Saturday, March 31, 2012

Howard Books - Simon & Schuster Book Review: Illusion by Frank Peretti

With more than 14 million copies of his novels in print, FRANK PERETTI is nothing short of a publishing phenomenon and has been called "America's hottest Christian novelist." Peretti's two spiritual warfare novels. This Present Darkness (1986) and Piercing the Darkness (1988), captivated readers, together selling more than 3.5 million copies. Frank and his wife Barbara, live a quiet and creative life in the timberlands of northern Idaho.

Product Details
Howard Books, March 2012
Hardcover, 512 pages
ISBN-10: 1439192677
ISBN-13: 9781439192672


"Dane and Mandy, a popular magic act for forty years, are tragically separated by a car wreck that claims Mandy’s life—or so everyone thinks. Even as Dane mourns and tries to rebuild his life without her, Mandy, supposedly dead, awakes in the present as the nineteen-year-old she was in 1970. Distraught and disoriented in what to her is the future, she is confined to a mental ward until she discovers a magical ability to pass invisibly through time and space to escape. Alone in a strange world, she uses her mysterious powers to eke out a living, performing magic on the streets and in a quaint coffee shop. Hoping to discover an exciting new talent, Dane ventures into the coffee shop and is transfixed by the magic he sees, illusions that even he, a seasoned professional, cannot explain. But more than anything, he is emotionally devastated by this teenager who has never met him, doesn’t know him, is certainly not in love with him, but is in every respect identical to the young beauty he first met and married some forty years earlier. They begin a furtive relationship as mentor and protégée, but even as Dane tries to sort out who she really is and she tries to understand why she is drawn to him, they are watched by secretive interests who not only possess the answers to Mandy’s powers and misplacement in time but also the roguish ability to decide what will become of her. Frank Peretti has crafted a rich, rewarding story of love and life, loss and restoration, full of twists and mystery. Exceptionally well written, Illusion will soon prove another Peretti classic."

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The above was taken from the back cover description of Illusion by Frank Peretti.  I chose to include it because I believed it provided a perfect summary of this book. 

I absolutely love the way Frank Peretti writes. When you read his books it's as if you are watching a movie. You can envision all the characters and feel everything he writes. He really has a gift which convinces as well as transports you. I didn't want to put the book down.

Illusion is an amazing love story with a touch of science fiction. It made my heart race and kept me on the edge of my seat anticipating what would happen next. This is definitely my kind of book; full of intrigue and suspense.

Initially, I wasn't sure what to expect from Frank Peretti's new book, Illusion. As it is quite different from other books he has written, such as my favorites, This Present Darkness and Piercing the Darkness, which had an overt Christian theme.
But, as Frank Peretti wrote in his note, there is Christian "symbolism and thematic elements" in Illusion.  He goes on to explain, "I suppose this tale is a fictional tribute to love as God made it, and by that, an illustration of how beautiful the love between ourselves and our Lord can be."  I thought that was beautiful.

I believe Illusion is a literary masterpiece and Frank Peretti is a genius.  This book should be made into a movie, with all the special effects.  Illusion is entertaining and does not disappoint. It goes without saying that I highly recommend this book to everyone.

In conclusion, I am hosting a book give away and the winner will be selected at random.  Please comment below by April 9th and win a free copy of Illusion.

I want to personally thank Howard Books and Julie Busteed from Handlebar Marketing for sending me a complimentary copy of Illusion to review. 

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For those of you who can't wait and want to get this book right away.  You can purchase Illusion at the following links:

Howard Books: 

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Thursday, March 29, 2012

Don't Look Back

"But Lot's wife looked back as she was following behind him, and she turned into a pillar of salt." Genesis 19:26 (NLT)

I've been thinking a lot about Lot's wife lately.  How she looked back and turned into a pillar of salt.  Very sobering.  I thought about what she must have been thinking or felt when she looked back.  I tried putting myself in her shoes.  

What would cause me to look back if I were her?  Hmmm... well, for one, curiosity.  Here she was running behind Lot and I believe the temptation to see what was happening behind her compelled her to look back.  I know I would have looked back, especially if there was a lot of commotion and destruction going on.  I mean really, think about it, wouldn't you be tempted to look back and see what was going on?  

However, God did command them to run and not look back.  But I think the whole situation got the best of her.  Maybe she was leaving friends behind who were getting destroyed.  Wow, I know that would definitely have me preoccupied.

