Cover image courtesy of Meninadança

In Highway to Hell: The Road Where Childhoods Are Stolen, freelance journalist Matt Roper tells of the horrific child prostitution problem in Brazil, specifically along the 1,500-mile BR-116 corridor. The stories of numerous young girls – some as young as nine years old – who tragically sell their bodies to provide for their families are truly grotesque, but what is worse is that the stories told by Roper represent only a small fraction of the thousands of girls who are being exploited sexually in Brazil.

Highway to Hell tells of parents and grandparents who encourage or even force their daughters to stand by the roadside to sell themselves to long-haul truckers in order to provide for their families, of entire communities that depend on the income from child prostitution, of a government that tries to sweep the problem under the carpet, of girls who are so steeped in this culture that they don’t even recognize it as wrong, of pimps and brothels who exploit these girls (in some cases holding them hostage), and of the men who purchase these girls’ services. Praise the Lord, it also tells of the few but very important men and women who are working diligently to save these girls.

This book was eye-opening. I had never imagined that the child prostitution problem was so bad in Brazil, and while I know people whose parents did terrible things to them as children, I never could have imagined a parent or grandparent doing some of the things in this book.

I cried numerous times while reading Highway to Hell and I challenge you not to. There is a strand of hope running throughout the book, though: people such as Matt, Dean, Rita, Abigail, Fabio, and others who God is using to make a difference. You’ll cry about that as well. :-)

I promise you that you will not enjoy this book. You will, however, be changed and that is a very good thing.

me-and-murder-she-wrote

I have a confession to make: I am a Murder, She Wrote junkie. Okay, that might be a bit of an exaggeration, but I am a huge fan of the series, so when I saw Peter S. Fischer’s “unauthorized” autobiography available on NetGalley, I jumped at the chance to read and review it. In Me and Murder, She Wrote: My Adventures in Television with Angela Lansbury, Peter Falk and Jerry Orbach…Among Others, the Murder, She Wrote creator, television producer, and writer tells the story of his career, its highs and its lows, with tremendous candidness.

Throughout the book, Mr. Fischer shares remembrances of the many people that he worked with throughout his career along with insight into the workings of the television industry (at least at the time when he was writing and producing for TV). He recalls meeting Angela Lansbury and realizing that she was Jessica Fletcher (he also recalls her response when he told her this). His experiences and feelings towards such stars as Peter Falk, Hal Linden, Jerry Orbach, and Harry Morgan and so many others are also shared among this book’s pages, as are so many stories about things that happened on and off the set during the production of the many TV movies and series that he was involved with.

In case you haven’t figured it out, I loved this book. Peter S. Fischer’s writing style is fun and so is the insight into people and TV shows that I grew up watching and still enjoy (along with many I was unfamiliar with).

If you are a fan of Murder, She Wrote, Columbo, Peter S. Fischer, Angela Lansbury, Peter Falk, or probably even television of the 1970s through 1990s in general, you will enjoy this book. I sure did.

does-this-plug-into-that

What’s the difference between a Kindle, a Nook, and an iPad? Can I use my mobile phone overseas? Why wouldn’t I want to use an LED lamp? How many speakers do I need in my home theater? What’s the cloud? These are just a few of the myriad of questions that Eric Taub answers in his new book, Does This Plug into That?: Simplify Your Electronic Life. Taub, a leading technology consultant and New York Times consumer technology writer, uses a question and answer format to demystify modern technology for those who want to make the most of it but don’t know (and don’t care) what WPA-PSK means.

First, I should add a disclaimer: I’m a geek and I talk geek-speak fluently. Having said that, I’ll also mention that I’ve considered maybe upgrading from my old TV to an HDTV someday (mine no longer receives broadcast signals, in case you’re wondering), but while the cost of them keeps going down, the educational prerequisites for purchasing one keep increasing.

That’s why I was so excited to see this book and I was not disappointed. Taub does a beautiful job delivering on the promise in this book’s title. The book is divided into 22 chapters covering everything from computers and printers, to TVs, to lightbulbs, to car electronics, and so much more. There’s even a chapter entitled “Should I Get Rid of My Landline Phone?”

