Friday, March 1, 2013

Island of Saints by Andy Andrews

When a music student's parent dropped a humidifier off at my front door this week, she also included a bag filled with such necessary items one needs when sick: cough drops, Vitamin C, seltzer, night time medicine, green and herbal teas .... and a book.  With an already insurmountable pile of "to reads" waiting, I thought, I'll be on my 6th antibiotic before I can get to this one.  However, as I positioned myself on my trusty couch yesterday morning with my hot tea and electric throw, I picked up the book that I had placed on top of the  stack ... and I never put it down.  

Though the names have been changed to literally protect the innocent, Andy Andrews has embarked upon a story which reads like  fiction; but is not.  While digging up a wax myrtle in his own backyard on the northern Gulf of Mexico, the author unearthed a rusty old can that housed Nazi artifacts and 3 very old photographs ... one which included Hitler himself.  Putting aside his other writing assignments for this one adventure, Andrews goes on the search of a lifetime, and what he discovers rocks his world.  And many of those around him.  

Because it is a true story, I had to really discipline myself NOT to turn to the last page and see how it ends.  After all, fiction often comes wrapped in lovely paper with pretty bows.  But life rarely does.  I encourage the reader to use the same restraint and just read for the ride.  You won't be sorry.

If you are a history buff, well then you have U-boats in the Gulf of Mexico and a Nazi walking the streets of a Southern coastal town during WWII.  If you like love, there's that, too.  But Island of Saints is not just a novel and it won't be found in the fiction, romance or historical sections.  Rather, you will find it in the "Self-help" section for reasons the author himself explains.  As the subtitle reads, it's "A Story of the One Principle that Frees the Human Spirit."  What might that be?  Well, dear reader, you'll just have to get the book and find out for yourself.  

With a copyright date of 2005, it might not be the newest read out there.  But that doesn't change the fact that it's still a wonderful story and well worth your time.  And besides, you'll be smarter when you're through.

**Note: When I text the mother to thank her and tell her how much I was enjoying the book, she told me that she grew up in that area and that her relatives are mentioned in the book.  It's a true story y'all.  Keep that in mind as you read it.

Taken from

Saturday, August 18, 2012


DARK LIAISON, A Christian Suspense Novel
by D.I. Telbat

It is a fact that Christians are persecuted throughout parts of the world, many times to the point of death.  This includes missionaries and their families.  What is little known is that there are organizations that are devoted to assisting persecuted or kidnapped Christians in various ways.  Sometimes this is simply working through various diplomatic agencies and at other times this involves actual physical intervention.  This novel is non-stop action.  It is thrilling with close calls and physical danger.  I read this in a very short time and could hardly put it down.  Although this is a fiction work, there was much here that I was unaware of and am sad to know, but this is very real and present day, make no mistake.    Liz


By Abraham Verghese

Let me preface this critique by first stating that although this is not a "Christian Novel," it is by no means offensive to a Christian reader.  My sister-in-law, a physician, recommended this novel to me and I now recommend it to others.  It is a story of a boy born in Ethiopia to missionary parents during the mid 1950's and follows his life (and that of his twin brother) to modern day.  This boy becomes a surgeon and this story is graphically written as the author is also a physician.  The book is long (541 pages) and I could hardly put it down.  The hero of our story grows up in a missionary compound, goes to college in Ethiopia and eventually is forced to leave due to political reasons and travels to the United States where he finishes his education and becomes a surgeon in New York City.  There is more, so much more that I cannot write it all here.  Read this book and try and avoid staying up like I did reading all night.        Liz

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Invisible by Lorena McCourtney

HIGHLY, highly recommend this book for summer reading. It's really one of my favorite books I've read in a long time for the type book it is - a lighthearted, feel good, LOL (little old lady & laugh out loud) mystery, but so much more than that. I recommend anyone who thinks life is passing them by and that they are on the backside of the aging hill to read this book. I immediately started on the second book in this series when I read the last paragraph of this one. I always have 3-5 books going at one time and this is the one I read on my Kindle when I'm waiting in line, at the doctor's office, etc., and it was perfect for giving me a smile whatever I was doing. Loved it!

Saturday, June 23, 2012

One Tuesday Morning 9-11 by Karen Kingsbury

Just finished ONE TUESDAY MORNING 9-11, by Karen Kingsbury.  It was written a few years ago but is still meaningful today.  It is the fictional story of an FDNY firefighter and his family who was involved in the rescue attempt at the Twin Towers.  As Karen Kingsbury is a Christian author, this is an excellent account of many of the events surrounding 09/11/2001 with heavy Christian overtones.  I laughed and cried and would recommend this book to anyone 18 and up.  I read this as an e-book from the Houston County Library. Liz

Water's Edge

Just finished reading Water's Edge by Robert Whitlow. It is very much in the John Grisham style of an attorney-legal-ethical-mystery novel but with strong Christian overtones. The basic summary without any spoiler info: a big city young lawyer has to go back to his small hometown to close down his recently deceased father's law practice. His father's death, along with other inconsistencies in his father's practice, proves to more than what it all seems on the surface and he ends up following a trail of lies, theft, and worse ... Good, light summer reading, especially if you like legal dramas. I recommend it! I will also loan it to you, as always. - Slynn

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Every now and again I’ll get hold of a book that gets under my skin. That becomes family. That when I turn the last page, I raise it to my lips and kiss its cover and then press it for a period over my heart and mourn its end. That’s what I did with today’s book.