How often do we find ourselves looking back into our pasts?  I can admit that I do it quite often.  What makes me think of my past?  I guess the number one reason for me is regret.  If only I did this, if only I didn't do that, if only I didn't date so and so, if only I finished college, if only, if only and if only is my mantra.  

I realized that there are some things in life that you just can't reverse.  Yes, we would all like to press a button, go back into our past and fix it.  But that is impossible.  We spend useless amounts of time and mental energy thinking of what we could have done differently.  But we can't undo our pasts, we can only learn from it and move forward.  

Some of you may have had amazing pasts and wish you can go back and live them over again.  It's ok to have good memories, but to relive or hold on to the way things were or used to be is not healthy.  

God wants us to let go of our pasts and keep our eyes forward, much like He wanted Lot's wife to do.  He wants us to be free and not bound to our pasts.

Whenever you start looking back, just look to Jesus.  Our God is a big and awesome God.  He is in control and allows everything to happen for a reason, even when we don't understand it.  He allows things to happen for our good.  He has good plans for those who love Him.  His plans are not to harm us but to help us.  

We really need to trust Him with everything; our past, present and future.  He really does know what He is doing and what is best for us, better than we ever will.

So please be encouraged today and remember... Don't look back. 

"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV)

Monday, March 19, 2012

The "Suspicious" Murder of Trayvon Martin

Trayvon Martin

I was going back and forth, debating on whether I should write about the senseless murder of an innocent boy, Trayvon Martin.  But I realized that I needed to do something constructive with what I'm processing right now.  If truth be told, the more I read about it, the sadder and angrier I become.  

For those of you who have not heard about this story, here is a brief synopsis from The Huffington Post: 
Martin, 17, a high school junior who lived with his mother in Miami, was visiting his father and stepmother at their home in Sanford, a suburb of Orlando, on the weekend of Feb. 26. During halftime of the NBA All-Star Game, Martin's family said he walked to a nearby convenience store to get some candy for his younger brother. On his way back home, according to reports, he caught the attention of George Zimmerman, a 26-year-old college student and self-appointed captain of The Retreat at Twin Lakes neighborhood watch.
Zimmerman, armed with a 9mm handgun, trailed the boy in his car. At some point, Zimmerman called 911, telling the operator there was a "suspicious person in the area," according to a police report acquired by HuffPost.
Not long after the call, some sort of altercation ensued between Zimmerman and Martin. Then neighbors said they heard gunfire.
The Sanford Police arrived and found Martin lying face down on a patch of grass about 70 feet from his family's home, a pack of candy in one pocket and an iced tea in the other.
(...) According to reports, Zimmerman's gun was legal and he has claimed to authorities that he shot Martin in self-defense. Crump, the family's attorney, described Zimmerman as a "loose cannon" and questioned why any neighborhood watchman would be carrying a loaded gun. He has asked law enforcement authorities to turn over recordings of the call to 911 that Zimmerman made the night of the shooting, in the hopes that it might shed some light on the incident. Crump said if the recordings are not given to the family, he will file a public records lawsuit on their behalf. According to reports, Zimmerman's gun was legal and he has claimed to authorities that he shot Martin in self-defense.
Sobering isn't it?  First of all, you may be wondering as I did, how Zimmerman had a loaded 9mm handgun in the first place?  

The State of Florida has a version of a "Shoot First" law which allows you to shoot someone if you feel threatened and exempt you from being charged with murder. []

As stated above, according to reports, Zimmerman's gun was legal and he claims he shot Martin in self-defense.  

Self-defense?  Please look carefully at Trayvon's photo above.  Now look at Zimmerman's photo below.  Does the guy below look like he would need to defend himself from a boy half his age and half his size?

Zimmerman was carrying a loaded 9mm handgun while Trayvon was carrying a bag of Skittles and a bottle of Ice Tea.  Now how in the world does Zimmerman claim he killed Trayvon in self-defense?  Furthermore, how can he claim Trayvon looked "suspicious" in the first place?  Does Trayvon look like a boy anyone needs to be "suspicious" of?   

I do not need to be in law enforcement to deduct that there is something grossly wrong with this picture.

However, the Sanford police didn't seem to think so when they released Zimmerman after he admitted to killing Trayvon.  He was released because he claimed it was self-defense.  Meanwhile, Trayvon didn't own or carry a gun.