He answered every question I ever had about HDTVs and even some I hadn’t yet come up with and all in a way that didn’t make me feel stupid – just newly enlightened. I also learned a ton about a lot of other things. That’s right: I, the geek, learned a ton.

I highly recommend this book to anyone who isn’t a walking technology encyclopedia. Go buy it today. You will not be sorry.

the-candidate-cover

Awaking alone in his Luxembourg apartment, Nick Thorneycroft quickly realizes three things: first, there is a ladies’ undergarment on the floor; second, he has more than a bit of a hangover; and, third, he has no idea where either of them came from. What follows in Daniel Pembrey’s Kindle Single, The Candidate, is a fast-paced story of intrigue that will keep you on the edge of your seat until the very last page.

Nick, a headhunter at a financial firm, is being pressured to hire a candidate for an important position, but when he suspects that the candidate may have been involved in his memory loss, he wonders what she is really up to.

I could not put this book down. It is a well-written thriller and my only complaint is that it wasn’t longer. I now have a full-length novel by Daniel Pembrey on my Kindle and am looking forward to reading it!

If you enjoy a good international thriller, I recommend that you read this one today.

Warning: The Candidate contains some sexual references and foul language. If that is not your cup of tea, you may want to skip this one.

Before I get started with the music, I want to apologize to those who have been expecting an update on my road trip. The government shutdown sent me back home (despite being on the road for 11 days, I was only 10 hours from home) to await the reopening of the National Parks. I will be posting about my first 11 days later this week, including some awesome shots of Niagara Falls. I resume my trip next week, but with an altered route.

A blog with only old posts is useless, so I am now revisiting my blogging schedule and bringing my editorial calendar out of retirement. I am behind publishing book and audiobook reviews and have a number of other posts in the works, so expect things to change this week.

Now, to the music…

Still by Hillsong

Days of Elijah by Judy Jacobs

Today Is The Day by Lincoln Brewster

Be Unto Your Name by Hillsong

Untitled Hymn (Come To Jesus) by Chris Rice

In Christ Alone (I Stand) by Owl City

smith and cottrell

I know that this is no way to begin a review, but I can’t hold it back: these are two beautiful little books!

In The Power of an Ordinary Prayer, Grammy and Dove Award-winning singer/songwriter Michael W. Smith invites readers to “enter into the heart of prayer and discover how the joy of God’s transformation can truly change your world.” He begins by introducing readers to the value of praying blessings over those we love and then spends the rest of the book dissecting a specific prayer that he prays into six distinct blessings. Each chapter begins with a snippet from the prayer followed by scripture, quotes, and stories that delve further into the blessing. Throughout each chapter readers are encouraged to stop and reflect as well.

In He Knows Your Name: Surprised by God When You Least Expect It, Dove Award-winning singer/songwriter Travis Cottrell reminds readers that God is the hope, strength, and deliverance that each of us needs so desperately every day. He encourages us to surrender ourselves fully to God and in so doing experience His presence like never before. He does this through quotations and stories from scripture, from his own life, and from others. Each chapter begins with a scripture and ends with quotes, a prayer, and questions for reflection and application.

Each of these beautiful books would make a wonderful gift for any Christian or, for that matter, anyone else. Each would also be an excellent choice as a personal devotional. Buy them today – you won’t regret it and the truth found within them just might change your life.

Chivalry

When I first agreed to review Chivalry: The Quest for a Personal Code of Honor in an Unjust World by Zach Hunter, I was skeptical but intrigued by the title. My recent experiences with the term “chivalry” have all involved discussions of male-female relationships and I was hopeful from the title that this would take a broader view of the term. Fortunately, it did.

In the book, the author speaks to millennials, a generation that, as a whole, cares about justice for the oppressed. He encourages millennials to apply that same justice closer to home – in their relationships with family and friends. He does this using personal anecdotes, stories, and scripture.

