Book Recommendation ~ Soul Friend by Jo-Anne Berthelsen

Book Description:

Have you ever enjoyed an ongoing spiritual friendship with a wise, mature Christian who is prepared to walk beside you, believe in you, pray for you, encourage you and challenge you not to give up? Soul Friend is an honest and intimate portrayal of the author’s own journey with her wise, spiritual mentor and the warm, life-giving relationship that developed between them during their fifteen years of meeting together. This story is written in the hope that it will inspire many not only to seek out such a spiritual friendship for themselves but also to provide such a friendship for another.

Narelle’s Thoughts:

 Soul Friend is a beautiful story of an extraordinary friendship that developed over fifteen years between Jo-Anne and her spiritual mentor, Joy. We journey with Jo-Anne as she embarked on a new phase in her ministry including theological studies, pastoral work and five published novels. Jo-Anne recalled her initial meetings with Joy and how their friendship was a blessing in many ways.

I enjoyed Jo-Anne’s conversational writing style and I found Soul Friend easy to read. Jo-Anne was honest as she shared personal issues and spiritual struggles that she encountered while seeking to follow God’s will for her life. Her friendship with Joy challenged her to question many of her core beliefs that formed the foundation for important decisions in her ministry work. Joy showed unconditional love, wisdom and care for Jo-Anne as they developed a trusting and authentic relationship. I was encouraged and inspired by watching their unique friendship evolve and seeing God at work in their lives. I highly recommend this book to those looking for role models on how to build and nurture mutually beneficial relationships with spiritual mentors.

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Book Recommendation ~ An Heiress at Heart by Jennifer Delamere

Book Description:

A New Beginning

A youthful indiscretion has cost Lizzie Poole more than just her honor. After five years living in exile, she’s finally returning home, but she’s still living a secret life. Her best friend Ria’s dying wish was for Lizzie to assume her identity, return to London, and make amends that Ria herself would never live to make. Bearing a striking resemblance to her friend, and harboring more secrets than ever before, Lizzie embarks on a journey that tempts her reckless heart once again . . .

A committed clergyman, Geoffrey Somerville’s world is upended when he suddenly inherits the title of Lord Somerville. Now he’s invited to every ball and sought after by the matchmaking mothers of London society. Yet the only woman to capture his heart is the one he cannot have: his brother’s young widow, Ria. Duty demands he deny his feelings, but his heart longs for the mysterious beauty. With both their futures at stake, will Lizzie be able to keep up her façade? Or will she find the strength to share her secret and put her faith in true love?

Narelle’s Thoughts:

I really enjoyed reading this book and liked the Aussie connection in the story. Lizzie is a fascinating character who made unwise choices in London that led her to seek refuge in Bathurst, Australia. Lizzie meets Ria in Australia and their uncanny physical resemblance raises a number of questions in the story. Lizzie fulfils Ria’s dying wish by returning to London and assuming Ria’s identity. What Lizzie doesn’t count on is falling in love with Geoffrey, Ria’s brother-in-law who she can’t legally marry while continuing to impersonate Ria.

Geoffrey had never met the real Ria in person, but I did question why Ria’s relatives seemed to easily accept that Lizzie was Ria. My questions were answered in an exciting and satisfying ending. The faith element in the story was more understated than in many inspirational romances and themes of honesty and integrity were addressed as Lizzie dealt with the consequences of her deception. I recommend this book to those looking for a fun and intriguing historical romance.

Many thanks to NetGalley for providing a review copy.

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Book Recommendation ~ Fear Has a Name by Creston Mapes


Book Description:

How Far Would He Go To Keep Them Safe?

It was more than a break-in. More than a stalking. It was personal. When a stalker targets his family, journalist Jack Crittendon must uncover who the person is and what his motives are–if he is to protect the ones he loves. It will lead Crittendon into a world of behind-closed-door secrets and faith gone awry, as does his investigation of a missing pastor, whose apparent suicide is more than it appears.

Each move Crittendon makes weaves him tighter and tighter into a web of lies, greed, hypocrisy, sin, and danger. He believed he’d never give in to fear. But that was before. And holding on to his faith won’t be easy. Nor will keeping his family safe, and ending the terror. Because that might require him to step over lines he never dared to cross.

Narelle’s Thoughts: 

This book is action packed from the start and I couldn’t put it down. The plot twists kept me turning the page to learn what happens next. Jack’s faith is tested and pushed to the limit when a dangerous stalker threatens to destroy his family.

Fear Has a Name deals with hypocrisy and corruption in unlikely places. It has a supernatural element and the manifestation of evil in the world is a strong theme in the book. Jack and his wife, Pam, learn that evil can arise in unimaginable ways. Being a good person and doing the right thing by God is not a ticket to an easy life without fear, pain, struggles and hardship. I recommend this book to those looking for an exciting supernatural thriller.

Many thanks to NetGalley and David C. Cook for providing a review copy.

