that is not defined by the circumstances that led them to be in at the Big Oak Ranch. Value that is also not defined by what you believe God can or can’t do through you.
This is a lesson that John Croyle, his family, and the team of Big Oak Ranch have learned well. Faced with one of the most important decisions of his life — whether to play professional football or to start a children’s home — John followed the Lord’s leadership. In the decades since that decision, they’ve seen his dream of helping hurting kids grow into a ministry that has shaped the lives of more than 2,000 children.
Surely we, too, would be changed to experience a ministry with this kind of legacy. This isn't a dream and a hope or the seed of a ministry. This is well scarred, deep rooted ministry that grows strong, oak tree kind of faith. It's faith-building for the kids reached through the ministry and now for those of us who can hear the story of it.
Who You Are tells this story of the life shaping, Kingdom transforming ministry that God used one man to begin. Yet, the bigger story is in who you are and what God can do to use you in the lives of others. Come along for one incredible and improbable story of how God has worked and in doing so, truly discover how He can work through you.


Throughout the book, John shares personal stories about how Big Oak Ranch was started and about the kids who have been impacted by it. But he also encourages and motivates readers throughout the book. In eleven chapters (with an Introduction and an Epilogue), John directs readers to focus on the task God gives them, trust that God will supply their needs, care for others and stand firm.

I love John's personal style of writing. It feels as if you're having a face to face conversation instead of reading a book. His writing style is simple and straightforward. Even if you aren't an avid reader, you can find yourself enjoying Who You Are and really getting something out of the message John delivers.The book isn't at all preachy. It's just an encouragement to think about the things John is writing about and what God wants to do in your life.

This is a book that you'll want to keep reading and reading because of the easy writing style and the encouraging message. It's a book that will inspire you to be what God made you to be- no matter where or who you are now.



You can find Who You Are on Amazon here:



Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed are entirely my own, and I was not compensated in any other way.


Visit As We Walk Along the Road for homeschool support and encouragement.


Review of The Boy Who Loved Rain by Gerard Kelly

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The Boy Who Loved Rain is a haunting and moving novel about the damage that secrets can bring and the chance for healing within a family.


From the book's description:

They say that what you don’t know can’t hurt you. They’re wrong.
Colom had the perfect childhood, the much-loved only child of a church pastor. Yet he wakes screaming from dreams in which his sister is drowning and he can’t save her.
Fiona turns to her husband, desperate to help their son. But David will not acknowledge that help is needed—and certainly not help from beyond the church.
Then they find the suicide pledge.
Fiona, in panic, takes Colom and flees… but when will she acknowledge that the unnamed demons Colom faces might be of her and David’s own creation?
This beautifully written and searching novel by poet Gerard Kelly explores the toxicity of secrets, the nature of healing, and the ever-present power of rain.






I have to admit that, even though I really enjoyed the read, this was a difficult novel to read because it's heavy. I don't know another word to describe it well. The subject matter- teen depression and suicide and family secrets that cause pain and hurt- is deep and sometimes painful to read.

The characters are beautifully developed, and I felt as if I got to know them well. The story was a very interesting one. There is that hint of things hidden from the very beginning, and that kept me wanting to read and read so that I could get at the truth of things.

You can find The Boy Who Loved Rain on the Kregel website here. During the week of this blog tour- March 23-29, you can purchase it for Amazon Kindle for $.99 here.



Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed are entirely my own, and I was not compensated in any other way.

Visit As We Walk Along the Road for homeschool support and encouragement.


Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Review of Dauntless by Dina L. Sleiman

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When I was younger fantasy novels were by far my favorite genre. Stories of legendary heroes and dragons and magic were the ones I loved to read. As I've grown older historical fiction has become my favorite genre- a little more realistic. I still love fantasy, however. So I greatly enjoyed this new novel from Dina L. Sleiman- Dauntless.

Dauntless combines historical fiction- set in England in the 1600s- with legend- Robin Hood, a hero who steals from the rich to give to the poor. And it features a heroine that blends history with legend well. When I first read the book's synopsis, I thought that Merry- our heroine- might actually be a Robin Hood figure in the story. This isn't so. Instead Merry, along with the group of orphan children she cares for, knows of Robin Hood and lives in the same time period as the legendary hero supposedly lived.

I loved Merry's character and the other characters in the book. There is a good balance of action and story and of character development so that I felt as if I got to know the characters well. The story was interesting and a very good balance of history and make believe. The time period is one I particularly enjoy- the Middle Ages. And although Merry is a pretty incredible heroine, she's believable.

I fully enjoyed Dauntless as a very good read. I give it 4 stars and a PG for content.

Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed are entirely my own, and I was not compensated in any other way.

Visit As We Walk Along the Road for homeschool support and encouragement.



