Little Book of Great Dates by Smalley and Smalley

dates52 great fun ways to spend time with my wife? Yes, please!

Little Book of Great Dates
by Greg and Erin Smalley
Tyndale
September 2013

This leather-like dark royal blue book is gift sized with 52 two-page long “date” ideas. The Smalleys do a great job opening the reader up to re-evaluating what it means to date. Instead of spending time at a restaurant or going to a movie this book gives the reader a ton of fun things to try together. The focus is definitely on building relationship rather than amusement.

Some favorites included picking a challenging meal to cook where the focus is on working together to follow the directions then enjoying the meal together. Included are discussion questions around teamwork, what worked well and what didn’t and the next dish you want to work together on.

The book is full of great stuff, but one thing bothered me on my read through. On date 23 (page 62) “Time for a Check in” the reader is directed to the Smalley’s website to take a survey/ test to see where they are at in their relationship. A good idea. The catch? It costs $29.99. This is the written equivalent of the very unpopular app practice of In App Purchasing where you buy the app for a low cost (or free) but to get the full experience you have to purchase add-ons. I don’t like it on apps and I definitely don’t like it in my books. If the check-up is something we should do and we already purchased the book we should get a onetime code to take the test for free.

Overall, I’m a fan of the book and what it’s trying to accomplish. I love the redefinition of date and the focus on building the relationship rather than (only) having fun.

This book was provided by the publisher as a review copy.


Scott Asher is the Editor-in-Chief of BookGateway.com. His personal blog is AshertopiA – a land flowing with milk and honey… and a lot of sticky people where he turns real life into stupid cartoons, writes on Christianity, Zombies, and whatever else he wants and posts Bible studies from his classes at church.

This book was provided by the publisher as a review copy.

Kylie Jean Drama Queen by Peschke

kylejeanIn the fourth book released in the series, Kylie finds herself competing against the new girl in school for the part of the Queen of Hearts in the class play.

Kylie Jean Drama Queen
by Marci Peschke
illustrated by Tuesday Morning
Picture Window Books
January 2011

Unlike in previous books where the competition was mostly internal (raising money in Hoop Queen, racing competitions in Rodeo Queen,) Kylie’s competition here is a new girl who beats her out for the coveted part. All looks lost early on and to top things off the girl who won the part is totally mean. Will Kylie learn to overcome her jealousy of the new girl and stay pretty on the inside as well as the outside?

This book is the first one that puts the challenge of treating people the right way instead of simply dealing with internal issues or timeliness issues. It deals with beauty in a way that provides a positive role model for young readers.

This is a great book in a really great series!


Sunshine is a 10 year old avid book reader who we love to ask what she thought of the books she reads so we can share a young reader’s perspective with you!

With Scott Asher is the Editor-in-Chief of BookGateway.com. His personal blog is AshertopiA – a land flowing with milk and honey… and a lot of sticky people where he cartoons and writes on Christianity, Zombies, and anything else he wants to.

This book was provided by the publisher as a review copy.

His Majesty’s Hope by MacNeal

imageMaggie Hope is back – this time on a secret mission to Berlin during World War 2. It’s supposed to be a quick in and out drop off and intelligence run… Supposed to be.

His Majesty’s Hope
Maggie Hope #3
by Susan Elia MacNeal
Bantam / Random House Audio
May 2013

Maggie quickly makes things more complicated by deciding to stick around a little longer to gather intelligence when an opportunity to work for high ranking officials opens up. This leads to daring escapes, dramatic fights, terrible persecution and a fun story set in an era that is one of my favorites.

[MILD SPOILERS] The problem I have with this novel is that I’m constantly being jerked out of the story due to the questionable ethics being promoted by the main characters and cliché storylines. I despise when everyone in a story is related (although they may not know it at first.) The main bad guy is who? The helper at university is who? The boyfriend is where? Are there only 10 people in the whole world? Why must we go back to this tired form of storytelling?

As far as ethical issue, sure Maggie Hope is like a female James Bond so sleeping around doesn’t surprise me as much as it should considering that this is a World War 2 era story with a female protagonist. Her roommate being a (smart, fashionable, witty) gay man just trying to live his life in peace with his gay lover (who of course get attacked for being gay by some drunk ruffians). It’s just so cliché!

And consider the other heroine, Eliza, who wants to be a nun and seems to take her faith seriously except that she enjoys frequent premarital sex in the alley outside dance halls. (And who is related to our protagonist, of course.)

But Eliza’s hypocrisy is part of an anti-religious theme in the book that I didn’t appreciate. Along with Eliza, Maggie’s main contact in Berlin went to school to be a priest but is a borderline abusive, mean-spirited, sour man who never comes across as interesting, smart, or sympathetic. And he is terrible at apologetics. (Or great at being Maggie’s straw man.)

