Set Your Fields on Fire by William Thornton



About the Book

Alex Alterman is a “mystery worshipper” – hired by churches to experience their worship services as a member of the congregation and evaluate what works and what doesn’t. Grass growing in the parking lot? Unkempt bathrooms? Bad sound systems? These may turn away people as much as the singing and the sermon. To whom much is given, much is required.
But when Alex and his dedicated band of nitpicking zealots are hired to evaluate a Florida church and its prominent pastor, they are presented with a set of mysteries: Who hired them? And who hired their main competition? And why are they being shadowed by a couple of atheists running a dirt-dealing blog?

Oil spills, dwarf spies, choir room surveillance, church league basketball cheats and parking lot security all combine in a splendid caper that stretches from Wall Street to the beachfront. As Alterman’s group finds itself in the eye of the storm, the work takes on a new dimension as they untangle the reasons they believe in their work, and why they believe at all.

My Review

Set Your Fields on Fire by William Thornton, is unlike any book I have ever read, and the thoughts and emotions evoked are unlike any I have felt.

The premise of Thornton’s book is how a group of mystery worshippers (who knew these even existed, and they do!) are hired to help churches in areas where they are lacking or unknowing. However, there is so very much more to this story.

Everything within the covers of Set Your Fields on Fire serves a purpose – from the character’s names to the pithy and witty t-shirt slogans – and draws you deeper and deeper into the lives of the mystery worshippers, leaving you wanting more. In addition, as you read, you see yourself and your church in the final appraisal, and realize both are lacking.

Near the end of the book, Alex Alterman, owner of the mystery worshippers group, gives advice to one of his clients. He says, “. . . You’re trying to do the right thing, but you’re afraid of making a mistake. You know you have to decide, but you don’t want to make a wrong decision. Fear shouldn’t cancel out your faith. . . when Pontius Pilate sent Jesus away to be executed and washed his hands of Him, that was a decision. It was indecision, but it was still a decision. That’s the way people react today. They think there’s something special about Jesus, but in the end, they just send Him away.”  Alterman succinctly nails the nature of our human timidity.

Set Your Fields will leave you pondering the book, your church and most especially, your own life long after you have read the last page.

I received this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.

About the Author

William Thornton is an award-winning writer, journalist and a Sunday School teacher. He lives in Alabama with his wife and daughter.

Read the first chapter free online:

If you want to order it:

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A Baxter Family Christmas


A Baxter Family Christmas by Karen Kingsbury

About the Book

Whether you’re meeting the Baxter family for the first time, or finding them all over again…A Baxter Family Christmas will leave fingerprints on your heart forever.

Two years have passed since the terrible car accident that took the life of John Baxter’s daughter, Erin, her husband and three of their four daughters. Prompted by grief, and missing his daughter, John has invited a stranger for Christmas Eve dinner—Kendra Bryant, the transplant recipient who now has Erin’s heart.

In light of their father’s idea, Ashley and her brother Luke don’t think it’s right. They want to protect their ten-year-old niece, Amy—the only surviving member of the accident. But John is determined and believes meeting this woman is something his deceased daughter would want.

At the same time, Maddie West, the eighteen-year-old daughter of Brooke Baxter West, is praying for meaning this Christmas. Could she find it in a newfound friendship with a boy she never expected to see again? Maddie believes in miracles, especially at Christmastime, but this is a stretch even she can’t imagine.

Meanwhile, Kendra Bryant has been struggling these past few years to find purpose in the tragedy that gave her a second chance. She believes the invitation to see the Baxters and witness their unwavering faith in God can instill peace and happiness back into her life.

Heartwarming and touching, filled with love and redemption, A Baxter Family Christmas brings together two families in the aftermath of loss and in the midst of an unfolding love story, all with the help of one very special child.

My Review

Written in classic Kingsbury style, A Baxter Family Christmas is a little bit different, tugging at your heartstrings as it focuses on the fallout from the tragic death of Erin Baxter, her husband and three of their four daughters.

