Midnight in Peking by Paul French (Penguin Books)


Until I met my husband I didn’t know that True Crime was worthy of a Dewey Decimal classification. I have had no interest in the genre even after learning that it has a large readership—people with a vicarious disposition to relive crime in the extreme details usually relegated to fiction.

I borrowed this book from my local library because it was shelved as “history.” In less than twenty pages, after line upon line of descriptive adjectives for a corpse covered in stab wounds, I realized I was reading my first true crime.

And I. Was. Fascinated.

Author Paul French wastes no time setting the stage: One winter morning in 1937 the body of a young girl is found at the foot of Beijing’s Fox Tower. Oddly, the body has been drained of blood and her heart is missing. 

From this spot where the body is discovered, French pulls you slowly, deeper and deeper, into the inner life of Beijing: the ways and customs of the Chinese, the secret lives of its British residents, and the politics that shape its fate. 

While he does stay true to historical facts, French does take liberty with the thoughts and perspective of the characters, giving the book somewhat of a fictional flavor. I appreciated his use of expatriate jargon (e.g. “amah,” “number one boy”) and Mandarin phrases. Without being overdone, they are well placed and lend the book authenticity. French also does a superb job of unfolding and exposing Beijing’s cultural context of the 1930s without patronizing the reader. 

Almost as fascinating as French’s storytelling, is the collection of photographs in the middle of the book. I say look at these first. They are not spoilers and will give you a visual context as you read the book, which in itself is one giant story mural. 

The book has the veracity and authenticity of non-fiction, while also providing the intrigues of a solid piece of fiction. It’s a prosaic quilt that pieces together history, anthropology, and true crime with threads of fiction.

Feature image by Tony Bertolino on Unsplash


Book Review: A Minute of Vision for Men by Robert Patterson

Screen Shot 2018-02-01 at 11.05.08 AMMy first thought when I received this book was that it’d be a great gift for Chris, a colleague at work. [Nothing better than a gift that costs nothing :)]

But first, the review. So I read it at record speed, noting the following:

From the title to the colors to the content, the book is touted as a book for guys. But a lot of the content could be relevant for women too. While I get the rationale behind a devotional just for men, especially in a book culture where there are a lot more books specifically for women than there are for men, I’m not a fan of segregating daily devotional material by gender. Just my very subjective preference :)

That being said, if you’re a trivia buff looking for great stories with details about people and events, this book is perfect for you.

The title is almost like God pleading, “Please, just give me one minute of your day.” How could anyone say no to that! This book is a great baby step for a man—or a woman— wanting to invest in their spiritual health.

Having made these observations for my review, I presented the book to Chris. “Thanks,” he responded. “But does it come as a podcast?”

“There’s a Kindle version,” I offered.

“Hmm. I prefer listening to my devotions while driving to work.” [Note to publishers: While Chris is just one guy, he just might be representative of many men out there—Under a minute is great, but even better is being spoon fed an audible version ;) *sigh* MEN!]

Check out other great books from Tyndale House PublishersAnd for the record, I received this book for free from Tyndale Blog Network for reviewing it on my blog.
Feature image by Joshua Earle on Unsplash



lead for god’s sake by todd gongwer (tyndale)

ImageIt took me forever to get through this book.

Don’t get me wrong. It’s a great book on the principles of servant leadership. It’s got strong practical, applicative points to make. It’s got a decent story line. It just wasn’t my style; that’s all.

Gongwer, weaves in leadership attributes and lessons through a story–a parable, to be accurate. A story, that is stretched through the hundreds of pages from start to finish. That may work for most, but not for me.

If I want a parable, I go to the gospels, to Jesus. Or maybe to Swindoll’s Tardy Oxcart. For me a parable is short and pithy–something memorable, something that makes its point with subtlety yet without belaboring me with details.

So, while the book gets an “A” from me for content, it scores far less for its delivery.

(I received this book free from Tyndale. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.)
Feature image by Markus Spiske on Unsplash


the witness by dee henderson (tyndale)

For me, the book was just meh. Plot line was rather formulaic and predictable. And there was very little character development. I loved the author’s use of descriptive language, though.It kept me engaged despite the stuff I didn’t care for.

Maybe I’m biased because I have an aversion to books labeled as religious fiction simply because of a sprinkling of prayers or random, awkwardly placed meet-Jesus conversations. I want to meet a character who squeezes my heart with a yearning to know Jesus even more. I want a story that assures me that all is good when God’s in control–even when all doesn’t seem all that good.

Maybe I’m biased because I rarely read religious fiction. (I’m also too cheap to pass up a free book.) To me a true story of someone’s walk with Christ echoes hope and strengthens my faith in providential possibilities more than any piece of fiction could ever do.

So, considering I’m just one person, one review, and Henderson has several bestsellers while I have none, she must be doing something right :)
Photo by Benjamin Patin on Unsplash


secrets of the vine for women by darlene marie wilkinson (multnomah)

If you’ve read Secrets of the Vine by the author’s husband, Bruce Wilkinson and get the concept of living a life of dependency of Jesus, then don’t get his book. But if you’ve read it and still don’t understand how to make time for Jesus in a crowded life of demands made of you as wife, mother, caregiver and breadwinner, then get yourself a copy of this book.

Expounding on it predecessor, this book deals with more of the practical barriers that keep us from letting go and letting Jesus direct our choices, perspectives and attitudes in life. Using everyday examples of women attempting to fill a full and meaningful life for themselves while meeting the demands of life, Wilkinson emphasizes how being connected to Jesus the Vine is not something you squeeze into your schedule as time permits; but is instead what your entire day is anchored upon. Everything you do is layered atop your constant connection to Jesus. It is the fuel that not only propels you along but that also brings focus and meaning to your purpose as a woman.

A small book, a powerful concept, that illuminates an ageless truth–One needs to be connected to the Vine to produce fruit.


(I received this book free from Multnomah. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.)


Lead Like Ike, by Geoff Loftus

The premise of this book is great–there are valuable leadership and administrative lessons and strategies to be gleaned from Dwight Eisenhower’s D-Day operations.

However, the book lacks practical application of these lessons. Throughout the historical narrative of Eisenhower’s operations are text boxes with administrative nuggets. But that’s where it ends. There is no how-to or strategy on implementing these ideas in today’s business setting. An example–On page 78 the lesson gleaned is ” Knock ’em out. If your mission is to put your competition out of business, you can’t afford to do it in a leisurely fashion. When opportunity knocks, go after it fast.” Besides the fact that it is ludicrous to imply that anyone’s “mission” would be reduced to merely putting someone else out of  business, the author fails to tell you how to get this done.

The book also assumes the reader has a good grasp of history and Eisenhower. For example, chapter two jumps right into lessons to be learned from Operation Torch without any background or clue about Torch. The only introduction to it is the last paragraph of chapter one that connects Torch to North Africa.

The book is really more about how Ike led than how to lead like Ike. And that’s the content; the language and intermittent use of colloquialism is another issue.

The book did not “knock me out.”

(Note: I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their <> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255)