Consider how terribly this man answers the witty, smart, charming atheist Maggie about the issue of pain and suffering in Berlin. The man says that the pain and suffering and evil is something God provides to mold us and teach us lessons. While it is true that Christianity believes that God uses suffering we don’t believe that God is responsible for evil and suffering. This is a step too far and reveals a negative bias by the author against Christianity. The arguments that the wannabe priest make are merely set-ups for Maggie to knock down; easy straw man arguments create for Maggie, the atheist, to win. And why is there conflict anyway? Many of the greatest heroes from World War 2, especially in Germany, were the Christians who sacrificed everything to undermine the Reich. (Consider Bonheoffer, for some more knowledgeable and appropriate responses to Maggie’s questions.) And there really ought not to be a conflict between science and religion either, but that is the way the author chooses – the easy way – instead of really wrestling with the question of evil in Hitler’s Germany.

The story is fun and Maggie is a charming character. But the way the book heavy handedly promotes carnality and atheism made the story less enjoyable for me. And I believe can also cause issues for the other 80% of the world that believes in a faith tradition.

I don’t recommend it.


Scott Asher is the Editor-in-Chief of BookGateway.com. His personal blog is AshertopiA – a land flowing with milk and honey… and a lot of sticky people where he turns real life into stupid cartoons, writes on Christianity, Zombies, and whatever else he wants and posts Bible studies from his classes at church.

This book was provided by the publisher as a review copy.

The Battle of Verril by Lallo

verrilThe final book in The Book of Deacon trilogy, Myranda and the Chosen must face the invaders from another world. But the generals of the D’karon are fearsome enemies that apparently can’t be killed. Even more troubling, the prophecy that brought the Chosen together states that only four of them will survive the final battle, and one will die.

The Battle of Verril
The Book of Deacon #3
by Joseph Lallo
CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform
July 31, 2012

As the final book of the trilogy, the author’s writing shows quite a bit of improvement, and I can only imagine that the act of writing such a lengthy trilogy was a growing experience and a labor of love.

That said, it was quite a labor to reach this point in the story, and there are plot holes and problems from the previous books that continue to overshadow the successes made with this final chapter of the trilogy.

The characters, both good and bad, actually begin to take on more layered personalities, but their rocky foundations still leave much to be desired.

As final battles go, things continue as you would more or less expect them to. Although I couldn’t help but wonder why a war that has lasted for over a century and was supposedly engineered by an invading force from another dimension would only just now be reaching its conclusion.

In the end, the overall story isn’t bad, just poorly executed. The entire series would have probably done better as a single book and with a generous amount of editing. Still, the author has shows quite a bit of improvement and has since written a few side stories that take place in the same universe, but have a much higher quality of writing.

Anyone who has managed to make it this far, should definitely check out some of the author’s later works.


Matthew Scott is the Dark Fantasy & Horror Editor of BookGateway.com who describes himself as just another average reader who enjoys sharing his opinion on various books, authors, and whatever else may cross his path.

The Great Convergence by Lallo

greatconvThe second book in the The Book of Deacon trilogy, picks up directly where The Book of Deacon left off. Now that two of the Chosen have been found, it would seem the Perpetual War may finally end. But Lain isn’t interested in stopping a war, and while the prophesied spirit named Ether has finally been summoned, she has emotional bearing of a petulant child. With an end to the war in sight, Myranda has taken up the charge of finding the remaining Chosen, but dark forces are gathering to oppose her.

The Great Convergence
The Book of Deacon #2
by Joseph Lallo
CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform
July 31, 2012

Delving a little deeper into the world, The Great Convergence actually starts to build up to a workable plot. Unfortunately, it still suffers from a lot of the problems that plagued the first book. The overall story is still rather convoluted, and the characters too often come across as flat archetypes.

We do, however, finally have a villain or troupe of villains to address. As it turns out, Myranda’s world is being invaded by forces from another dimension, and the war that is currently being fought is really just an excuse to wipe out humanity.

But the villains all come across as the exact same, and I honestly had trouble trying to keep their names straight, since they all seemed to be clones of one another.

Myranda attempt to actually take charge in this book, but since she has no means of forcing the Chosen to act, her attempts to direct them just comes across as whining and nagging.

Lain remains flat and dull as he constantly broods in the background, and his friend Desmeres is little more than greed incarnate. (Actually both characters seem to have absolutely no moral compass and are motivated solely by their own selfish reasons, so it’s little wonder they get along.)

