Saturday, January 31, 2009

Faith 'n Fiction Saturday


My Friend Amy, who brought us Book Blogger Appreciation Week has a new carnival in the works, the Faith 'n Fiction Saturday.

Each week she will post a blogging prompt, which participating bloggers will answer on their own blogs. Then they head back to the original post and sign Mister Linky! This way we can all come to know each other more closely.

Today's Question:
You have a good friend who is a devoted Christian and voracious reader. He or she, however, tried to read a Christian fiction book in the past and found it to be too preachy and unrealistic. Your friend wants to try it again and has asked you for a recommendation. Their favorite genre of book is what is considered literary fiction What book would you recommend to them?

You also have a friend who is not a Christian but wants to read fiction that is considered clean without being too Christian. They have asked you if there are Christian fiction books that might meet their reading needs. They are interested in romance and novels. What book would you recommend to them?

For question A) I would have to recommend Angela Hunt's Fairlawn series (Doesn't She Look Natural?, She Always Wore Read and She's in a Better Place). First off the setting is totally unique - a funeral parlor. Second, the story is NOT preachy at all. Third, there is a the added touch of mystery in the story. It's a realistic book but not one where the reader feels like they are constantly preached at. Hunt's style of writing grabs the reader in and really makes them think. Hopefully after reading this series, the reader would want to go back and read all her other books as well. Another one of her books I would highly recommend would be Uncharted. Now that is a book that will REALLY make you think and if you are a Lost fan too, you'd enjoy it as well.

For question B) I would have to agree with Amy and go with Julie Lessman's Daughter of Boston series. They are full of romance, too much romance for the "safe" folk who think that it's too racy for Christian fiction! (This always makes me want to shake my head whenever I read reviews that say this) Some other author choices who write in the same style are Deeanne Gist and Jamie Carie. The faith element is very much a part of the story but the focus is on romance. What I like about these authors is that they celebrate the feelings that love and romance bring to a human and even a Christian. Too many times, Christian fiction tends to have characters who try to deny their feelings even to their own spouse. I really hate reading the stories where the husband refuses to "make love" to their wife b/c they think that they are committing a great sin. Or when people kiss and then break away and mumur "Oh I shouldn't have done that." It's not realistic. These books are the way realistic Christians can embrace romance and still be true to their faith.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Book Review: "My Sister Dilly" by Maureen Lang


This book will change the way you view life

While Hannah was living out her dream on the California coast and away from her small town home life, her sister Dilly was serving time in prison. While Hannah ran away from her past, Dilly had to stay and remember day after day of the crime she had committed. When Dilly is set free from prison, Hannah returns to take care of her sister and intends make up for not being there all those years. However Dilly has changed and is intent on righting her wrongs, while Hannah doesn't agree with what she's doing. Will Dilly stand up to her sister or will Hannah be forced to give in?

While I was reading this story, all I could keep thinking in my head was "Wow." This is a story you would normally not think of when you think about Christian fiction. This is not your happily ever after, everyone's all lovey-dovey, everything always works out Christian fiction. This book is ripped from the headlines, make yourself really think, in your face fiction. Usually when you hear in the news about mothers who intentionally hurt their kids, your first thought it to condemn the mother. You cannot believe that anyone would want to purposely murder their children and that they must insane to do it. This novel shows the other side to that story and what could possibly make a mother even consider doing that to her child. As a reader, it took me by surprise that I actually felt sympathy towards a mother who did this and anger over the grandmother who wants to protect her grandchild. The story really blew me away by how much I invested into the characters. Dilly's sister, Hannah also touched my heart as well. She wants to protect her sister and is willing to sacrifice her own life to do so. However her reasons behind that are not as "Good Samaritan" as they sound. It's a wonderful character study between the two of them.

My only qualm with the book was that it takes a while before the reader is finally told what exactly happened to put Dilly in jail. It's merely hinted at for about 3/4 of the book. It wasn't a problem but it made me feel like I had missed it somewhere because it kept being subtly mentioned at through most of the book. Otherwise, you will be enthralled by this book. The book is perfect is you're in the mood for something that is not fluffy and really makes you think afterwards. It's a story that stays with you and has you looking twice at everything you've always believed in. One of the most thought-provoking reads of the year. HIGHLY recommended.


My Sister Dilly by Maureen Lang is published by Tyndale (2008)

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Gatekeepers by Robert Liparulo


This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

Gatekeepers
(Dreamhouse Kings #3)

Thomas Nelson (January 6, 2009)

by

Robert Liparulo



ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Robert is an award-winning author of over a thousand published articles and short stories. He is currently a contributing editor for New Man magazine. His work has appeared in Reader's Digest, Travel & Leisure, Modern Bride, Consumers Digest, Chief Executive, and The Arizona Daily Star, among other publications. In addition, he previously worked as a celebrity journalist, interviewing Stephen King, Tom Clancy, Charlton Heston, and others for magazines such as Rocky Road, Preview, and L.A. Weekly.

Robert is an avid scuba diver, swimmer, reader, traveler, and a law enforcement and military enthusiast. He lives in Colorado with his wife and four children.

Robert's first novel painted a scenario so frighteningly real that six Hollywood producers were bidding on movie rights before the novel was completed. His acclaimed debut novel, Comes A Horseman, is being made into a major motion picture by producer Mace Neufeld and his short story "Kill Zone" was featured in the anthology Thriller, edited by James Patterson.

Bob has sold the film rights to his second book, GERM. And he is writing the screenplay for a yet-to-be-written political thriller, which sold to Phoenix Pictures, for Andrew Davis (The Fugitive, The Guardian) to direct!

And his third book Deadfall. debuted to rave reviews!


ABOUT THE BOOK

Bob Liparulo wants to give away a signed 3 book set of the DreamHouse Kings books! Send an email to Bob [at] Liparulo [dot] com and put "CFBA" in the subject line. He will pick a winner next week!!!!

In the third novel of this young adult series, the mystery deepens in a house that is more than meets the eye.

The Kings have been in the creepy old place, their new home, for only a few days, but they've experienced enough terror to last a lifetime. And the mystery is growing even more baffling. Shadowy and shifting, the big house conceals doors into other worlds that blur the line between memories and dreams-and the slightest misstep can change history forever.

At least, that's if they believe the trembling old man who shows up claiming to know them. "There's a reason you're in the house," he tells them. "As gatekeepers, we must make sure only those events that are supposed to happen get through to the future."

The problem is that horrors beyond description wait on the other side of those gates. As if that weren't enough, the Kings are also menaced by sinister forces on this side-like the dark, ancient stranger Taksidian, who wants them out now.

It's hard to believe that things could have gotten worse for the King family-but they have. Dad's in handcuffs, the school bully has just found the secret portal that leads from the high school to the house, and Xander is sure he's found Mom, but they can't get back to her. Then Jesse arrives, and he seems to be a virtual Obi Wan of knowledge about the place. But is he the key they need to unlock the secrets, or just a crazy old man?

Dangers are increasing from within and without when Xander makes a startling discovery that explains why they haven't found any rooms that lead to the future. Alongside the threats, though, they're also starting to find some surprising allies.
All they have to do is get organized, get psyched, and get Mom. But that isn't nearly as easy as it sounds.

Xander, David, and Toria must venture beyond the gates to save their missing mother-and discover how truly high the stakes have become.

If you would like to read the first chapter of Gatekeepers
(Dreamhouse Kings #3)
, go HERE

What they're saying:

Review
"If you like creepy and mysterious, this is the house for you! Every room opens a door to magic, true horror, and amazing surprises. I loved wandering around in these books. With a house of so many great, haunting stories, why would you ever want to go outside?" --R.L. Stine (Goosebumps)

Review
"A powerhouse storyteller delivers his most fantastic ride yet!"
-Ted Dekker, bestselling author of Kiss, Chosen and Infidel

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The Someday List by Stacy Hawkins Adams

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!