John Baxter, still grieving the loss of his daughter two years after her and most of her family’s death, wants to celebrate Christmas in a very different way this year. However, the other members of the Baxter family are not so sure they want to be involved in his plans.

I have long been a fan of Karen Kingsbury and her books. She writes in a natural, normal way about average, everyday people. A Baxter Christmas follows that tradition. However, there were parts of the book that disappointed me because it felt as if it were called in. Sections of the story, while reading, felt choppy and disjointed. There were also some major discrepancies in age from previous books. Kingsbury does say she took “literary license” with the children’s ages, but, for long time followers of the Baxter family, the changes were unsettling. (I was able to continue the story, and overall, there is way more of good quality to the story than there is bad, but it is disconcerting nonetheless.)

If you are looking for a lighthearted story, A Baxter Family Christmas will not fill the bill, but if you want a story following true to life experiences that leaves you feeling touched in ways you normally are not, then be sure to read Karen Kingsbury’s Christmas story.

I received this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

(Due to extended personal illness, I was unable to post this earlier. Christmas is fun anytime, though, right?)

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Merry Christmas

Luke 2:1-20 (King James Version) 

1 And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed.

(And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.)

And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city.

And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:)

To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.

And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered.

And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.

And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.

And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.

10 And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.

11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.

12 And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.

13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,

14 Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

15 And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us.

16 And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger.

17 And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child.

18 And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds.

19 But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart.

20 And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them.



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The Room with the Second-Best View by Virginia Smith


The Room with the Second-Best View by Virginia Smith

About the Book

Al Richardson agreed to open a bed and breakfast with his wife after his retirement, but he still has a year and a half left at his job when Millie spies a business opportunity with the arrival of Goose Creek’s 150th anniversary celebration.

Even though Al suspects that Millie pulled a bait-and-switch on him, he firmly believes she should stick to their original plan. While Millie’s ambition puts a strain on their marriage, she is confident in her ability to be the most gracious Southern hostess. But even she has to admit that her first group of guests is undeniably an odd collection.

Meanwhile, the town’s anniversary plans are in a state of chaos as the celebration committee scrambles to raise the necessary funds–an effort spearheaded by a “newcomer,” which ruffles more townsfolk’s feathers than a whole flock of enraged geese.

Goose Creek has lasted 150 years. Can it survive the next month?

My Review

I have to say, right off the bat, that I didn’t realize this book was a sequel until I had finished. Obviously, it can be a stand-alone book!

Virginia Smith has written a wholesome, humorous and entertaining story about Goose Creek, Kentucky.

Al Richardson and his wife, Millie are renovating their, new to them, old Victorian home to create a bed and breakfast inn. Millie, ever the gracious Southern lady, is pressured into opening the B & B early when one guest arrives three weeks ahead of time, and INSISTS she has to stay since nowhere else is available. Against her better judgement and her husband’s wishes, she does, with catastrophic results.

The Room with the Second Best View is a charming book showcasing small town life along with the idiosyncrasies of the town’s residents and the eccentricities of a long time married couple. You will come to care for the people of Goose Creek, warts and all.

In addition to a delightfully engaging story, Ms. Smith has also included some quirky, unusual recipes that I can’t wait to try out.

I received this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.


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Love at First Fight: 52 Story-Based Meditations for Married Couples by Carey and Dena Dyer

Love at First Fight

Love at First Fight: 52 Story-Based Meditations for Married Couples by Carey and Dena Dyer

About the Book

Love at First Fight is a book that will give your marriage encouragement and hope if you find that the once endearing, charming, and distinct qualities that once attracted you to your spouse are now a source of stress and conflict. In sharing humorous, personal stories from both the male and female perspective, husband and wife writing team Carey and Dena Dyer will help you discover that a fun, resilient, fulfilling marriage can be realized through hard work, forgiveness, God’s grace, and a sense of humor. Learn how to strengthen your marriage with these fifty-two conversational meditations that begin with scripture, end with prayers, and include practical action steps to develop a deeper connection with your spouse.