Ether and Ivy are introduced and act like spoiled children throughout the entire story. Ether is snobbish and cruel, looking down on everyone but Lain and herself. Meanwhile, Ivy has all the social grace and attitude of a five year old. And while it’s clear that the author wanted Ivy to be painted in a sympathetic light, her childlike naivete and constant whining wear on the nerves rather quickly.

Ultimately, the story doesn’t really go anywhere, since once again, the narrative comes to abrupt end and we’re left to wait for the next book. But for anyone who has bothered to read this far, the final book is more of an inevitability than anything else.

Stone of Destiny by Mary L. Ball

51kgDkG0KEL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA278_PIkin4,BottomRight,-64,22_AA300_SH20_OU01_Taylor Harrison is the youngest CEO at the Mugful Beverage Company and she feels that her life is complete. When she meets the handsome Brent Roberts, who is renovating her grandma’s family home, she starts to wonder about her life and happiness.

Stone of Destiny
Mary L. Ball
Prism Book Group
September 2013

Stone of Destiny by Mary L. Ball is a wonderful story of romance and one finding their way back to God through faith and trust. Taylor Harrison is the youngest CEO at the Mugful Beverage Company and she feels that her life is complete. With great trepidation she agrees to oversee the renovation of her grandmother’s family home. Fifty years earlier, a sapphire ring was lost in the house and Granny Kay wants Taylor to search for the ring as the renovations are being made. After finding the ring, Taylor begins to have strange dreams and she is even making phone calls in her sleep at night. Brent Roberts is the nephew of Granny Kay’s best friend and he has been hired to do the renovations to the house. When he and Taylor meet, she is definitely not impressed even though she thinks he is the most handsome man she has ever seen. Brent is very much in tune with what God wants him to do with his life. His faith and the way he shares his knowledge of God cause Taylor to start questioning some of her beliefs. She soon realizes that she can only find happiness through a true faith in God.

The development of the plot, the characters, the dialogue, and the description of all the scenes were done in an excellent manner. The characters were so real that at times I wanted to shake Taylor and would not have minded if Brent gave me a hug. Granny Kay is the kind of grandma that everyone would love to have and her love for Taylor was a very important part of the story. All the action taking place in the book was so well done that in my mind I was struggling right along with Taylor as she worked to make her decisions and I was pulling for Brent to win Taylor’s heart. I really appreciate the way that the author handled the romance in the story and how Taylor regained her faith in God and finally trusted Him with her life. Searching for the missing ring added a little suspense to the story. Would she find the ring or would it be lost forever?

I highly recommend this book. If you like a wonderful story with lots of romance, a little bit of suspense, and a story in which faith in God plays a big part, then this is the book for you.


Deanna Love Gottreu is a 74 year old widow and the mother of two wonderful sons who share second place in her life – with God being in first place. She spends her time reading or making quilts for charity. Her book reviews can also be read on her blog at www.buzzardsroostcrafts.com/blog.

This book was provided by the author as a review copy.

The Book of Deacon by Lallo

bookofdeaconOrphaned, homeless, and alone, Myranda is a young woman who is just trying to stay alive. The Perpetual War has been raging across the land for years now, and Myranda is one of the few people who sees the constant bloodshed as a waste of life. Her views make her unpopular, and she is forced to wander from town to town seeking shelter. Her life is completely changed, however, when she finds a dead soldier in the frozen wastes and ultimately takes his place in a prophecy that might just save the world.

The Book of Deacon
The Book of Deacon #1
Joseph Lallo
CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform
March 18, 2012

Before diving too deep into this book, it should be noted that this is the first in a trilogy. However, unlike a traditional trilogy, the books aren’t self contained stories. Instead, the narrative in the first two books simply drops off and is immediately picked up in the sequels. This makes it a bit difficult to get a clear picture of the overall story from just one book.

As for the characters, themselves, they’re rather poorly designed. Myranda is hopelessly passive and spends the majority of the book being tossed from plot point to plot point. The fact that she has all the personality and bearing of a sack of grain makes her a poor protagonist. She isn’t so much a part of the story as the story happens to her.

Leo/Lain might as well have truly been two completely different characters as his entire nature changes halfway through the first book. We aren’t really given an explanation for his sudden shift in personality, except that the story seemed to call for it.

The rest of the characters randomly appear and disappear, all for the sake of moving the scenes along. Their personalities are little more than archetypes to the point that they might as well have been named like the seven dwarfs in Snow White (Happy, Grumpy, Bashful, etc.).

And then the book ends. Where we’re going and why we’re going there is never really explained beyond a few vague references to a prophecy. The story does pick up and improve as we move to the second and third book, but it still has a tendency to drag.