Today's Wild Card author is:


and the book:


The Someday List

Revell (January 1, 2009)


The Someday List Blog Tour Giveaway
Tell Us One Item on Your Someday List. Leave your answer in the comment section. Participants will be entered into a drawing for The Someday List Blog Giveaway. View the prize package below:

* $50 American Express Gift Card

*Autographed Copies of all of Stacy’s books: Speak to My Heart, Nothing But the Right Thing, and Watercolored Pearls, and the anthologies The Midnight Clear and This Far By Faith.

*20% Discount Coupon from Tywebbin Creations. (May apply to one service)

Join Us for an Hour Long Chat with Stacy on January 30, 2009. We will announce the GRAND PRIZE WINNER of the THE SOMEDAY LIST BLOG TOUR GIVEAWAY during the call.

Phone #: 1-518-825-1400 / Access Code: 15642 / Time: 8:00 pm EST

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


Stacy Hawkins Adams is a nationally-published, award-winning author and speaker. Her contemporary women’s fiction novels are filled with social themes and spiritual quests that take readers on journeys into their own souls.

She holds a degree in journalism and served as a newspaper reporter for more than a decade before turning her full attention to penning books, speaking professionally and writing freelance articles.

She is currently writing her sixth novel and her first nonfiction book, an inspirational title that will encourage women in their faith.

Stacy lives in a suburb of Richmond, Virginia with her husband and two young children.


Visit the author's website.



AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


Prologue

Rachelle fumbled with the bouquet of yellow roses and locked eyes with him. Her flowers sagged from thirst.

The simple gold band she clutched stuck to her sweaty palm.

Instead of a flowing white gown, she wore the black pencil skirt and short-sleeved white silk blouse that, until today, had served as her choral ensemble uniform.

Her groom was dressed in his standard singing attire too—white collared shirt, black tie, and black slacks. He had removed the diamond earring from his left earlobe, his goatee was freshly cut, and as far as she was concerned, he had never looked finer.

Between the two of them, the worldly goods they possessed amounted to less than what Rev. Prescott likely paid to have his preaching robe cleaned.

And yet, she knew this was right. The right time, the right place, and the right man, even if she had to marry him in secret.

One day they would look back on this elopement with tenderness and pride, telling their children about their union in an empty church sanctuary, not far from the university they would graduate from in six months.

He smiled at her and arched an eyebrow, questioning the delay in her response.

The minister repeated himself.

“Rachelle Marie Mitchell, do you take this man to be your lawfully wedded husband?”

She smiled. Her beloved didn’t have to worry about her having second thoughts—not when she felt this way.

“I do, Reverend Prescott,” she said. “I do.”









1



Rachelle Mitchell Covington felt both giddy and guilty.

In twenty-four hours she would be completely alone and she couldn’t wait.

No worries about temporary empty-nest syndrome—she was happy to let her parents deal with two preadolescent know-it-alls for half of the summer. And no need to feign an interest in her husband’s wants, work, or even his world.

For the first time in their eleven-year marriage, she and Gabe would be away from each other for more than a week.

When he informed her that he had agreed to speak at a medical conference the week before he left for a medical mission trip, she knew he expected her to complain. Rachelle had frowned for his benefit, but also bit her lip to keep from cheering.

Though it was already steamy outside this morning, the temperature inside Houston’s Intercontinental Airport left her longing for her cashmere coat. Rachelle shivered and smiled when Tate and Taryn, looking like they had stepped off the pages of a Children’s Wear Digest catalog, turned to wave one last time before passing through the security gate and approaching a waiting airline employee.

The young woman in the crisp navy and white uniform would escort them to their direct flight to Philadelphia.

The fifth and third graders had been trying to whine their way out of their annual summer visit with Rachelle’s parents for two days, because they would miss their friends, feared boredom, and believed Gram would have way too many rules. Rachelle had reminded them again this morning that, despite those perceived hardships, they had no problem enjoying the regular outings, video games, and other treats they enjoyed during their stay.

When Tate and Taryn disappeared around a bend that led to Terminal A, Gabe turned toward Rachelle and motioned with his head that he was ready to go. He and Rachelle walked briskly toward the parking deck without touching or talking.

Gabe walked a stride or two ahead of her, as if he were on a mission. He tempered his gait as they neared his SUV, and he unlocked the doors with his key chain device.

“I’m not going into the office this morning since I’ll be flying out early tomorrow,” he said without looking toward Rachelle.

“Let’s grab breakfast at Olivette.”

Rachelle scrambled for an excuse, but none presented itself.

She hadn’t mentioned that she soon would be leaving too, for a weekend trip to the West Coast. It didn’t matter that he didn’t know. He wasn’t going to be home anyway.

“That’s fine,” she finally said about breakfast, although he had already steered his Mercedes in the direction of the hotel restaurant.

They rode in silence during the half-hour drive and didn’t speak until the waitress asked for their order.

Rachelle sighed and responded by rote. “He’ll have smoked salmon and a bagel with a side of fresh fruit.”

Gabe nodded and looked up at the waitress. “She got it right.”

“Salmon and bagel with a side of fruit,” the waitress repeated, lodging the order in her memory.

Rachelle leveled her eyes at Gabe. “Order for me.”

He peered at her over the rim of his glasses. “How would I know what to order for you?”

Rachelle didn’t feel like playing along with his public politeness today. She sat back and folded her arms.

“Try.”

The waitress shifted from one foot to the other and turned her gaze to a nearby bank of potted plants.

Gabe’s nostrils flared and he clenched his teeth. “Just order something already.”

“If you can’t do it, I guess I’m not hungry,” Rachelle said.

Gabe opened the leather-encased menu and glared at the offerings.

Seconds later, he pushed it into the waitress’s face. Startled, she grabbed it before it landed on the Oriental rug beneath the table.

“Bring her an omelet with ham, mushrooms, and cheddar cheese.”

The waitress nodded and left quickly, her reddish-brown ponytail swaying with each step. Rachelle knew the young lady had to be wondering how a couple could fight over a breakfast order.

If she had asked, Rachelle would have assured her this skirmish was overdue.

Since she had received Jillian’s unsettling invitation three weeks ago, Rachelle’s tolerance for just about everything had plummeted.

With the kids away for the next month, she didn’t have to contain herself. Gabe should be thankful he was leaving for a business trip tomorrow.

He laid his linen napkin across his lap and stared at her.

Rachelle challenged him with her eyes. She wanted him to care enough to question her, to probe why she was being defiant.

But just as she knew what to order for his meal, she knew he wouldn’t take the bait. He was his usual, detached self—enveloped in skin that was a smooth, savory brown and as self-absorbed as a two-year-old whose favorite words were “no” and “mine.”

In that moment, something welled up inside of her. She looked past Gabe’s glasses, past the perfect white teeth, past the pool of nothingness in his eyes. She wanted to see into his soul. She wanted to know that he had an “I would die for you” kind of love inside of him. For her.

Even if they had been together for what seemed like forever. Even if she didn’t know how she really felt about him. If one of them could summon the emotion, maybe that would make all the difference.

He was leaving tomorrow for New York and would return home for one day before traveling to Uganda. In twenty-four hours, she’d have the entire house to herself. But right now, she realized, she needed to leave to save herself.

Right now, what mattered more than being a good wife was being good to herself. Hearing from Jillian for the first time in a long time was nudging her to stop procrastinating.

Rachelle took a sip of her coffee and rose from her seat. “Stay and enjoy your breakfast. Call a taxi when you’re done. I may or may not be at home by then.”

“What—”

Before he could protest, Rachelle raised her hand to stop him.

Her voice trembled when she addressed him in a whisper.

“Gabe, I’m tired of playing like the happy couple. Our life is strangling me. I want a real marriage and this isn’t it . . . And by the way, I’ve always hated cheddar cheese.”

She grabbed her purse from the back of her chair and strode toward the door, heart pounding as if it would burst through her sleeveless tangerine top.

Had she really done that? Did she just walk away from her well-to-do, handsome husband and leave him stranded in a restaurant?

What would her parents say? Their friends? For the first time that she could recall, those questions wouldn’t determine her actions.