My Review

Carey and Dena Dyer have given a thought-provoking and candid look into their marriage. In addition to the story-based meditations, the chapters are subtitled with He Says/She Says, Taking Off the Gloves, and Tips from the Pros. There are 5 sections to the book and each section includes an area for notes.

The Dyers have drawn from their personal life, in all its grittiness, in order to assist couples in realizing a universal truth-every couple has ups, downs and moments of frustration. The frustrations usually result in questioning, occasionally, if the hassle is worth it.

Love at First Fight is frequently humorous, sometimes painful and at all times honest. The narrative is easy to read, and the lessons are easy to apply. I feel Love at First Fight would make a great gift for any married couple, whether just starting out or long time married. The format is such that it could be a daily devotional read alone or with your spouse.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Barbour Publishing in exchange for my honest review.

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The Madonna of Pisano (The Italian Chronicles Book 1)

The Madonna of Pisano

About the Book

A young woman, a priest, and a secret that keeps them bitterly bound to each other . . .

My Review

Dr. MaryAnn Diorio tears a tragic chapter of betrayal and deceit from her family’s history to illustrate how redemption and forgiveness will set you free in The Madonna of Pisano, book one of the Italian Chronicles Series.

My heart ached for poor Maria Landro. She is the oldest of three daughters and feels a keen responsibility to carry on the family’s farm, Bella Terra. One day her life is ripped apart by a vicious assault that leaves her pregnant.

Maria, in fear for her and her child’s life, refuses to name the father. The village people scorn and ridicule her and her family and refuse to buy produce from the family farm, causing severe hardship for the family.

Dr. MaryAnn Diorio has written a timeless story. As I read The Madonna, I felt anger, frustration, and fear for Maria. However, the story doesn’t end in tragedy, and redemption plays a huge role in the end.

The Madonna of Pisano will have you encouraging and applauding Maria Landro as you follow her story.

The story is intense and multifaceted – sure to keep you on the edge of your seat.

I was graciously given this book from the author to read while I recuperated from an extensive surgical procedure. Thank you so much. I pray my review does justice to your story. I’m looking forward to the sequels!

About the Author

MaryAnn Madonna of Pisano

Dr. MaryAnn Diorio is a follower of Jesus Christ who is passionate about writing compelling and entertaining fiction that transforms lives. Her fiction has won several awards, including the Silver Medal for eBook Fiction in the Illumination Book Awards Program sponsored by the Jenkins Group; First Place in Inspirational Fiction in the 2011 Colorado RWA Heart of the Rockies Contest; and First Place in Inspirational Fiction in the 2011 Space Coast Authors of Romance (STAR) Launching a Star Contest.

Her latest work of fiction is a novel titled THE MADONNA OF PISANO. It is the first in the trilogy called THE ITALIAN CHRONICLES.

MaryAnn also writes for children. Her latest children’s book is titled CANDLE LOVE and helps little ones cope with sibling rivalry. TOBY TOO SMALL is a story about a little boy who learns that it’s not how big you are on the outside that matters; it’s how big you are on the inside.

MaryAnn holds the PhD and the MPhil in French and Comparative Literature from the University of Kansas, the MA in Italian Language and Literature from Middlebury College, and the MFA in Writing Popular Fiction from Seton Hill University. She writes a popular blog titled “Matters of the Heart” ( that, like her fiction writing, deals with the deepest issues of the human heart. She also writes a blog for teen girls called Gabriel Girls ( In her spare time, she loves to read, paint, and make up silly songs for her grandchildren.

Dr. MaryAnn resides in New Jersey with her husband Dom, a retired ER physician. They are the blessed parents of two wonderful daughters, a fantastic son-in-law, and five rambunctious grandchildren.