This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
Dauntless
Bethany House Publishers (March 3, 2015)
by
Dina L. Sleiman


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

A word from the author:

Since selling my first book, I have also become an acquisitions editor for the company. I am a member of the Inkwell Inspirations blog, HEWN Marketing, ACFW, and a contributor to Christian Review of Books. I hold publishing credits in poetry and songwriting, and I was the writer and featured teacher in a nationally distributed instructional dance video for children. I have written several songs about the plight of the Islamic people, which have been produced in association with the Christian Broadcast Network. In addition, I have taught college and high school classes in writing and literature, as well as homeschool classes in the fine arts, and now enjoy teaching at writers conferences throughout the nation.

ABOUT THE BOOK

Where Legend and History Collide,
One Young Woman Will Fight for the Innocent


Born a baron's daughter, Lady Merry Ellison is now an enemy of the throne after her father's failed assassination attempt upon the king. Bold and uniquely skilled, she is willing to go to any lengths to protect the orphaned children of her former village--a group that becomes known as "The Ghosts of Farthingale Forest." Merry finds her charge more difficult as their growing notoriety brings increasing trouble their way.

Timothy Grey, ninth child of the Baron of Greyham, longs to perform some feat so legendary that he will rise from obscurity and earn a title of his own. When the Ghosts of Farthingale Forest are spotted in Wyndeshire, where he serves as assistant to the local earl, he might have found his chance. But when he comes face-to-face with the leader of the thieves, he's forced to reexamine everything he's known.

If you would like to read the first chapter of Dauntless, go HERE.





Monday, March 9, 2015

Review of Spy of Richmond by Jocelyn Green

I've read all of Jocelyn Green's Heroines Behind the Lines novels so far and was thrilled to be able to read and review the fourth in the series. I've reviewed Wedded to War, Widow of Gettysburg, , and Yankee in Atlanta. All of the books take place during The War Between the States, and they all center around real, historic events and brave women who waged their own battles on their home fronts during the war.

Spy of Richmond was just as great as the previous books. I didn't want to put it down as soon as I picked it up and begin reading.

The characters throughout all of these stories are compelling and richly developed. Although each book focuses on new characters, some of the characters from previous books will make an appearance. I love the characters that Jocelyn Green describes, and I feel as if I get to know them through reading.

The author does a good job of presenting a balanced picture of the people during this time of war. There were noble and brave people on both sides of the lines during the war, and Jocelyn Green does a good job portraying them.

Spy of Richmond- and indeed all of the books in this series- makes me want to read and read to watch the story unfold. But it also makes me want to hold on because I know I'll be sad to see it end.

I can definitely recommend this one with 5 stars. There are some pretty rough pictures painted of the deprivations of war and the inhumanity of some of those involved.

Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are entirely my own, and I was not compensated in any other way.


This week, the
Christian Fiction Blog Alliance
is introducing
Spy of Richmond
River North (March 1, 2015)
by
Jocelyn Green


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Jocelyn Green is a child of God, wife and mom living in Cedar Falls, Iowa. She is also an award-winning journalist, author, editor and blogger. Though she has written nonfiction on a variety of topics, her name is most widely recognized for her ministry to military wives: Faith Deployed. Her passion for the military family was fueled by her own experience as a military wife, and by the dozens of interviews she has conducted with members of the military for her articles and books, Faith Deployed: Daily Encouragement for Military Wives and its sequel, Faith Deployed...Again: More Daily Encouragement for Military Wives. She is also co-author of both Stories of Faith and Courage from the War in Iraq & Afghanistan and Stories of Faith and Courage from the Home Front (forthcoming, May 2012). Her Faith Deployed Web site and Facebook page continue to provide ongoing support, encouragement and resources for military wives worldwide.

ABOUT THE BOOK

Trust none. Risk all. Richmond, Virginia, 1863. Compelled to atone for the sins of her slaveholding father, Union loyalist Sophie Kent risks everything to help end the war from within the Confederate capital and abolish slavery forever. But she can't do it alone. Former slave Bella Jamison sacrifices her freedom to come to Richmond, where her Union soldier husband is imprisoned, and her twin sister still lives in bondage in Sophie's home. Though it may cost them their lives, they work with Sophie to betray Rebel authorities. Harrison Caldwell, a Northern freelance journalist who escorts Bella to Richmond, infiltrates the War Department as a clerk-but is conscripted to defend the city's fortifications.

As Sophie's spy network grows, she walks a tightrope of deception, using her father's position as newspaper editor and a suitor's position in the ordnance bureau for the advantage of the Union. One misstep could land her in prison, or worse. Suspicion hounds her until she barely even trusts herself. When her espionage endangers the people she loves, she makes a life-and-death gamble.