Rachelle slowed her pace when she reached the restaurant’s entrance and nodded farewell to the hostess. She strode through the lobby of the Houstonian Hotel and thanked the bellhop who held open the door for her. While the valet retrieved Gabe’s Mercedes truck, she stood at his booth, tapping her foot and looking over her shoulder.

In the minutes since she had left the table, Gabe hadn’t pursued her. Despite the fact that she had fueled this drama, she was hurt.

She breathed in the humid summer air and exhaled slowly, trying to keep her composure.

For once, she wished she were sweaty enough to mask the moisture on her face. The last thing she wanted to admit was that once again, she had allowed him to make her cry.





©Stacy Hawkins Adams, The Someday List: A Novel, Revell Books, a division of Baker Publishing Group, © 2009. Used by permission

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Christian Writers' Market Guide 2009 by Sally Stuart

The Resource Guide to Getting Published

For 24 years running, the Christian Writers’ Market Guide has remained the most comprehensive, complete, essential, and highly-recommended resource for beginning and veteran Christian writers, agents, editors, publishers, publicists, and those teaching writing classes.

This year’s Guide is even handier with a CD-Rom included that features the full text of the book for easy searches of topics, publishers, and markets, as well as 100 pages of exclusive content including indexes and writing resource listings.

This is the resource you need to get noticed—and published.

Completely updated and revised to feature the latest on…

  • more than 1,200 markets for the written word
  • 416 book publishers (32 new)
  • 654 periodicals (52 new)
  • 96 literary agents
  • 100 new listings in Resources for Writers
  • 226 poetry markets
  • 316 photography markets
  • 25 African-American markets
  • and 166 contests (29 new)
This perennial guide contains a variety of indexes–listed by topic, alphabetical listing of publishing houses and agents, and more–to more than 1,200 markets. Those markets include greeting cards and specialty writing, e-book and traditional book publishing (32 new listings), and periodicals (52 new). Also listed are 96 literary agents, more than 100 new writing resource listings, and 166 contests (29 new).

Readers will get the same trusted content, though, as in years past. In fact, the latest information on more than 100 editors and publishers, conferences, writers’ groups, and more are not only listed and indexed in the book, but this year, readers will get a code in the book and on the CD-Rom for accessing more updates through the year on author Sally Stuart’s web site, www.stuartmarket.com.

Sally E. Stuart is the author of thirty-six books and has sold more than one thousand articles and columns. Her long-term involvement with the Christian Writers’ Market Guide as well as her marketing columns for the Christian Communicator, Oregon Christian Writers, and The Advanced Christian Writer, make her a sought-after speaker and a leading authority on Christian markets and the business of writing. Stuart is the mother of three and grandmother of eight and lives near Portland, Oregon.

Monday, January 26, 2009

The Red Siren by M.L. Tyndall


This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

The Red Siren

Barbour Publishing, Inc (January 2009)

by

M.L. Tyndall



ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

M. L. (MARYLU) TYNDALL grew up on the beaches of South Florida loving the sea and the warm tropics. But despite the beauty around her, she always felt an ache in her soul--a longing for something more.

After college, she married and moved to California where she had two children and settled into a job at a local computer company. Although she had done everything the world expected, she was still miserable. She hated her job and her marriage was falling apart.

Still searching for purpose, adventure and true love, she spent her late twenties and early thirties doing all the things the world told her would make her happy, and after years, her children suffered, her second marriage suffered, and she was still miserable.

One day, she picked up her old Bible, dusted it off, and began to read. Somewhere in the middle, God opened her hardened heart to see that He was real, that He still loved her, and that He had a purpose for her life, if she'd only give her heart to Him completely.

Her current releases in the Legacy of The Kings Pirates series include:The Restitution, The Reliance, and The Redemption and The Falcon And The Sparrow

ABOUT THE BOOK

Lady Faith Westcott has turned her back on God and on man. Having witnessed the hypocrisy in the Church of England, her older sister's abuse at the hand of her husband, and her own mother's untimely
death in childbirth, Faith has determined never to marry and to gain enough wealth so she and her two sisters will never have to depend on man or God again.

To that end, though a lady by day, she becomes a pirate by night and begins her sordid career off Portsmouth when she attacks and plunders a merchant ship commanded by the young Dajon Waite. Humiliated at being defeated by a pirate and a woman no less, Dajon returns home without cargo and ship, and his father expels him from the family merchant business.

After a brief sojourn into debased society, Dajon rejoins the Royal Navy, where he finds comfort in the strict rules and redemption through his service to others. Three years later, he is sent to the frontier outpost of Charles Town, South Carolina to deal with the pirate problem. There, he connects with his mentor and old friend, Admiral Westcott, who has just arrived with his three daughters.

Much to Dajon's utter dismay, Admiral Westcott, who is being called away to Spain, asks Dajon to be temporary guardian of his three lovely daughters. One of the ladies seems familiar to him, a striking redhead who immediately sends his heart thumping.

Faith recognizes Captain Waite as the buffoon whose ship she plundered off Portsmouth. Yet, he appears no longer the fool, but instead a tall, handsome and commanding naval officer. Despite her immediate attraction to him, she labels him the enemy, but sparks are guaranteed to fly during the next few months when independent, headstrong and rebellious Faith falls in love with God-fearing honorable, rule-following Dajon-especially when Faith continues her pirating off the Carolina coast while her father is away.

Will Dajon catch her? And what will this man of honor and duty do when he does?


If you would like to read the first chapter of The Red Siren, go HERE

Happy Chinese New Year!

I usually forget to post on here about this but since I am half Chinese...




Enjoy a traditional Chinese Lion Dance!

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Book Review : "The A-List: Hollywood Royalty" by Zoey Dean


*Although the books I review on my blog are almost always Christian fiction, there will be a few spotlighted regular fiction titles I will review from time to time.*

Sam Sharpe, Cammie Sheppard and Anna Percy were the most glamorous faces of Young Hollywood. But times change, people move on, and Hollywood is fickle. Yesterday's star is today's extra, and it's a whole new year at Beverly Hills High--and there's a fresh cast of A-Listers ready to become the toast of Tinseltown.

A-List: Hollywood Royalty is the newest guilty pleasure in the witty and risqué series that takes readers behind the scenes of the Hollywood glitterati. The A-List and its New York Times bestselling sequels are full of unforgettable stories about the fast times of Beverly Hills' most beautiful and glamorous people.

Welcome to the new generation of A-List class.


This is another book that continues that latest trend in YA fiction these days. Take a popular series, write 10-12 books in that series, then end it. Begin again in the same setting with a new set of characters that have absolutely nothing to do with the old ones but keep the series title the same. If it sounds confusing, it's really not. This series could be compared to what the new version of 90210 is like. It even takes place in the same high school.

I thought it was really interesting to learn about the life of young Hollywood. Amelie's story is my favorite. She wants to progress to older roles but she still has the young fans that she has to cater too. It's very reminiscent of someone like Hilary Duff or Miley Cyrus. It'll be interesting to see whether she can successfully move away from the Fairy Princess act and change into to a teen star. Myla's life story is interesting too, as her parents are an obvious play at Brangelina with their adopted brood. I do like it that the story features a minority as a main characters being that the setting is California and not everyone is Caucasian there. The other characters are interesting but I felt like they were rather one dimensional. First impressions of Ash were not very impressive as he seems too emotional and dramatic for a 16 year old guy. Hopefully in the next few books they'll evolve into more multi dimensional characters.

I was rather disappointed that there was absolutely no reference at all to the cast of the original series. I know this is a reboot spinoff but it would have been nice for someone to mention Anna or Cammie or maybe even have Sam have a walk by cameo. The thing that really bugged me the most though was the way the book was written. POVs would switch not only in the middle of chapter but in the middle of a paragraph. This would get very confusing when you go from Ash's thoughts to Mayla's within sentences of each other. It was worse when the POVs of two female characters would switch in a paragraph. It might be a stylish technique but it's a little sloppy because of the confusion. I'm fine with the switching between chapters if there was a little divider between the train of thoughts. However switching in a paragraph needs to be taken out completely.