You may contact Dr. MaryAnn at the following social media venues:
Blog (Matters of the Heart):
Amazon Author Central:

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A Gracious Gift and a Heartfelt Thank you

I recently received a most gracious gift, a wonderful 365-day devotional divided into two parts. The two parts of the book consist of morning and evening devotions. I have thoroughly enjoyed the gift. However, I have no idea or any way of finding out who sent it to me. I received it in the mail with no card or inscription, and the only return address listed is the company that mailed it.

I wish to thank the person who sent me this very thoughtful and much-appreciated gift. Thank you!!

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I am truly overwhelmed by all the prayers, wishes and love everyone expressed for me. I wish I could respond to each and everyone of you individually, however, I don’t have the strength to yet, but please know, they were so greatly appreciated.
I am still very tired and weak, but doing better each day. I don’t know yet when I’ll be back online, but now that I’m home, I just HAD to say, “Thank You. God Bless each of you!.”
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This is Bill with a quick update on Robbie. She came home late yesterday afternoon. She is still in a LOT of pain and very very tired. I don’t think she will be on line any time soon.

She was originally scheduled for discharge Monday, but had a small crisis with dropping potassium levels. Even being pumped with potassium, through IV and orally, her levels were barely being raised. He doctor felt it was safer for her to stay a little longer, to get more potassium in, quickly. Trust me, she didn’t argue when she realized low potassium was making her throw up and her abdomen hurt horribly.

We both appreciate all the prayers and well wishes.

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The 12 Brides of Summer Collection by Mary Connealy, Amanda Cabot, Miralee Ferrell, Diana Lesire Brandmeyer, Margaret Brownley, Susan Page Davis, Pam Hillman, Maureen Lang, Amy Lillard, Davalynn Spencer, Michelle Ule, Vickie McDonough

12 Brides of Summer

My Review

The Honey Bride, by Diana Brandmeyer, introduces us to Katie Tucker. Katie is afraid of bees, but they may be the only option for her, her brother and grandmother to survive. After her father’s death, she has to keep the family farm going. It looks like her neighbor, Pete Dent, and the bees may be her only solution.

Diana Brandmeyer has written an excellent story showing us how we can rest assured of the Lord’s help with all our fears and sorrows.

Margaret Brownley has written a fun, enjoyable story in Dog Days of Summer.

Marilee Davis, a music teacher, has found the perfect assistant-her pet dog, Mo. He has an ear for music and when Marilee’s students hit a discordant note, Mo lets them know. Tim Colbert, the city blacksmith, has the perfect dog, too, Dynamite. Marilee and Tim have noticed their dogs keeps disappearing, but neither one suspect that Mo is actually Dynamite!

The Fourth of July Bride is by Amanda Cabot.

Naomi Towson and her mother are struggling to make ends meet, with Naomi working as an assistant in the town’s bakery. When her mother needs a delicate and expensive surgery, Naomi knows that she can’t afford to pay for it. Only her trust in God keeps her from being overwhelmed with despair. So, when Gideon Carlisle, local cattle baron, offers to pay for the surgery in exchange for Naomi pretending to be his fiancée, she jumps at the chance.

In A Bride Rides Herd, Mary Connealy mixes a story of delightful mischief and abject fear, with humor and seriousness, creating a charming love story.

Matt Reeves is traveling to his brother’s ranch when he hears an ear-piercing scream. Spinning his horse around to head back where he heard the scream, he’s expecting to find the worst. Instead, he finds two of his brother’s daughters deliberately catapulting themselves into a fast moving stream.

Warring emotions overcome him as he gathers them up to take them home, only to discover his brother left a seemingly inept young lady as the babysitter.

Susan Page Davis does a great job of setting up The Blue Moon Bride.

Ava Neal is going on an adventure-a train ride to visit her best friend in Wyoming Territory. She travels unaccompanied, an uncommon thing for a young woman to do in the late 1800’s.