Will she follow her convictions even though it costs her everything-and everyone-she holds dear?

If you would like to read the first chapter of Spy of Richmond, go HERE.

Visit As We Walk Along the Road for homeschool support and encouragement.


Review of Mercy's Rain by Cindy K. Sproles

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Every once in a while, in all the light, easy to read, books that I read and review, a book comes along that is deep and thought-provoking and that stays with me long after I stop reading. Mercy's Rain was one of those reads. Although I finished it a while ago, I still find myself thinking about the characters and the story.

From the book's description:


When your life is built around a father's wrath, how can you trust in the love of Father God?
Mercy Roller knows her name is a lie: there has never been any mercy in her young life. Raised by a twisted and abusive father who called himself the Pastor, she was abandoned by the church community that should have stood together to protect her from his evil. Her mother, consumed by her own fear and hate, won't stand her ground to save Mercy either.
The Pastor has robbed Mercy of innocence and love, a husband and her child. Not a single person seems capable of standing up to the Pastor's unrestrained evil. So Mercy takes matters into her own hands.
Her heart was hardened to love long before she took on the role of judge, jury, and executioner of the Pastor. She just didn't realize the retribution she thought would save her, might turn her into the very thing she hated most.
Sent away by her angry and grieving mother, Mercy's path is unclear until she meets a young preacher headed to counsel a pregnant couple. Sure that her calling is to protect the family, Mercy is drawn into a different life on the other side of the mountain where she slowly discovers true righteousness has nothing evil about it--and that there might be room for her own stained and shattered soul to find shelter. . . and even love.
Mercy's Rain is a remarkable historical novel set in 19th century Appalachia that traces the thorny path from bitterness to forgiveness and reveals the victory and strength that comes from simple faith.

The characters is the book were so well-developed. I truly felt as if I knew Mercy. I hurt for her. She had lots of sorrow in her life. And when she released some of that, I felt joy for her. The other characters in the story were also compelling and "deep" people. The story gave them depth and developed them well.


The characters in the book have a distinct mountain dialect. Sometimes a strong dialect in a book will distract from the story for me, but in Mercy's Rain it's very well done and really does help the character development because that mountain culture defines who they are.

I cried reading this book. I smiled at times. And I thought quite a bit. Mercy's story drew me in and really made me feel for her. I walked away from the story, reluctantly, still thinking on the things I'd read about people and about God and about relationships.

I truly can give this one a 5 star rating. As far as content, there's some pretty heavy stuff here. There isn't detail and description for some. But the things Mercy has endured are sometimes difficult to read.

You can find Mercy's Rain on the Kregel website here or on Amazon.



Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed are entirely my own, and I was not compensated in any other way.

Visit As We Walk Along the Road for homeschool support and encouragement.


Saturday, March 7, 2015

Review of By Your Side: A Crisis Team Novel by Candace Calvert

This post may contain affiliate links. If you purchase through these links, you may be helping to support a voracious curriculum buying habit. Be warned. And thank you for clicking through to purchase.

I've enjoyed reading quite a few of Candace Calvert's novels. They are Christian fiction/romance reads that typically feature men and women in service jobs such as police officers, doctors, etc. She has several series, and although the books in the series can each be read as a stand alone, they are focused on the same area and feature some of the same people. By Your Side is one of the Crisis Team series, a series that focuses on the Sacramento Hope hospital in California.



From the book's description:

ER nurse Macy Wynn learned essential, gritty lessons in the California foster care system: land on your feet and trust no one. She’s finally located the fellow foster child she loves like a sister, but the girl’s in deep trouble. Macy’s determined to help, no matter what it takes. Her motto is to “make it happen” in any situation life throws at her—even when she butts heads with an idealistic cop.
Deputy Fletcher Holt believes in a higher plan, the fair outcome—and his ability to handle that by himself if necessary. Now he’s been yanked from Houston, his mother is battling cancer, and he’s attracted to a strong-willed nurse who could be the target of a brutal sniper.
When everything goes wrong, where do they put their trust?


I was looking forward to this read based on previous Candace Calvert novels, and I wasn't disappointed. The characters in the story are interesting and compelling and are well-developed. The action moves quickly, keeping me anxious to come back to the story to keep reading. There is spiritual encouragement and inspiration without any "preachy" feel. There is a sweet romance that develops. The side characters have stories going on also, which makes me want to look for future books that might tell their stories. It was just a good book all around.

My one minor complaint is that the ending felt a little rushed. I liked the way it ended, but things almost seemed to work out and come together too quickly. Or maybe it was just because I didn't want the story to end.

I give By Your Side 4 stars and a PG rating for content. You can find it on Amazon here:


Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed are entirely my own, and I was not compensated in any other way.

Visit As We Walk Along the Road for homeschool support and encouragement.