Fiction review: Belinda Blake and the Snake in the Grass

Belinda Blake and the Snake in the Grass, by Heather Day Gilbert captivated me first because I have read this author’s books before, and second because of its brilliant, whimsical cover. I couldn’t resist; I had to read it.

The opening scene has Belinda Blake, a cute little blond, meeting gorgeous Stone Carrington the 5th, her landlord’s son. She has a ball python wrapped around her neck, taking the snake for a walk, as its doting owner requested.

Exotic pet sitter, Belinda, is soon into mystery and intrigue after she finds a dead woman wearing Louboutin stilletos in her flowerbed.

Add to the dead woman a shedding python and the aqua-eyed, tennis playing rich boy next door, and you have all the ingredients for a great read.

Believe me, it doesn’t disappoint. More mysteries, possible culprits—Mrs. Gilbert had me suspecting almost everyone—and it’s a fun book for rainy afternoons.

The content is clean with nothing besides innocent friendship kisses. Some of the characters drink to excess (not viewed in a favorable light).

I enjoyed it and can hardly wait to read the sequel, which might be even better.

Stay tuned.

Women of the Bible 12: Who are we?

We’re only mentioned once in the Bible, but what it says about us is important: we “labor in the Lord.” Currently, we serve in the church in Rome.

Some think we’re twins. We are surely sisters. Since the Bible doesn’t reveal our identity and we don’t appear in other sources, history will only surmise. Our names indicate we were brought up “delicately,” which might indicate nobility. Some even think we’re in Ceasar’s household.

Whoever we are, we’re famous throughout the centuries for one thing: being active in our local church. Laboring—working hard—for the Lord.

And, this positive testimony is the legacy we would desire.

A few years after we’re mentioned in the Epistle of Paul to the Romans, he would write: That ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God; Strengthened with all might, according to his glorious power, unto all patience and longsuffering with joyfulness; Giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light: Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son: In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins (Colossians 1:10-14).

We are thankful for God’s redemption in our lives—two gentile sisters, able to serve God thanks to His power in us.

Who are we?

Where in Romans are we mentioned?

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Fiction review: The Masterpiece

The Masterpiece, by Francine Rivers came highly recommended, and truthfully, I can understand why. But, I was disappointed. I have never read Francine Rivers before, and this book makes me wonder if I want to give her a second chance. I might, but I might not. Let me explain.

The protagonist, born Bobby Ray Dean, is now a successful artist who uses the professional name, Roman Velasco. He has grown up on the streets—not of his own choosing—and doing graffiti, running from the police, and rebelling against all authorities in his life, even those who love him. He does bad-boy graffiti all over the world–his character obviously inspired by Banksy.

Years later, he does the kind of art that sells, and with his innate talent, he makes a lot of money.

Grace Moore (notice her name, very significant) comes to work for him. She’s a lovely person, a single mom who is determined to overcome. She is also a new Christian. Of course, she’s beautiful, and so is he, and there’s an immediate physical attraction between the two protagonists. But, to her credit, Grace keeps her boundaries, and Roman despairs of ever having a relationship with her.

It’s here in the story where I believe the author gets into stuff that’s so unbelievable that I just couldn’t go with it. Both Grace and Roman have visions of angels, demons, and hell. Roman ends up with an injury caused by a demon biting him. (Seriously! Kind of like Jacob in the Bible, only that was Jesus.) It’s the familiar near-death heaven story, only he goes to hell and comes back. I just can’t.  

Another problem for me was the author’s allusions to swearing. Sometimes, she comes very close to providing the reader with the specific words. I don’t feel comfortable with that.

There are the descriptions of sex, semi-nudity, the nightclub scene, and one-night stands that went farther than I wanted to read about. It isn’t play-by-play graphic but enough that I didn’t appreciate it.

Frankly, I think The Masterpiece has several serious flaws, one being it was unbelievable. Too much had happened to both of the protagonists. There are too many loose ends for me and too many coincidences, along with the weird spiritual visions and iffy theology. For example, because Roman has the experience of almost going to hell, and Jesus reaches out to him and brings him back, the author says more than once that Jesus saved him. Later, he really does repent, giving his life to the Lord in true salvation. (Sorry for the spoiler, but this is important to me.) Salvation is when people repent of sin, see themselves as needing a Savior, and call out to Jesus for salvation, and not when they see visions. I felt this was misleading. It bothered me greatly that the most unbelievable part of the book is the supposedly spiritual part. I know this is fiction, but I don’t think authors should play with scenes about God.