As Ava ventures West, Joe Logan befriends her. Joe, tasked with delivering valuables to a client of his law firm, is on his way to San Francisco. However, the train they are riding on is robbed.

As you read, you feel the fear during the robbery, Ava’s joy at arriving at her friends and the thrill of the race to catch the thieves. Along the way, you cheer for Ava and Joe as they begin to fall in love.

You are sure to enjoy the playful story of The Dogwood Blossom Bride by Miralee Ferrell, written with just the right amount of romance and seriousness.

Gracie Addison is a tomboy through and through. Her favorite pastimes are climbing trees and horseback riding. In fact, falling out of a tree was how she first met Will Montgomery.

Will is single and raising his niece and needs help in the process. Gracie may be the perfect answer. However, he doesn’t realize at their first meeting she is grown. And he is constantly fighting against her tomboy tendencies, trying to keep Gracie from influencing his little girl too much.

Pam Hillman ‘s The Lumberjack’s Bride is a story full of danger and excitement.

Lucy Denson is a cook for a lumberjack crew, something the Chicago native never dreamed she would be.  She just wants to go back home where everyone and everything is civilized. Eli Everett, a member of the logging crew, couldn’t agree with her more. Her citified ways are jeopardizing the camp crew.

The Summer Harvest Bride, by Maureen Lang, is a romantic story with a bit of intrigue.

Sally Hobson’s family, and even Sally to some extent, are convinced she should marry the Mayor’s son, Willis Polit. However, Sally starts having second thoughts when Lukas Daughton, with his brothers and his father, ride into town with plans to build the community’s first gristmill. When the mill is sabotaged, Sally comes to the rescue and realizes her true love.

The Wildflower Bride, by Amy Lillard, is about Grace Sinclair, a widowed preacher’s daughter.

Grace has accepted that her lot in life is to stay unmarried in order to assist her father. All her convictions change when her sister gets married and Grace meets Ian McGruer, with whom she falls in love at first sight.

The story is very reminiscent of Grace Livingston Hill romances. The young couple meets and immediately falls in love. However, they have seemingly insurmountable obstacles to overcome.

The tale was a little hard for me to get into, as I don’t think someone can fall in love within moments of setting eyes on another, much less have the love reciprocated. Nonetheless, it is an enjoyable, romantic account of two young people.

The Country Fair Bride, by Vickie McDonough, is a heartwarming story of redemption, forgiveness and the ability to change with God’s help.

Prudence “Prudy” Willard returns home to Bakertown, Missouri, in 1892 to see her ill father. She originally left, spending about a year and a half with her Aunt, after her scandalous treatment of the new pastor and his fiancé. She is determined to keep her new forgiving spirit, but when Adam Merrick, interim mayor while her dad is sick, seems to be too comfortable, Prudy’s waspish tongue stings again.

A refreshing love story, The Columbine Bride, by Davalynn Spencer, illustrates how love can overcome and conquer even the worst of circumstances.

Lucy Powell is a young widowed mother of two children. As Lucy tries to navigate life without her husband, she doesn’t want charity. However, Buck Reiter can’t stand seeing the family work so hard. He constantly assists Lucy by bringing firewood and making repairs around the farm.

The Sunbonnet Bride, by Michelle Ule, places us in the life of Sally Martin. Sally has moved to town to work as a seamstress in order to augment her family’s farm income. However, she has a difficult decision to make. A tornado has destroyed the family farm, and two men are vying for her attention. Malcolm McDougal, a local man, is steady, dependable, a hard worker and not afraid to get his hands dirty helping the tornado victims. Josiah French, on the other hand, is a wealthy banker, offering loans to those whose homes were damaged and never seems to get dirty.  However, he could offer Sally and her family a way out of their hard life.

Michelle Ule skillfully weaves the difficulties facing Sally into an excellent account, complete with all the anxiety and worry one would expect under similar circumstances.

I received this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

(I previously reviewed this book when it was in a multiple novella book form.)

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