Fans of the original series will probably enjoy this books. There's no sex in this story but there is some cursing and underage drinking. If you've ever wanted to know what it's like to be young, rich and famous in the Hollywood industry, this is the book for you.

The A-List Hollywood Royalty by Zoe Dean is published by Poppy (2009)

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Faith 'n Fiction Saturday


My Friend Amy, who brought us Book Blogger Appreciation Week has a new carnival in the works, the Faith 'n Fiction Saturday.

Each week she will post a blogging prompt, which participating bloggers will answer on their own blogs. Then they head back to the original post and sign Mister Linky! This way we can all come to know each other more closely.

One thing we share in common is a love of books. I know there are participants of Faith 'n Fiction Saturdays that read over 200 books a year!
But while we may read a lot of books, only a few books in our lifetimes are special enough that we would never part with them, always recommend them, and maybe even reread them.

So...what fiction books with faith elements are on your keeper shelf? Please keep your answers to no more than 5 books!

Oh please....this is like asking someone how many people are in the world? Pretty much every book I get is a keeper. Unless I get a duplicate or a book/author I don't like or read, I keep it. This is why my collection is currently at almost 1900 books :) I can't bear to give away my books. My fiance has already promised to build me a library when we move into our house next time.

Anywho for my 5 books to spotlight on, I'll be like Amy and consider series as 1 book

1. The House of Winslow series by Gilbert Morris - There are 40 books in this series and I have 39 of them. I have spent YEARS trying to collect all these, I've been reading them since I was 10. I just need no. 31 The Shining Badge, so if anyone has that one PLEASE I need it!!!!

2. My entire Janette Oke book collection. So I'm really fudging on even the series rule but these are definitely keepers. Why? Well, because I own EVERY adult fiction book that she's written. AND she was the first Christian fiction adult book I ever read at the tender age of 8.

3. The Chronicles of Narnia series by CS Lewis. Yeah that's a given. A must in everyone's collection. If you've given these books away, I'm sorry, but SHAME ON YOU!!

4. The Glenbrooke series by Robin Jones Gunn. Simply one of the most refreshing contemporary women's series I've ever read. I could include my entire RJG collection but I'm spotlighting this one.

5. The SAHM series by Meredith Efken. One of the best chick lit books (Christian and general) ever. The format is written in email/newsletter group so it reads extremely fast, the characters are likabe and you totally relate to them. I finished both these books in half a day, and they're over 300 pages long! And the best news, there's a new one coming out this year!

So these are just a few in my collection. But seriously I have almost 1900 books. I'm not giving these guys away.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Book Review: "Beach Dreams" by Trish Perry

Hot British Guy + Beach Vacation = Happy

Tiffany has recently lost her mother to cancer. She decides that she and her father need to get away, to relax and cope together. A beach vacation out in San Diego seems to be just the thing to help them out. Meanwhile Jeremy's girlfriend Eve has decided she's going to be spending her vacation out at the beach as well. He decides to go visit her and finds out that due to a mix up, Eve and Tiffany are sharing the beach house. What ends up happening after that is a tale of comedy, romance, mixed in with a little surf and sand.

Seeing as how it's winter and 20 degrees outside right now, I wish that I could escape inside the setting of this book. A week at a beach house by the ocean would be a relaxing vacation right now. And that is what reading this book was like. I could picture myself walking on the sand, listening to the waves, sitting out on the deck, watching the sunset, eating fresh seafood. Trish Perry paints a marvelous picture that is a surefire armchair traveler. I have not read the first two books in the original Beach House series by Sally John but from what I can tell it wasn't a hindrance to my reading. I have however read the first two books by Trish Perry that share the same characters. I would have to say out of the three books featuring these characters, this one is my favorite. Jeremy has been the character who's story I've been waiting to read about. It's the British accent and the fact that I kept picturing Jude Law throughout the book. Hot British guy at a beach? I'm so there! Who would have thought I'd be rooting for Tiffany after her appearances in the other two books? She has changed a lot and has become more down to earth, less snotty and a real genuine Christian. She's still learning about her new faith for it's understandable and realistic when her old tendencies pop up every now and then. And wow, I wanted to smack Jeremy's girlfriend, Eve. I did not like her character at all, and I wouldn't have blamed Tiffany at all for going back to her old ways whenever Eve would pop up. I would have to say she's one of the most irritating and vicious characters I've read in a while. The story is great as it flip flops between Jeremy and Tiffany's POVs. I really like the chemistry between them as well as their interactions with the other characters. Overall this book was really fun to read. It's a great way to escape the doldrums of your own life. Just sit back and relax with a fruity drink and pretend you're at the beach enjoying this book. I'll be looking forward to the next one!

Beach Dreams by Trish Perry is published by Harvest House (2008)

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Book Review: "Healing Waters" by Nancy Rue and Steven Arterburn

Do You Really Practice What You Preach?

Lucia Coffey does not like herself. She's overweight, has a husband who's overcome a drug addiction and she's the sister of a famous televangelist who believes that belief in the healing power of God will solve everything. She's on task though to change her life to better herself. However that plan comes to a halt when a fiery accident badly injures her sister Sophia, and Lucia steps in to take care of her full time. Now is the time when Sophia is put to the test of her faith and the results are not what she had expected. Lucia is torn between being true to herself and helping out her sister. Enter psychologist Sullivan Crisp who arrives to help Lucia find out who she truly is and how she needs to reshape and heal her life.

Like the first book in the Sullivan Crisp series, reading this book was not like reading your normal Christian fiction book. If you're expecting safe, happy endings, everyone gets along in your fiction, keep moving. From the get go, this book has unhappy people who are frustrated with life and question their faith in God. Lucia is a character that you instantly feel sympathetic towards. As the story progresses and she tells her past to Sullivan, the reader will react the same way he does. It was heartbreaking to read about what type of a life she had to live due to her sister. Thus, there were times throughout the book when I felt like Sophia got what she deserved. I did not like her character at all. The way that she treated people was just uncalled for. Her faith did seem very fair-weathered and it was interesting to see her finally being tested to practice what she preached.

That whole storyline is something you don't normally see in Christian fiction. It's edgy because you wouldn't think to see Christians question the faith of those who believe in the power of healing. We also learn more about Sullivan's family throughout the story, as to what really happened to his wife. I will admit that sometimes these parts were a little show and interrupted the flow of the main story. However I am interested to know if he will ever confront the psychiatrist who gave his wife the faulty advice. That should make for a very interesting meeting. His insight throughout the whole story was a great way to see the plot from a different point of view. Like the first book, there is also a mystery storyline that runs throughout the book. It is very well played out and adds to the complexity of the story.

Overall I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It is not everyday that a Christian book questions the faith of a Christian in such a frank matter. I totally loved it and I am eagerly waiting the release of the next book in the series.


Healing Waters by Nancy Rue and Stephen Arterburn is published by Thomas Nelson (2008)

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Book Review: "The Centurion's Wife" by Davis Bunn and Janette Oke


This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

The Centurion's Wife

Bethany House Publishers (January 1, 2009)

by

Davis Bunn and Janette Oke



ABOUT THE AUTHORS:
Davis Bunn is an internationally acclaimed author who has sold more than six million books in fifteen languages. His audiences span reading genres from high drama and action thrillers to heartwarming relationship stories, in both contemporary and historical settings.

Honored with three Christy Awards for excellence in historical and suspense fiction, his bestsellers include My Soul To Keep, and Full Circle. A sought-after lecturer in the art of writing, Bunn was named Novelist in Residence at Regent's Park College, Oxford University.

He and his wife, Isabella, make their home in Florida for some of each year, and spend the rest near Oxford, England, where they each teach and write.


Her first novel, a prairie love story titled Love Comes Softly, was published by Bethany House in 1979. This book was followed by more than 75 others.

After Love Comes Softly was published, Oke found her readers asking for more. That book led to a series of eight others in her Love Comes Softly series. She has written multiple fiction series, including The Canadian West, Seasons of the Heart and Women of the West. Her most recent releases include a beautiful children's picture book, I Wonder...Did Jesus Have a Pet Lamb and The Song of Acadia series, co-written with T. Davis Bunn.