Another thing that bothered me was jumping back to different years in the main characters’ pasts and then back to the present. It happens a lot in this book. Why couldn’t the author have made it flow a little better? I wonder why the editor permitted this.

Although the ending was satisfying, the art masterpiece I expected to be revealed at the end of the book seems to have gotten lost somewhere, and a different painting ends up there.

I cannot personally recommend this book.

Why do we struggle with why?

The first time I really questioned God was after the death of good friend. He was in his early twenties, an exemplary Christian. His death was one of those freak accidents that happen.

And, I asked God why.

I believe it’s human to do so, especially in times of:

  • pain
  • loss
  • children without parents
  • husband without a wife, etc.
  • cancer
  • debilitating illnesses and injuries.
  • The list goes on.

Questioning why is actually wanting to know what God knows. Eve wanted that, and so it has been through the ages.

We may not always get an answer.

In the Bible, great men and women of God asked why:

  • Rebekah
  • Moses
  • the daughters of Zelophehad
  • Gideon
  • Naomi
  • Ruth
  • David
  • Job
  • Asaph
  • Jonah,
  • and many more.

Why, God, did You permit this to happen? Why do things look so dark?

I believe it’s interesting to read in the Bible how God answers different people’s whys in different ways. As He understands hearts and motivations, He knows best whether to lecture, teach, or just show love to the person involved. Many times, after listening to God’s Word, these people came to a realization that God had a purpose in what seemed like a tragic situation.

Death, sickness, and all the other awful things in this world weren’t the original plan. God created the earth perfect. But, death came with the first sin, and the earth was cursed.

Even so, God’s desire has always been to redeem. The Bible says that, in God’s foreknowledge, the plan of salvation was in the works—before creation. What a blessing!

Even horrible things are for divine purposes.

Romans 8:28 is a verse that has been misquoted and misapplied, but it is an important verse for our understanding about why:

And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.

This verse is in the context of the Holy Spirit working in and through believers. It’s only for those that love God and are called according to His purpose—born again believers.

This doesn’t apply to those who have not accepted Jesus as payment for their sins. It doesn’t guarantee anything good for any global group. It’s for believers only.

Those who are born again can understand that even horrible experiences, sickness, suffering, death, and any other life experience will all work together for good in God’s perfect plan—when they are walking with God.

This doesn’t mean all life events will be pleasant.

We won’t be smiley all the time.

There is a greater good—and we can depend on it.

May we ask God why? Yes, I think so.

Will we always get a concrete answer? No, not always. (I still am not sure about my friend’s early death, for example. Why? I don’t have an answer, but I can trust God.) We can know that everything will work together for good, somehow, some way. We may not understand the details ourselves, but it’s still true.

Whatever you want to ask why about, remember that God has a way of making good come out of seemingly awful circumstances.

May the Lord bless you.

Fiction review: Secrets and Charades

Secrets and Charades by Cindy Ervin Huff caught my eye because it’s about a mail order bride. It’s a marriage of convenience for cowboy bachelor, Jake Markum—only Evangeline Olson didn’t answer the advertisement or write the letters. Her niece did. It was all a lie.

Jake, a widower, felt he needed a wife, because his brother and sister-in-law died and left him with a twelve-year-old niece to raise. He couldn’t offer his niece class and refinement, as a woman could, so he advertised for a wife.

Jake picks Evangeline up in a neighboring town so they can get married and he can get to know her before the busybodies in his own town get a chance. At the time, he has no idea Evangeline will be beautiful, talented–and a medical doctor. He is pleasantly surprised with her beauty but hesitant about her profession.

The story entertains with several characters who aren’t who they profess to be, growing friendships in many directions, ranch turf wars, and more.

There’s nothing outstanding or profound about this book, but it’s highly entertaining and fun, and there are several good character developments. The plot, though it keeps you going, is a little bit cliché. I believe any mail order bride book will be, so this isn’t a huge criticism. I personally appreciated the author’s acceptance of different ethnic groups. There are quite a few lessons about fairness in this book.

I enjoyed Secrets and Charades, and I think you will, too.