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Book Recommendation ~ So Shines the Night by Tracy L. Higley


Book Description:

In a city teetering at the brink of anarchy, Daria finds hope among people of The Way.

She escaped a past of danger and found respite in beautiful Ephesus, a trading center on the Aegean coast, serving as tutor to Lucas, the wealthy merchant who rescued her.

But the darkness she fled has caught up with her.

The high priests of Artemis once controlled the city, but a group of sorcerers are gaining power. And a strange group who call themselves followers of The Way further threaten the equilibrium. As Daria investigates Lucas’s exploits into the darker side of the city, her life is endangered, and she takes refuge in the strange group of believers. She’s drawn to Paul and his friends, even as she wrestles with their teachings.

When authorities imprison Lucas for a brutal crime, Daria wonders if even Paul’s God can save him. Then she uncovers a shocking secret that could change everything—Lucas’s fate, her position in his household, and the outcome of the tension between pagans and Christians. But only if she survives long enough to divulge what she knows.

Narelle’s Thoughts:

I loved reading this book. The first few chapters hooked me into the story and I couldn’t put it down. Daria and Lucas are intriguing and multi-layered characters. I wanted to see them triumph over their problems and achieve their seemingly impossible happily-ever-after ending.

I enjoyed seeing the city of Ephesus, with a rich cultural heritage, brought to life on the page. Paul, Timothy and other Biblical characters we learn about in the book of Acts and Paul’s letter to the Ephesians play a crucial role in the story.

The spiritual warfare element in the story is fascinating and I liked seeing the early church from the perspective of outsiders who were seeking to learn the truth. I highly recommend this book to those looking for an insightful and gripping Biblical fiction story.

Thanks to Thomas Nelson and Net Galley for providing a review copy.

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Book Recommendation ~ Stealing Jake by Pam Hillman

Book Description:

When Livy O’Brien spies a young boy jostling a man walking along the boardwalk, she recognizes the act for what it is. After all, she used to be known as Light-fingered Livy. But that was before she put her past behind her and moved to the growing town of Chestnut, Illinois, where she’s helping to run an orphanage. Now she’ll do almost anything to protect the street kids like herself.

Sheriff’s deputy Jake Russell had no idea what he was in for when he ran into Livy—literally—while chasing down a pickpocket. With a rash of robberies and a growing number of street kids in town—as well as a loan on the family farm that needs to be paid off—Jake doesn’t have time to pursue a girl. Still, he can’t seem to get Livy out of his mind. He wants to get to know her better . . . but Livy isn’t willing to trust any man, especially not a lawman.

Narelle’s Thoughts:

I really liked the story premise and enjoyed reading this book. Livy is an intriguing character with a heart of gold. Her faith helps her overcome her difficult childhood. She has a genuine desire to help the orphans and street kids who have appeared in her small town. Livy is drawn to Jake, despite fearing he will discover the truth about her past.

Jake struggles to understand why Livy has a soft spot for the street kids, who seem to be the source of trouble in the town. Explosive secrets are revealed that take Jake and Livy on a dangerous journey to seek the truth and bring justice to the town of Chestnut, Illinois. I highly recommend this book to those looking for a fast paced and beautifully plotted historical romance.

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Book Recommendation ~ Reign: The Chronicles of Queen Jezebel by Ginger Garrett

Book Description:

Beyond the Drama, Her Heart Was Real

From the moment her marriage to prince Ahab thrusts her into the intrigues of palace life, Jezebel’s exotic beauty opens doors and her will breaks down walls. Torn from her homeland and wed to power in a strange country, Jezebel vows to create a legacy and power all her own. Some might call her a manipulative schemer, bent on having her way. But they don’t know the whole story, and she was much, much worse.

As she moves through the halls of power, her heart struggles between devotion to the gods she worships, the prince who loves her, and her thirst for revenge. She sparks a battle between her strangely powerless gods and the God of palace administrator Obadiah—a God who confronts her with surprising might. She will fight, though victory may cost her everything.

Narelle’s Thoughts:

I found Reign a fascinating story to read. It was a little confronting to walk in Jezebel’s shoes as she became the princess and ultimately queen of Israel with her husband, Ahab. Her despicable and evil acts including idolatry, child sacrifices and killing the Lord’s prophets are covered in the book. We gain an insight into her hatred of the prophet, Elijah, and her unquenchable desire for power.

Ahab is stuck in the middle. He is unable to please his wife and the people who have remained faithful to the Israelite God. He allows Jezebel to encourage the Israelites to worship her foreign gods. Both Ahab and Jezebel suffer the consequences of God’s wrath and judgment.

We are given a fictional perspective on their dysfunctional marriage and family life, and plausible reasons to explain their life choices. I recommend this book to those looking for insightful and challenging Biblical fiction.

Many thanks to NetGalley and David C. Cook for providing a review copy.

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