Janette Oke's warm writing style has won the hearts of millions of readers. She has received numerous awards, including the Gold Medallion Award, The Christy Award of Excellence, the 1992 President's Award for her significant contribution to the category of Christian fiction from the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association, and in 1999 the Life Impact Award from the Christian Booksellers Association International. Beloved worldwide, her books have been translated into fourteen languages.

She and her husband live nearby in Alberta, Canada.


ABOUT THE BOOK

Janette Oke has dreamed for years of retelling a story in a biblical time frame from a female protagonist's perspective, and Davis Bunn is elated to be working with her again on this sweeping saga of the dramatic events surrounding the birth of Christianity...and the very personal story of Leah, a young Jewess of mixed heritage trapped in a vortex of competing political agendas and private trauma.

Caught up in the maelstrom following the death of an obscure rabbi in the Roman backwater of first-century Palestine, Leah finds herself also engulfed in her own turmoil--facing the prospect of an arranged marriage to a Roman soldier, Alban, who seems to care for nothing but his own ambitions.

Head of the garrison near Galilee, he has been assigned by Palestine's governor to ferret out the truth behind rumors of a political execution gone awry. Leah's mistress, the governor's wife, secretly commissions Leah also to discover what really has become of this man whose death--and missing body--is causing such furor.

This epic drama is threaded with the tale of an unlikely romance and framed with dangers and betrayals from unexpected sources. At its core, the story unfolds the testing of loyalties--between two young people whose inner searchings they cannot express, between their irreconcilable heritages, and ultimately between their humanity and the Divine they yearn to encounter.

If you would like to read the first chapter of The Centurion's Wife, go HERE


Biblical Fiction from one of Christian Fiction's Greats

When I heard that Janette Oke had a new book coming out, I was beyond thrilled. It's been a long time since we had a new book from her and I was looking highly forward to reading it. I was also excited to see that this book would be another collaboration between her and Davis Bunn. I highly enjoyed the other books the two had written together in the past. This would be the first Biblical fiction novel from Oke, so I was also curious to see what a book from her NOT set in Canada would be like.

The book starts out rather slow. It took a while for me to get into the story and I could not relate to the characters at first. It doesn't feel rushed but it seems like the reader doesn't have enough time to get to know the characters well enough. Also I didn't feel like Leah and Alban spent enough time together, especially since the title has the word wife in it. However once you get past all that, the story is absolutely brilliant. Even though the reader knows about Jesus' resurrection, seeing how the characters had to find clues about what really happened was like reading a mystery novel. Leah and Alban did not have religious upbringing so for them to find out the truth and the meaning behind it was a joy to read.

I really love biblical fiction and the historical research done for the story is excellent. You really do feel like you are in the time period and can see the setting perfectly. I liked seeing characters from the Bible that we all know given "screen time". I really liked the background stories given to the characters that aren't even given names in the Bible. I know there are some people who don't like Biblical fiction, but I personally enjoy it. I don't feel that it is sacrilegious to give religious characters personalities and imagine what life was like for them. I am going to be looking forward to the next book in the series.


The Centurion's Wife by Davis Bunn and Janette Oke is published by Bethany House (2009)

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Book Review: "Healing Stones" by Nancy Rue and Stephen Arterburn

In Your Face Fiction

With one flash of a camera, Demi's private life becomes public news. She doesn't know it yet, but her healing has just begun
.

Christian college professor Demitria Costanas had vowed to end her affair with a colleague. But she gives into temptation one last time...and a lurking photographer captures her weakness for all to see. Quite literally, she's the woman caught in adultery. And almost everyone--herself included--has a stone to throw.

Enter Sullivan Crisp, a decidedly unorthodox psychologist with his own baggage. He's well-known for his quirky sense of humor and incorporation of "game show" theology into his counseling sessions. And yet there's something more he offers...hope for a fresh start.

Reluctantly the two of them begin an uplifting, uneven journey filled with healing and grace. By turns funny and touching, this story explores the ways humans hurt each other and deceive themselves. And it shows the endlessly creative means God uses to turn stones of accusation and shame into works of beauty that lead us onto the path of healing.

An auspicious debut for a candid yet tender series about pain, healing, and God's invitation for second chances.

This book was not what I expected. It pretty much broke every stereotype of Christian fiction in the first few chapters. It was weird reading about the wife doing the cheating and from her point of view as well. Normally in Christian fiction, the husband is always the bad guy and is usually vilified. This was a change as I strangely found myself feeling sorry for Demi and wishing that her husband would at least listen to her side of the story. Then there was the situation with her son who I found absolutely deplorable especially with the revelation at the end of the story. I'm glad at the way Demi reacted with him, I'm not sure how I could have handled that situation myself. Then, not only is there Demi's story in the book, but then you have another whole subplot dealing with the mystery of who is behind the pictures and blackmail. Combined with the plot to get rid of the school's president this book just builds the story lines on top of each other and blends them seamlessly. Sully's back story is equally as interesting and could be an entire novel itself. I feel like not everything was told in this book, so I think we will learn more about Sully and his family throughout each book in this series. I liked him very much and if he was in practice near me, I would want to see him just to talk with him. This book is not your typical Christian fiction novel. The story is in your face, makes you uncomfortable, and really gets to you. It's not all happily ever after, perfect little Christian family. This book portrays real people in real life situations. It that shows that not everyone is perfect but that we all have been given a second chance in our lives. This is how I feel all Christian books should be. HIGHLY recommended.

Healing Stones
by Nancy Rue and Stephen Arterburn is published by Thomas Nelson (2008)

Monday, January 19, 2009

Stand-In Groom by Kaye Dacus


This week, the

Christian Fiction Blog Alliance

is introducing

Stand-In Groom

Barbour Publishing, Inc (January 2009)

by

Kaye Dacus



ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Kaye Dacus is an author and editor who has been writing fiction for more than twenty years. A former Vice President of American Christian Fiction Writers, Kaye enjoys being an active ACFW member and the fellowship and community of hundreds of other writers from across the country and around the world that she finds there.

She currently serves as President of Middle Tennessee Christian Writers, which she co-founded in 2003 with three other writers. Each month, she teaches a two-hour workshop on an aspect of the craft of writing at the MTCW monthly meeting. But her greatest joy comes from mentoring new writers through her website and seeing them experience those “aha” moments when a tricky concept becomes clear.




ABOUT THE BOOK

When wedding planner Anne Hawthorne meets George Laurence, she thinks she's found the man of her dreams. But when he turns out to be a client, her "dream" quickly turns into a nightmare. Will Anne risk her heart and career on this engaging Englishman?

George came to Louisiana to plan his employer's wedding and pose as the groom. But how can he feign affection for a supposed fiancee when he's so achingly attracted to the wedding planner? And what will happen when Anne discovers his role has been Stand-In Groom only? Will she ever trust George again? Can God help these two believers find a happy ending?

If you would like to read the first chapter of Stand-In Groom, go HERE

What they're saying about it:

“Dacus pulls off a delightful story that places readers in the heart of the South with the debut of the Brides of Bonneterre series. Readers will enjoy this look at how lives are transformed through devastating events and how forgiveness is the key to a promising future. Nothing is as it seems in this heartwarming story.”
Romantic Times, 4-Star Review

“Absolutely delightful! I enjoyed Stand-In Groom from cover to cover! Ms. Dacus’s clever story and wonderful prose will draw you away to a place deep in the heart of Louisiana, surrounding you with the scents, sounds, and sights of the deep south. A story filled with romance and intrigue, betrayal and forgiveness, I found myself laughing, crying and rejoicing right along with the characters.”
M.L. Tyndall, author of The Falcon and the Sparrow and the award-winning Legacy of the King’s Pirates series

“Stand-In Groom is as sweet, beautiful, and chaotic as a perfectly planned wedding. Anne is a bright and wounded heroine you’re going to care about for a long time. George is a hero to capture your heart. Kaye Dacus will take you along for a fun, poignent ride in Stand-In Groom.”
Mary Connealy, author of the Lassoed in Texas series and Of Mice...and Murder

Friday, January 16, 2009

Book Review: "Too Good to be True" by Trish Perry

I've Found My Prince

Ren Young is still getting over her divorce. While happy for her friend Kara who has found the guy of her dreams, Ren is still wary about getting back into the dating scene. She wants to adopt a little boy from her class whose mother is in jail. Overcome by the stress of trying to get the adoption straightened out, she succumbs to exhaustion and faints in Walmart. Then she has the fantasy of every woman by waking up in the arms of a handsome medical guy. Tru Sayers is everything Ren needs, wants, and more. But her past and emotions keep her from being able to fully reach out to him. Will she let this almost perfect guy slip through her fingers?