If you’ve read my other reviews, you know that I generally love audiobooks read by the author. This audiobook is no different; in fact, given the tone of the book, it’s hard to comprehend having it read by anyone else. Hunter’s narration is superb and conversational, greatly enhancing the book.

I’m going to give Hunter the benefit of the doubt and assume that I am not a member of the book’s target audience. Were I Zach’s own age or younger (gosh, that statement makes me feel old!), it’s possible that this book would have incited me to something greater and provided helpful insight (notice the homophone?). Unfortunately, all I can say for certain is that it didn’t hit the mark for me. It felt like many of the stories were left unfinished while he jumped to the moral and by the end of the book, I was ready for it to be over. It just didn’t move me.

That said, I think that teens and young adults might benefit from this audiobook and I encourage them to give it a try.

Daughter of Jerusalem

She was the first person to see her resurrected Savior, a sinner whom Jesus cleansed of seven demons, and one of the women who followed and supported Jesus and the Twelve Apostles, but who was Mary Magdalene? What was her story? In her latest novel, Daughter of Jerusalem, New York Times bestselling author Joan Wolf puts a story to the person of Mary Magdalene. This first-person tale begins when, at a young age, Mary is sent from her family to live with her aunt and ends after Pentecost.

This is the first Joan Wolf book that I read and I am so glad I did. The novel is easy to read and utterly engrossing – I didn’t want to put it down. I cried at times while reading of Mary’s hardships and rejoiced in her triumphs. I will definitely be reading more of Joan Wolf’s writings. I’ll also be learning more about the Biblical account of Mary Magdalene. The book has me intrigued and I want to learn more about this important woman.

I love historical fiction because it weaves well-known historical characters and occurrences into the story. It’s fun to see how the author gives life to the Biblical account by putting names and relationships to people who we know little about from the Bible, such as Fulvius Petrus, an acquaintance of Mary’s that turns out to be the centurion that had the faith to ask Christ to heal his servant from a distance. However, it is important to remember that Daughter of Jerusalem is a work of fiction. The Bible gives us no reason to suppose that Mary participated in many of the events that the author places her at, nor does it give us many details about her life. It also doesn’t explain her political leanings. I found it startling that the author blends Mary Magdalene and Mary of Bethany (the sister of Lazarus and Martha) into a single person. I had always thought that these were two different people, but after reading the book I spent some time researching and discovered that there are some who believe that they may be the same person (though many scholars do not). The author provides a believable explanation of how Mary of Magdala could also be Mary of Bethany and the truth is that we really don’t know.

This is a fantastic book and I highly recommend it to any Christian. It is a wonderful story, makes some great points, and will cause you to open your Bible and learn more.

Want to read it? Worthy Publishing invited me to review Daughter of Jerusalem as part of their blog tour for the book and has given me a copy to give away to one of my readers! Enter below. Good luck!

Discovering the City of Sodom

When I first read the subtitle for Discovering the City of Sodom: The Fascinating, True Account of the Discovery of the Old Testament’s Most Infamous City, I seriously doubted that any book about Biblical archeology could possibly deliver such a promise. I am not disappointed to report that my doubt was unfounded. Authors Dr. Steven Collins and Dr. Latayne C. Scott deliver a stirring tale of the discovery of this infamous city that is easily understandable by a noob like me, but that I believe is also detailed enough to keep a more knowledgable reader interested.

The book includes enthralling narratives of the expedition to find Sodom, extensive Biblical context, and fascinating explanations about topics such as Biblical dating, including competing theories, to give context for understanding the issues involved in finding and verifying the true location of Sodom. I listened to the audiobook and many times discovered that my trip was over but I didn’t want to stop listening.

Speaking of the audiobook, narrator Sean Runnette provided an exceptional narration that made the already fascinating book truly engaging.

I recommend this audiobook for any Christian who is interested in learning more about Biblical archeology and how a team of archeologists is challenging the firmly held beliefs of academics around the world.

10,000 Reasons (Bless the Lord) – Matt Redman

I Have Decided – Elevation Worship

Here I Am To Worship – Hillsong

Be Lifted High – Elevation Worship