But that doesn't seem to matter to the police as they are taking Zimmerman's word for it.  Hellooooo... the guy just shot and killed a human being!!  On this premise alone, Zimmerman should have been kept in police custody and not released.  You just don't go around killing innocent people on "suspicion" and/or claiming self-defense?  As it is, Zimmerman didn't even adhere to proper protocol when the 911 dispatch operator advised him not to follow Trayvon.  So why would they release, and not arrest someone who murdered another human being without evaluating all the facts and evidence first?  It just doesn't make logical sense to me. 

I honestly feel for the parents, family and friends of Trayvon Martin.  I also feel for the neighbors who heard Trayvon desperately screaming for help until a gunshot was heard, silencing his voice forever. 

It's just another tragic story of a senseless murder of a child.  I pray that the truth is exposed and justice prevails.

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Saturday, March 17, 2012

WinePress Publishers Book Review: Mindful of Him by Hollis Hughes

"Mindful of Him is a tale of heartbreak and triumph set in the 1950s.  Separated from his young wife, and with both of his parents recently deceased, Rob McLain sets off on an adventure for which he has longed since childhood."

The above is a short excerpt taken from the back of the book. The description and the author's biography lured me into wanting to read this book.

The book is predominantly about the experiences of Rob McClain. The book begins with Rob losing both of his parents and his grief leads him into a whirlwind of questions.  After experiencing another unfortunate tragedy with his wife Beth, they separate.  In his heartbreak and despair, he decides to give up everything and embark on a journey by himself through the wilderness to find the source of a river he loves.  Along the way, he meets and spends time with different people (who are amazing).  One of them being Rufe, who is my favorite.

In a conversation, Rufe tells Rob something that pierced me, "Greed is the problem; people pay a terrible price for it.  They have to work long hours to try to satisfy the monster that they have let grow inside.  A rational man who has let greed drive him for a while out to step back and look at what he has been doing to himself.  And he'd see that the more he had, the more he'd want, and that he was spending his only life on earth trying to satisfy something that could never be satisfied."  My living in New York City, I can totally identify with Rufe's statement.

I found myself relating to a lot of what Rob thinks, feels and experiences.  In his pain and hurt, he also wrestles with doubt, fear and depression.  He experiences inner and outer turmoil on his journey, while trying to get answers to his questions.  I found there was a strong correlation between what Rob experiences physically as well as spiritually.

I relished this book; it was philosophical, deep and the imagery throughout was just breathtaking.  I am not exaggerating when I tell you that I loved every single nuance of this book; including the size, font and exquisite photo on the cover.

Reading this book was like eating a good meal; delicious and satisfying.  Speaking of which, Mr. Hughes does an outstanding job describing food in his book.  My mouth was watering the entire time!

Ultimately, this beautiful story is about faith, hope and love.  I admit, I even cried at the end (which I rarely do).  Words can't adequately convey how much this book touched me. It was like finding treasure. I highly recommend it and give it five stars.

"What is man, that thou art mindful of him?" Psalm 8:4

Hollis Hughes served for thirty-eight years as a high school teacher and counselor.  The Great Depression, which began during the year following his birth, proved to be a molding influence on his life and prepared him to rely on perseverance and patience when facing life's most difficult moments. Mindful of Him was written during the years  he cared for his late wife, Janett, who suffered from Alzheimer's disease.

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Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Pressing Forward on the Journey

I've been thinking it's been quite awhile since I've actually blogged.  I seem to be doing a lot more book reviews than blogging.  I had to ask myself why.  If truth be told, I feel more comfortable blogging book reviews than I do blogging.  

This never was the case though.  As a matter of fact, my husband told me the other day how he used to enjoy reading my spin on devotionals.  I would forward devotionals with my own thoughts at the end of them. The crazy thing is, I would receive more feedback from my notes than the actual devotional.  

I caught myself thinking, why did I stop?  I guess somewhere along the line, I began questioning myself and being less willing to be transparent.  Perhaps a series of unfortunate events or circumstances lead me to this place.

However, when you are less willing to risk being vulnerable or transparent, it unfortunately effects every aspect of your life.  Your marriage, friendships, interpersonal relationships and creativity too.  

I've also discovered that the people you surround yourself with can either affect you negatively or positively.  If you surround yourself with critical or judgmental people, you will eventually find yourself discouraged and hopeless.  The outer critical voices start aligning themselves with your inner critical voices; of doubt, fear, criticism, judgment, insecurity, etc...and it's all downhill from there.