I was glad to be reunited with the characters from The Guy I'm Not Dating. This group of friends is one that I wish I could hang out with. They're older than me but they seem like a really cool, down to earth group of people. I really like Ren, she is a character you really feel for and that you want good things to happen to her. So when she does mean Tru, you get happy for her. I love their relationship and watching it grow. It seemed totally real and you could relate to them. What I liked best about Tru was that he was NOT perfect. I get tired about reading about Christian guys who have everything going for them and not one single flaw. It makes both the girl in the story and myself feel inadequate compared to them. While he was a gentleman to Ren and seemed to be everything she dreamed of, there were still flaws. Tru had issues with his family and with his mother, which is a situation I'm sure every woman would thrilled to be a part of. I also appreciated that even though Ren is divorced, she is not portrayed as someone who is either condemned from the church or shown as having a life that is over. It's another cliche that Christian fiction tends to fall to in regards to divorced women. I was glad to see that she was able to start dating and that there was no judgment passed on her for wanting to. While there are many lighthearted moments in the story, there are also serious subjects that are sprinkled throughout. Topics such as adoption and infertility are discussed but the mood is not too sobered down. Jeremy is my favorite character because cute British guys with that accent are my vice. I also liked seeing Tiffany grow as a character since the last book. I'm glad to say that the next book is dedicated to her and Jeremy's story. This was a great book to read and was a wonderful way to spend my afternoons. It's another enjoyable read from Trish Perry. This book is great for those that like their chick lit with characters a little bit older, a little bit more serious, but still able to have good laughs and fun times.

Too Good to Be True by Trish Perry is published by Harvest House (2007)

Thursday, January 15, 2009

The God Question by J.P. Moreland

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!


Today's Wild Card author is:


and the book:


The God Question

Harvest House Publishers (January 1, 2009)


ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


J.P. Moreland is distinguished professor of philosophy at Talbot School of Theology. His many writings include Kingdom Triangle. Dr. Moreland served ten years with Campus Crusade for Christ, planted two churches, and has spoken on more than 200 college campuses and in hundreds of churches.

Visit the author's website.


AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


Why Can’t I Be Happy?

In the mid 1980s, hard evidence revealed that something was seriously wrong with the American way of life. Rumors about the problem were prominent since the 1960s, but when the evidence was published, the rumors became public knowledge, though few today know what is going on. And more evidence has piled up in the past 20 years.

Some of the causes and symptoms of the problem shape the way we approach our lives and make it difficult to face this evidence. Not long ago, I was watching reruns of television commercials of the 1950s. In one quite typical ad, a medical doctor encouraged viewers to smoke cigarettes for their health. Smoking, he assured the viewers, calmed nerves, aided one’s appetite, and helped people sleep better. This widely accepted belief hindered Americans from realizing that cigarettes actually harm one’s health. Similarly, the conditions of contemporary life make the evidence mentioned above hard to accept.

And even if someone accepts this evidence, it is very, very difficult to know what to do about the situation. And I say to you with all my heart that you have been hurt by what the evidence shows. No, it’s worse than that. You and your loved ones have been harmed, not merely hurt. In the following pages I have some good and bad news. Let’s start with the bad news. What are the problems and the evidence to which I have been referring? What are the causes and symptoms that have hindered us from facing the evidence and overcoming our dilemma? Let’s look at these in order.

Americans Don’t Know How to Be Happy

The cover story of the December 2006 issue of The Economist was about happiness. The Economist is about as far from a pop psychology magazine as you can imagine, so the topic must have been something of great concern to the editors. Based on research data from 1972 to 2006, the article concluded that people in affluent countries have not become happier as they have grown richer, had more leisure time, and enjoyed more pleasurable activities and a higher standard of living.

In 2005, the results of extensive study on American happiness were released with similar findings: Americans are on average twice as rich, far healthier, more youthful, and safer than they were 50 years ago, but they are not as happy. Since the 1960s the percentage of Americans who say they are “very unhappy” has risen by 20 percent, and depression rates are ten times higher than they were during and before the 1950s. Each year, 15 percent of Americans (approximately 40 million people) suffer from an anxiety disorder.

For decades, University of Pennsylvania psychologist Martin Seligman has been the nation’s leading researcher on happiness. His study released in 1988 sent shock waves around the country. Seligman studied the happiness quotient and depression rate among Americans at that time compared to those of their parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents. Are you ready for this? He discovered that the loss of happiness and the rise of depression were tenfold in the span of one generation—the baby boomers. Something has gone terribly wrong with American culture, said Seligman, and the tenfold, short-term explosive loss of happiness and growth of depression—a factor that has continued to increase since the 1980s—is clearly epidemic. What is going on?

Digging Deeper

Without being harsh, I must say that we would be naive if we didn’t believe this epidemic has affected all of us. There is a way out of this mess, and the chapters that follow are my best offerings for embarking on a journey to a rich, deep, flourishing life. In fact, I would like you to read this book as my invitation to you for such a life—one that is brimming with drama and adventure, flowering with meaning and purpose. However, I am not interested in merely offering you an invitation. I also want to give you wise counsel that has been repeatedly tested and found trustworthy and helpful for the journey.

A journey has to start somewhere, and the best place to start this one is by digging more deeply into the causes and symptoms of our cultural crisis. We are looking for broad cultural factors that have generated a shift in the way we do life, a shift that has caused the epidemic. These factors are not likely to be things we regularly think about. If they were, most people would have made a priority of avoiding them, and that is not the case. I am not suggesting that people will reject the alleged factors once they are made explicit. Quite the opposite. I believe that once they are laid bare, most folks will experience an ah-ha moment and readily identify with them. No, in order to do their destructive work, these factors have to fly under the radar. They must be so pervasive that they are hardly noticed.

In their excellent book on anxiety and depression, psychologist Edmund Bourne and coauthor Lorna Garano identify three causes for the epidemic: (1) the pace of modern life, (2) the loss of a sense of community and deep connectedness with others beyond the superficial, and (3) the emergence of moral relativism. The increased pace of life does not merely refer to more work and less free time, though those are certainly factors. Well into the late Middle Ages, Europeans had 115 holidays a year! Besides free time, the sheer pace and speed at which we live—our language is filled with terms like “rush hour,” “hurry up,” and “fast food”—and the technology we use (including iPods, e-mail, television, and cell phones) make it difficult to be quiet and hear from ourselves. As a result, we feed off of adrenaline, our brain chemistry is not normal, and we are not capable of handling the stress of ordinary contemporary life. Maybe we were never intended to, but I get ahead of myself.

On the surface, the loss of community reflects two things: Western individualism (which is a good thing in moderation) gone mad, and the supposed lack of time required to cultivate deep friendships, especially among contemporary men, who have often been described as “the friendless American males.” On a deeper level, it reflects misplaced priorities due to a shift on our view of the good life. I will say more about this in the next chapter, but for now I simply note that we define success in terms of the accumulation of consumer goods and the social status that they and a culturally respected line of work provide. We seldom measure a successful life by the quality of family and friendship relationships we cultivate.