If you’re looking for something fantasy based that is light, fluffy, and doesn’t require too much thought, the book isn’t too bad. But if you’re not willing to read through all three books to get the whole picture, I’d advise you not to even start.


Matthew Scott is the Dark Fantasy & Horror Editor of BookGateway.com who describes himself as just another average reader who enjoys sharing his opinion on various books, authors, and whatever else may cross his path.

A Plain Disappearance by Amanda Flower

1433676990_bChloe Humphrey and Timothy Troyer are Englischers living in the Amish community of Appleseed Creek and on their first date they discover the body of Katie Lambright, an Amish teenager.

A Plain Disappearance
Amanda Flower
B & H Publishing Group
September 2013

A Plain Disappearance by Amanda Flower is one of the best Amish stories that I have read. Chloe Humphrey grew up in the Amish community but when her mother died, her father remarried and his new wife did not want Chloe to live with them so Chloe’s best friend’s family took her in and treated her as one of their own and she became an Englischer. Chloe has now moved back to Appleseed Creek to work at the college as head of the computer department. Timothy Troyer also grew up Amish but several years earlier he left the order and now lives as an Englischer. His sister Becky is planning to leave the Amish life also and is Chloe’s roommate. Chloe is just beginning a relationship with Timothy and on their first date they find the body of Katie Lambright, an Amish teenager. Near where the body is found, they also find evidence that Timothy’s friend Billy may be involved in the murder. As it turns out Billy is not who he said he was and has been living in the community under a false identity.

Amanda did a great job in the development of the plot of this story. There were several different subplots but they all meshed together very well and made for a most enjoyable story. All the characters and scenes were very well developed and I actually felt as if I were having all the adventures right along with them. My favorite character was Timothy’s seven year old brother Thomas who was absolutely adorable and stole whatever scene he was in. All the characters came to life on the pages of the book. It did seem a little odd that a police officer would ask Chloe for help but since the Amish were very hesitant to talk with the police, Chloe could ask questions and hopefully get answers. I like a good suspense story and this is one of the best I have read. It was near the end of the book that I decided that the murderer had to be one of two people. And then came the big surprise, Katie was killed by someone else and there was also the surprise as to why she was killed. This is the first book I have read by this author but I am definitely going to read the two previous books in this series. I hope that the author will write a fourth book for I would like to know if Chloe and her father will be reunited and have a good father/daughter relationship.

I very highly recommend this book. If you like Amish and suspense, this is a great book to read.


Deanna Love Gottreu is a 74 year old widow and the mother of two wonderful sons who share second place in her life – with God being in first place. She spends her time reading or making quilts for charity. Her book reviews can also be read on her blog at www.buzzardsroostcrafts.com/blog.

This book was provided by the publisher as a review copy.

Bad Radio by Langlois

badradioDuring WWII, Abe Griffin was a member of a special task force that took on the strange and supernatural. One event in particular, however, left its mark on Abe. Now, sixty years later, Abe hasn’t aged a day, is preternaturally strong, and can heal from just about anything. But Abe’s abilities are more than they seem. The same ritual that gave Abe his abilities is being recreated, and the man responsible is determined to finish what he started. All he needs is Abe, and he’ll kill anyone that gets in his way.

Bad Radio
The Emergent Earth #1
Michael Langlois
CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform
August 21, 2011

Corpses and living people filled with parasites, giant worms, and blood rituals ensure that there is no shortage when it comes to gore in this particular tale. Throw in some psychics and obscure magic and you’ve got yourself a story. Or so you’d think.

But the truth is that this story just suffers from plain old bad writing. Characters are mortally wounded one moment and then they’re fine the next. Nobody even questions the fact that Abe seems to be able to heal from multiple stab wounds in minutes until three-fourths through the story. (Although no explanation is given as to how everyone else is alive and up walking around. All that blood has to come from somewhere.)

The story also has a nasty habit of using any and every lull to drop into lengthy exposition. I honestly almost laughed during one scene where a character was lying on the ground, supposedly bleeding to death and waiting for an ambulance, but manages to have an entire cellphone conversation chronicling Abe’s past.

Even worse is the fact that some of the exposition is literally a repeat of information already shared. It’s as though the characters have forgotten the details of each other’s lives, despite the exact same conversation having happening two chapters ago.

Really, I could go on, but the point is that the book is a mess. There’s already a sequel and I imagine this first book is meant to be part of a series or a trilogy, but I honestly don’t think I could bring myself to read more.


Matthew Scott is the Dark Fantasy & Horror Editor of BookGateway.com who describes himself as just another average reader who enjoys sharing his opinion on various books, authors, and whatever else may cross his path.

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