Jayber Crow: The Life Story of Jayber Crow, Barber, of the Port William Membership, as Written by Himself. Quite the title given by its author Wendell Berry.

In this rich, pastoral novel, Jaber Crow tells us his story beginning with his birth near Port William, Kentucky in the early 20th century. But after the untimely death of both of his parents in the flu epidemic of 1918, and then his guardians when he was 10, he is sent to an out-of-town church orphanage where he grows up knowing of loneliness and want and soured to rules and institutions. After a stint in pre-ministerial college, Jayber is drawn back to his childhood home where he lands the position of town barber. A born observer, he hears much, watches carefully, and spends the next 50 years learning its citizens by heart. This is the story of a man’s love for his community and his abiding and unrequited love for a woman who has made one bad mistake. He tells their stories (and his) with great tenderness, and in doing so, we come to know these townspeople and care deeply for them. And ever so slowly, we become participants.

Nearing the end of his career as a barber, Jayber writes, “ I came to feel a tenderness for them all. This was something new to me. It gave me a curious pleasure to touch them, to help them in and out of the chair, to shave their weather-toughened old faces. They had known hard use, nearly all of them. You could tell it by their hands, which were shaped by wear and often by the twists and swellings of arthritis. They had used their hands forgetfully, as hooks and pliers and hammers, and in every kind of weather. The backs of their hands showed a network of little scars where they had been cut, nicked, thorn stuck, pinched, punctured, scraped, and burned. Their faces told that they had suffered things they did not talk about. Every one of them had a good knife in his pocket, sharp, the blades whetted narrow and concave, the horn of the handle worn smooth. The oldest ones spoke, like Uncle Othy, the old broad speech of the place; they said “ahrn” and “fahr” and “tard” for “iron” and “fire” and “tired”; they said “yorn” for “yours,” “cheer” for “chair,” “deesh” for “dish,” “dreen” for “drain,” “slide” for “sled,” and “juberous” for “dubious.” I loved to listen to them, for they spoke my native tongue.”

This book is about a love that breaks the barrier of time and of loss that grieves silently. It’s about darkest despair and deepest joy. It is about the tug of war between heaven and hell. About community in its rawest sense. There is much humor and not a little sadness, but despite everything, the author lets us know there is always hope.

If you have never lived in a small town in America, then here is your guide. If you have lived in a rural setting, then expect to find friends within these pages … if not family members. If you have ever loved from afar, ever been rowdy, afraid, lonely, confused or have questions of faith that no one can answer, well then you just might have a friend in Jayber Crow. But beware, our narrator is not a “religious” man, but rather a man of hard-won faith, a faith unique to himself and his life. As he finishes out his time in a modest shack on the river, he still walks into town for church. But even then we hear him saying, “I don’t attend altogether for religious reasons. I feel more religious, in fact, here beside this corrupt and holy stream.” And you will, too, as you sit with him and listen to his stories. 

Jayber Crow does not disappoint. In a media inundated with the sensational, with sex and with violence, this novel is a gift. By the time you finish it, you, too, may just wish you didn’t have to let it go. I know I did.

A truly beautiful story. One to be read again and again

Contributed by Nancy McLendon

An Altar in the World

Many years ago, I read a book by Mark Buchanan in which he proposed that things of life were not so much divided into religious and secular, but into sacred and profane.  I think that was a beginning of my looking for the sacred in the ordinary.  No doubt, that's why if I were to keep a Top 10 list of favorite books and another for authors, today's "Friday's Volume" would be high on both.  May I introduce to you AN ALTAR IN THE WORLD by Barbara Brown Taylor.

Barbara Brown Taylor spent her formative years as an Episcopal priest in Atlanta and then in Clarksville, GA until she left full-time ministry to become a professor at Piedmont College, a decision that stretched her faith beyond the four walls of a church building.  In today's book, she introduces us to her new discoveries of spiritual practices and the uncovering of new "altars."  Unlike the common disciplines of fasting, prayer, and lectio divino (sacred readings), her disciplines are the far more barefoot-on-the-pavement kind.  Just listen:

The practice of waking up to God
The practice of paying attention
The practice of wearing skin
The practice of walking on the earth
The practice of getting lost
The practice of encountering others
The practice of living with purpose
The practice of saying no
The practice of carrying water
The practice of feeling pain
The practice of being present to God
The practice of pronouncing blessings

The first time I picked up this particular book, it was a read-through.  I'll even admit I began by approaching it cautiously, just as I do any author with whom I'm unfamiliar.  But now it sits next to me at my reading station, the couch in my sun room.  I pick it up often, and I linger over passages.  I absorb them.  I think over them.  And very often, I pray over them.  Whereas I'll be the first to admit that some parts are very interesting ... if not daring, I can turn to any page, and be blessed. 