Regarding the factor of moral relativism, Bourne and Garano make this note:

Norms in modern life are highly pluralistic. There is no shared, consistent, socially-agreed-upon set of values and standards for people to live by…In the vacuum left, most of us attempt to fend for ourselves, and the resultant uncertainty about how to conduct our lives leaves ample room for anxiety. Faced with a barrage of inconsistent worldviews and standards presented by the media, we are left with the responsibility of having to create our own meaning and moral order. When we are unable to find that meaning, many of us are prone to fill the gap that’s left with various forms of escapism and addiction. We tend [to] live out of tune with ourselves and thus find ourselves anxious.

I cannot resist making an observation about their insightful point concerning moral relativism. The damage it does is one reason why the contemporary idea of tolerance is really an immoral, cold, heartless form of indifference to the suffering of others. The classic principle of tolerance is both true and important: We take another group’s views to be wrong and harmful, but we will treat the (alleged) errant people with respect, will defend their right to promote their views, and will engage in respective, civil debate in attempting to persuade them and others to reject their viewpoint. The contemporary idea is grotesque: We are not to say others’ views or behavior is wrong. This is immoral because it allows for genuine evil, such as racism and child molestation. We must judge the behavior to be evil before we can stop it! Bourne and Garano show us that it is also cold and heartless: If you think another is engaged in a lifestyle that is deeply immoral and flawed, the most loving thing to do is to help that person face and get out of that lifestyle. Even if you are wrong in your assessment, at least you cared enough to try to help. By contrast, contemporary tolerance creates indifferent people who don’t have the moral vision or courage to intervene in the lives of others and try to help.

We might summarize Bourne and Garano’s insights this way: First, our resistance to depression and anxiety is weakened by the pace of our lives. Second, we don’t have the relational connection we need for support and strength in finding a way out of unhappiness. And third, we lack the intellectual framework required to admit that there is a right and wrong way to approach life and to fuel the energy we need to seek, find, and live in light of the right approach. In fact, believing that there actually is a right approach seems intolerant to many.

I have spent hours thinking about these three points and how they inform my own journey. If I may say so, it wouldn’t hurt if you set the book down, took out a sheet of paper, jotted down these three factors, and brainstormed about how they have had a negative impact on you or your loved ones. Nevertheless, I do not believe that Bourne and Garano have identified the heart of the matter. We must probe more deeply.

Digging Deeper Still

Psychologist Carl Jung once observed that “neurosis is always a substitute for legitimate suffering.” Jung is referring to our tendency to avoid feeling genuine emotional pain and facing real personal suffering and dysfunction by creating, usually subconsciously, a neurotic pattern of thinking or behaving that allows us to be distracted from our real issues.

When I was attending seminary, my roommate was in constant fear that he had committed the unpardonable sin, an act for which there is no forgiveness. Try as I might, I could not reassure him that he had done no such thing. One day while probing him more deeply, I realized that his real issue was fear of abandonment, loneliness, and feelings of inadequacy due to harsh treatment in his early years by his father. However, it was too painful for him to feel and face these—something he needed to do to get well. Such self-awareness would have been legitimate suffering in Jung’s terms. Instead, he projected his anxiety on something more manageable, on something that distracted his anxiety from the real issues—the unpardonable sin—and neurotically worried about this repeatedly throughout his daily life.

I am convinced that this inability to face our deepest anxieties is at the heart of why we have trouble being happy. In chapter 2, I will expose why this inability is a distinctively contemporary problem for Western culture since the 1960s. For now, I want to mention two forms of “neurosis” characteristic of many of us. Just as my roommate obsessed about the unpardonable sin, we use these two items to manage our anxiety and cope with life while avoiding the deeper issues we have trouble facing. The two items to which I am referring are hurry and worry. When I speak of hurry, I am not simply referring to the (sick) pace at which we live our lives. That’s a problem in its own right. No, I am referring to the role that busyness and being in a hurry plays in coping with our fears in an unhealthy way. People are afraid to slow down and be quiet. As one thinker put it, the hardest thing to get Americans to do today is nothing. We fear solitude, silence, and having nothing to do because we fear what will happen if we aren’t busy. What do we fear? We fear that our anxiety will bubble up. We dread feeling insignificant. We fear hearing from ourselves because we might experience pain if we do. We all have responsibilities in which we invest time and effort. But if you compare our lifestyles with folks in earlier generations, it becomes apparent that our busyness and hurried lives are avoidance strategies.

We all have worries and things that could hurt us. But the degree to which we worry is, again, symptomatic of something much deeper. When I refer to worry as a coping strategy, I am not referring to worry about a threatening situation—losing one’s job, being sick, not getting married, and so on. I am talking about worry as an approach to life. In this sense, worrying is actually a learned behavior. As dear as she was, my mother was a very anxious person who worried about everything. I lived around her and absorbed her approach to life, so by the time I was a young adult, I had learned how to worry from an expert. And now I was the expert!

What roles do hurry and worry play in your life? I encourage you to spend some time pondering this question. As a help to you, I suggest you find some safe friends or family members and ask them to give you honest feedback about this. This issue is so deep and so much a part of the warp and woof of American life that it is hard to get in touch with the way we neurotically use hurry and worry to avoid problems.

One of our main fears is boredom and loneliness, and hurry and worry keep us from facing these fears. In fact, some patterns of ideas and beliefs that permeate the arts, media, and educational institutions of our culture make it all but impossible to face boredom and loneliness. More on that in chapter 2. Here I want you to ponder an additional fact: It takes a lot of emotional energy to “stuff” our real problems and manage appropriate anxiety by the hurry and worry strategy. And given the three pervasive cultural patterns we mentioned earlier—our pace of life, the loss of community, and the emergence of moral relativism—we have a very dangerous situation in our culture.

To live the way many of us do takes a lot of energy, so we are vulnerable to addiction. Various addictions provide some form of relief from a neurotic life and offer some reward on a regular basis in the form of the satisfaction of desire, usually bodily desire. However, all such addictions obey the law of diminishing returns. The more one turns to addictive behavior, the less it pays off and the more one must turn to the addiction. It may be social recognition, sexual stimulation, drugs or alcohol abuse, eating, acquiring consumer goods, and so on. Over time, we shrivel as authentic persons, and we become less and less in touch with our real selves. Instead, we must project a false self to others—a self we wish others to believe about us, a self that is a collage of parental messages, strategies for remaining safe and hidden, and behaviors that avoid shame and guilt. The range of our free will diminishes, and we become enslaved to safety, social rules, and bodily pleasures and their satisfaction.

It’s time to summarize. For at least 40 years, Americans have become increasingly unable to find happiness and, instead, are ten times more likely to be depressed and anxiety filled than Americans of other generations. Clearly, something about our culture is deeply flawed. As a first step toward identifying the flaws, I noted the adrenalized pace of life, the loss of a sense of community, and the emergence of moral relativism in American culture. Digging more deeply, I noted that for these and other reasons, we find it hard to face our real, authentic emotional pain and, instead, opt for lifestyles of hurry and worry that allow us to cope with our boredom, emptiness, and loneliness without having to face our true situation. Such an approach takes a lot of emotional energy and, partly to comfort ourselves, we turn to addictive behaviors that increasingly turn us into false selves who no longer know who we are.

An Invitation and a Word of Concern

I have received much help from others in my own journey, and I believe I have some genuinely good news for you in the pages to follow. I invite you to read on with an open mind and heart. However, I’m concerned about something. I am troubled that you may not be willing to think afresh with me about what follows and won’t benefit from whatever wisdom is offered. Why am I so concerned? It’s because of my topic and the two primary types of people with whom I want to travel.

Beginning with chapter 2, I am going to mention the G word—“God”—more specifically, the Christian God and Jesus of Nazareth. As we will see, whenever we focus on living a rich life and face our inability to be happy, broad questions about the meaning of life inevitably surface. This is as it should be. And lurking in the neighborhood will be questions about God. It has been said that the single most important thing about a person is what comes to mind when he or she hears the word “God.” This is a trustworthy saying.