This has been one of my main struggles.  I don't seem to do well under people's scrutiny and/or negative opinions, criticisms or judgments.  I guess I personally got to a place in my life which lead me to no longer want to put myself out there.  But, as safe as that might be or feel, it truly isn't living.

Which brings me to my next point.  The other day I had an interesting conversation with my father in law.  He happens to be a very creative and fun loving person.  You can't feel bad around this man, he is always uplifting and encouraging.  I feel so comfortable being around him as he exudes positivity and acceptance.  He is of the school of thought that if you don't have something good to say, then don't say anything at all.  I like that philosophy, don't you?

I admire my father in law's tenacity to dream big despite what other people might think or say.  He is so passionate and focused on what he enjoys doing that it doesn't matter to him what others think.  I believe that is the key to why he is so upbeat and positive.  He never stops believing, hoping, dreaming and/or pressing forward on his journey.

In our brief conversation, he began sharing what he thinks of me and I recalled struggling internally.  I thought to myself, why can't I really embrace my father in law's compliments?  I just kept having the feeling of interjecting and explaining why he is wrong.  Which really got me thinking... why is it such a struggle for me?  I mean, people love compliments right?  So what's the problem?  I realized that I have gotten so accustomed to receiving criticism and judgment in my life that I can't handle receiving compliments.

Sad right?  But guess what... I'm not alone.  I know there are plenty of people walking around who struggle like me.  They just don't say it.  You once dreamed big dreams, but between one thing or the other, you gave up too.  You surrendered to the thought of... what's the use... maybe they're right. You probably came up with a million and one excuses on why you can't or won't.  But deep down, you feel the same way I do; that gnawing restlessness inside doesn't want to leave you alone.

I don't know about you, but I don't want people or their remarks stopping me from pursuing my dreams.  I don't want to surrender to their (unsolicited) negative opinions, thoughts, criticisms or judgments of me.  I don't want what they think or say to define who I am.  Do you? 

So I challenge you today (as I challenge myself) to take a baby step toward your dream.  Yes, 'that' dream you secretly tucked away in your heart years ago. God put that dream in your heart for a reason.  By His grace, let us begin to use the gifts and talents God has planted in us for His glory.

Let us continue to "press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus." Philippians 3:14

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Harvest House Book Review: 52 Things Wives Need From Their Husbands by Jay Payleitner

Jay Payleitner is one of the top freelance Christian radio producers in the United States.  He has worked on Josh McDowell Radio, Today's Father, and many others.  A bestselling author, his books include 365 Ways to Say "I Love You" to Your Kids.  He's also a popular speaker at men's events and served as executive director of the Illinois Fatherhood Initiative.  Jay and his wife, Rita, make their home in the Chicago area.

You are probably wondering why did I read this book, since I'm clearly not a husband, but a wife. But I was curious to see what points Jay Payleitner actually makes to husbands in his book, "52 Things Wives Need From Their Husbands".  

I found that Jay Payleitner offers sound advice for husbands in a very easy, practical and straightforward way.  Here are some of my personal favorites from the book:

Need #3   ~ To Leave So You Can Cleave
Need #10 ~ To Try This Experiment
Need #11 ~ To Read the Verses that Com Before and After Ephesians 5:22
Need #12 ~ To Say "I'm Really Sorry" Like You Really Mean It
Need #15 ~ To Be the Pastor of Your Home
Need #22 ~ To Rebuild Love
Need #38 ~ To Never Repudiate the "Nose-Scrunch Rule"
Need #43 ~ To Put Her Second

In Need #11, the following stood out for me in particular, "He sacrifices.  She submits.  Both are looking for the best in each other and looking out for each other."  

After being married for over 8 years now, I can truly say that the above statement is true.  This is what a true Christian marriage should exemplify.  Each spouse should be willing to look for the best in each other and look out for each other.  Jay Payleitner does a good job in giving pointers on "how to" realistically achieve that in any marriage.
I really enjoyed reading this book.  Especially Jay Payleitner's perspective on what a godly and healthy marriage should look like.  I truly valued his reverence to the Lord and how much he cherishes his wife Rita.

I highly recommend this book to married and single men alike. This book conveys a refreshing outlook on marriage as well as it challenges mainstream thinking and worldly perspectives on marriage today.

I want to personally thank Aaron Dillon of Harvest House Publishers for sending me this book for free to review.

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