A friend with whom I shared a copy of this book gave this insight: "Barbara Brown Taylor models a transparency that enables people to see themselves."  Indeed she does.  I know for me, it has come in the form of a yearning to know God more and to experience His presence in a greater reality in day to day living.  From walking barefoot in the backyard to being stuck in traffic, from going to the local grocery store to digging Yukon gold potatoes in the backyard, Mrs. Taylor reveals concrete ways to see in all we do the sacred in the ordinary -- the altars in the world, if you will -- if we'll just pay attention.

Who knows?  The ground you're standing on just might be holy.  Anybody care to take off their shoes with me?

Contributed by Nancy McLendon

Monday, October 24, 2011

A Brief Note about Leadership and Self-Deception: Getting Out of the Box by the Arbinger Institute from Don Caulley

Most leadership books focus on techniques to manipulate others.  This book takes a decidedly different approach.  Leadership and Self-Deception (LASD) seeks to help the reader understand the barriers that exist in relationships.  In fact, it is much more about understanding relational experiences than it is strictly about leadership.

The basic supposition is that each of us creates a “box” which is a result of a moment of self-deception.  The box is built by our keen ability to rationalize our own behavior and blame others for our missteps.  This creates an environment where we begin to see other people as merely objects that either help us on our way to success or that we steam roll on our way.  This box creates a defensive posture any time someone would suggest we made a mistake.  This book will hold a mirror up to your actions and refuse to let you make excuses.

While this book is not written from a spiritual perspective, there are many Christian applications.  First, this book recognizes the inherent humanity in all people, regardless of their actions or attitudes.  Second, this book does not allow you to blame others for your actions.  You are ultimately responsible for you behavior.  Third, this book finds value in a true apology.  Christians are not perfect, we fail when we refuse to recognize that we are fallible (I recognize the irony of that statement).  Lastly, the book helps us see how we can hold people accountable in a proper way.

Jesus very tersely described the essentials of our faith as “Loving God, and loving others.”  Neither of these involves selfish behaviors.  This book helps reveal the ways in which we become selfish.  It is written as a long parable and it is well told.  I hope you will read it and learn some of the principles discussed.


Monday, September 26, 2011

from Laurie Jones

I have read the first Precinct 11 book and am waiting for the second one to be returned to the library.
I loved Sutters' Cross and cried throughout the ending and did the same with Tested by Fire by Kathy Herman. I jotted down a quote from that book which opened my eyes and changed my perspective about feelings of guilt. "Hanging on to guilt is like looking up at God's Son dying on the cross and telling Him that His death isn't good enough-that somehow my sin is bigger than God, and that even He can't help me."
Leif Enger's Peace Like a River is an excellent book that Angie Heath had loaned to Robert. I found it in his car and read it. She had shared it with several of her students.
I also have started the B. Collins' series with Brink of Death.
Many thanks to you, Kelly, Angie, and Nicola for initiating the book talk.
Love In Christ, Laurie

Saturday, September 24, 2011


There are two ways you can contribute to our new Reading By Grace blog: 
(1) you can "comment" on posts:
For example, right now there are only two blogs on there, so pick either one and then look beneath it and you'll see a link that says "# comments." Click on that and it'll open that post and you can type your comments under "Post a Comment" and when you finish, click "Post comment."
(2) you can write your own post directly to the blog by emailing it directly to
For example, if you just finished reading something that you can't wait to share, write an email and send it. It goes straight to the blog for anyone to see, but be careful because it's there for anyone and everyone to see immediately!

Monday, September 19, 2011

YOUR Recommendations

Hi, all!

Any one who sets up a recommendation list of their favorite books/DVDs/etc on (it's free, why not?!) can send me the link to their recommendations page (just copy & paste the address from the address bar at the top of the page) and I'll add your link to our Reading By Grace blog home page. The more, the merrier. One unfortunate thing is that Amazon limits its listmania lists to only 40 items, so if you are recommending more than 40 books, you've got to create multiple lists. Maybe different fiction & nonfiction?

Like most of you probably, I always try to have several books going at once. Last night I finished the newest release in the Precinct 11 series  titled Betrayal by Jerry B. Jenkins ( It was good cop mystery. Still reading Jesus Calling (daily devotional) by Sarah Young, Wizard's First Rule (The Sword of Truth series) by Terry Goodkind, Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire by Jim Cymbala, The Novel by James A. Michener, and ready to start on the next mystery, too.

So many books, so little time ...

Saturday, September 3, 2011


Thanks, Nicola & Angie, Kelly, & all you Grace Church ladies that are so amazing in your faith walk!
Our first "book talk" was so much fun and very informative for me (thanks to Kelly's contributions!). As promised, we now have a venue for discussing more books in more detail through this blog. I'm working on getting our recommendations out from the meeting, but also looking forward to YOUR recommendations and comments as you read not only what we recommend to each other through this venue but your own discoveries.
This post and initial blog design is just a start, so let's learn and grow together through Reading By Grace.
Love you all! S