So why am I concerned? Because it is so very hard to invite someone in this culture to give this topic a fresh hearing, especially from my two audiences. The first person to whom I am writing is not a follower of Jesus. You may be an aggressive atheist, mildly agnostic, or inclined to think that religion should be a private matter and that “Live and let live” should be one’s motto. If you fit this category, you may have picked up this book at a bookstore or found it online, or a friend or relative may have given it to you. If the latter is the case, you may feel defensive about reading the book. You may feel that your friend or relative wants to fix you or to “win” in your longstanding dialogues about Christianity. If you read this book with an open mind and fresh start, and if you come to agree with some of my offerings, you could lose face, as it were. Others could say you were wrong all along and this proves it.

I completely understand such defensiveness, having practiced it myself in various contexts. But to be honest, if you are concerned about such matters, you are actually not being true to yourself. Instead, you are letting others control you. You are giving them free rent in your mind. It’s as though they are looking over your shoulder as you read, just waiting to jump on you if you come to see things as they do. My advice is that you not let others have such power over you. Be yourself. Think for yourself. Give me a hearing, and when you have read the entire book, step back and decide for yourself what you think about these matters.

Besides friends or relatives, if you fit into this first group, I actually have a deeper concern—really, two concerns—about you being defensive in reading what follows. Having talked to atheists and agnostics for 40 years, I’ve seen that many of them don’t want God to exist. In a rare moment of frankness, atheist philosopher Thomas Nagel makes this admission:

I want atheism to be true and am made uneasy by the fact that some of the most intelligent and well-informed people I know are religious believers. It isn’t just that I don’t believe in God and, naturally, I hope that I’m right in my belief. It’s that I hope there is no God! I don’t want there to be a God; I don’t want the universe to be like that.

Such an approach to life is hard to sustain. Influential young atheist Douglas Coupland frankly acknowledges how difficult it is:

Now—here is my secret: I tell it to you with an openness of heart that I doubt I shall ever achieve again, so I pray that you are in a quiet room as you hear these words. My secret is that I need God—that I am sick and can no longer make it alone. I need God to help me give, because I no longer seem capable of giving; to help me be kind, as I no longer seem capable of kindness; to help me love, as I seem beyond being able to love.

Fathers and Freedom

If you are an atheist or something close to it, I believe there may be two reasons why you think this way. I am sharing these with you to be helpful, not to throw this in your face. No one is here but you and me, so please see if these describe you. The first reason you may approach the question of God with anger or rejection is unresolved conflict with your own father figure. I have spoken on more than 200 college campuses and in more than 40 states in the last 40 years, and it has become apparent to me that atheists regularly have deep-seated, unresolved emotional conflicts with their father figures. To think that this plays no role in their atheism would be foolish. Paul Vitz, a leading psychologist in this area claims that, in fact, such conflict is at the very heart of what motivates a person to reject God or be indifferent to religion.

Let’s be honest. You owe it to yourself to see if this is causing you to be defensive about the topic of God. If it is, I urge you in the safety of our conversation to follow, to try to set this aside.

The second reason you may not want the Christian God to be real has been identified by Dinesh D’Souza: People want to be liberated from traditional morality so they can engage in any sexual behavior that satisfies them without guilt, shame, or condemnation. The famous atheist Aldous Huxley made this admission:

I had motives for not wanting the world to have a meaning; consequently I assumed that it had none, and was able without any difficulty to find satisfying reasons for this assumption… For myself, as no doubt for most of my contemporaries, the philosophy of meaninglessness was essentially an instrument of liberation. The liberation we desired was…liberation from a certain system of morality. We objected to the morality because it interfered with our sexual freedom.

If you have a vested interest in wanting to look at pornography or to engage in sexual activity outside of a traditional marriage, your hostility to God may well be a way of enabling yourself to sustain your lifestyle while flying in a no-guilt zone. I take no pleasure in saying this, and I am not trying to be harsh or judgmental toward you. The opposite is the case. I have help for you and will offer it in the chapters to follow. All I ask of you is that you give me a hearing and not allow these factors to fuel your defensiveness in such a way that you are not teachable and open to exploring these issues together.

Caricatures of Christians

My first concern about defensiveness, then, is due to the role that unresolved father issues and sexual practices may play in preventing you from facing this topic honestly and with a good and open heart. My second concern is the associations that come to mind when people in our culture think of conservative Christians, most of whom would be called Evangelicals. You may see red at the very thought of Christians. They are hypocrites, intolerant bigots, nosy members of the Religious Right who try to tell others what to do and how to think. Christians are irrational, unscientific, nonthinking sorts who will gullibly believe anything. Comparing Christians (and other religious zealots) and secularists, University of California at Berkeley professor and former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich gave this warning:

The great conflict of the 21st century will not be between the West and terrorism. Terrorism is a tactic, not a belief. The true battle will be between those who believe in the primacy of the individual and those who believe that human beings owe their allegiance and identity to a higher authority; between those who give priority to life in this world and those who believe that human life is mere preparation for an existence beyond life; between those who believe in science, reason and logic and those who believe that truth is revealed through Scripture and religious dogma. Terrorism will disrupt and destroy lives. But terrorism itself is not the greatest danger we face.

With friends like that, who needs enemies! Reich needs to lighten up a bit. Still, you may share his opinion of what it means to be a Christian. May I suggest two counterarguments that may help you get something out of this book. First, Reich’s statement and the description of Christians in the preceding paragraph are gross caricatures that are far from the truth. It’s a cultural lie that the more educated you become the more you reject Christianity. A few years ago, University of North Carolina sociologist Christian Smith published what may be the most extensive study to date of the impact of contemporary culture on American Evangelicalism. Smith’s extensive research led him to this conclusion:

Self-identified evangelicals have more years of education than fundamentalists, liberals, Roman Catholics, and those who are nonreligious…Of all groups, evangelicals are the least likely to have only a high-school education or less; the nonreligious are the most likely. Furthermore, higher proportions of evangelicals have studied at the graduate-school level than have fundamentalists, liberals, or the nonreligious.

Sure, there are a few bad (ignorant and bigoted) eggs in our basket, but the whole basket should not be judged on this account.

Even if this demeaning picture of Christians contains more than a small grain of truth, becoming a follower of Jesus doesn’t have to make you like this. And there’s still the issue of you and your own life and welfare. You have a life to live, and if you are anything like me, you need all the help you can get to live it well. The real issue is whether the Christian God is real and can be known, whether Jesus of Nazareth was really the very Son of God, and whether the movement He started is what you need and have been looking for (consciously or not). At the end of the day, the issue is not whether Christians are hypocrites, Republicans, or whatever. The issue is Jesus of Nazareth and your life.

Familiarity

The second person to whom I am writing is a Christian who has become too familiar with the form of Christianity often present in our culture. If this is you, you may have become inoculated from the real thing. You are bored with church, you don’t like religious games, and you believe you have given the Christian thing a try and it isn’t what it was cracked up to be. In a way, you’ve lost hope. The fire in your belly has dimmed, and you despair of finding more as a Christian. You think you have already heard and heeded the invitation I am about to unpack, and you are not interested in hearing the same old stuff again. Been there, done that, bought the T-shirt.

Dallas Willard puts his finger on this problem:

The major problem with the invitation now is precisely over-familiarity. Familiarity breeds unfamiliarity—unsuspected unfamiliarity, and then contempt. People think they have heard the invitation. They think they have accepted it—or rejected it. But they have not. The difficulty today is to hear it at all.

I’m asking you to listen again to the invitation as though for the first time. In some cases, that won’t actually be true. You will likely read things in subsequent chapters that you have heard before. If so, I promise to try to give these things new life, to cast them in a new light. In other cases, that may actually be true. Some brand-new insights may follow. If you are a Christian who fits my description, all I can do is to ask you to read on with an open heart.

So let’s move on. You and I have lives to live. How can we get better at it? In chapter 2, we jump out of the pan and into the fire. We move to what I believe is at or near the bottom of why you and many of our fellow Americans can’t find much happiness in life. The central issue revolves around broad cultural ideas about life, reality, and confidence. The fundamental issue involves the mind and how we think about and see things. But before I can tell you that story, I’ll need to let you in on something about your brain.