Monday, December 31, 2012

UNCLE TOM'S CABIN by Harriet Beecher Stowe

Uncle Tom’s Cabin is one of the classics I missed reading. I’d heard of little Eva, Eliza and Topsy and thought I knew something about the characters. However, this novel was very different from what I anticipated. Since it was first published in 1852, I expected to have to trudge my way through it. That was not the case at all. This book kept my interest throughout. It’s easy to understand why it was so successful.
An early printed report says that when they first met, Abraham Lincoln said to Mrs. Stowe, “Is this the little woman who made the great war?” Certainly her portrayal of the cruel treatment of Uncle Tom, and other slaves, had a great impact on society of that era. The Civil War was horrible, but it brought about an end to slavery in America.
I recommend that everyone read Uncle Tom’s Cabin. It brings home what slavery was really like to those of us who are far removed from that period. At the end of the Kindle version I read there are notes about Mrs. Stowe’s background and it says her characters were gleaned from stories of real slaves and the trials they actually faced.

Harriet Beecher Stowe
As a young woman.

It surprises me that the term, “an Uncle Tom,” is meant as a negative slur today. Her character, Uncle Tom, does obey his masters, yet when one insists he give up his Christian faith Tom is a true martyr, willing to suffer pain and death before giving in. That and other acts of courage, make Tom a character to emulate, not denigrate.
It’s my belief that history will judge today's society as a time of great cruelty and moral apathy. Since I'm currently working on a novel, Cast Me Not Away, that shines a light on the horrors of abortion, I thought it appropriate to read the book that led to an end of another horrific period in American history. I have high hopes my novel will open people's eyes as Harriet Beecher Stowe's did.
God bless America and may this country once again choose to take the high road and get off the low road we’re presently on.
—Zara Heritage

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

FREE KINDLE BOOKS! Dec. 26 to Dec. 30, PROMISES by E.G. Lewis and GENESIS PEOPLE by Sheila Deeth

For 5 days only, Wednesday, Dec. 26 thru Sunday, Dec. 30: Two FREE KINDLE eBooks.  "PROMISES," by E.G. Lewis or "GENESIS PEOPLE" by Sheila Deeth.

"PROMISES" offers great Romantic Suspense. Link to for free book is below: 
"GENESIS PEOPLE," Book One of the 5-Minute Bible Story Series, by Sheila Deeth. Remarkable stories for children and adults alike. Excellent!!! Link to for free book is below:

ABOUT PROMISES: A Recipe for Trouble--Take one jilted Supermodel on the rebound, Add an unscrupulous businessman who'll do anything to save his floundering business, Agitate until both are steaming, then keep at a low simmer. When looking for love sometimes you find it...and sometimes you don't!
Smooth as a sip of Kentucky Bourbon, PROMISES eases you into Kentucky's Appalachian hill country. That wonderfully wild place of mountains and hollows, creeks and rivers, with its hardscrabble life and whiteboard churches where roots go deep, family matters, and Granny Wright's never wrong. A place where King Coal still rules and beneath its veneer of respectability lies a hidden web of treachery.
Mary Jane Combs may have gotten her Momma's good looks, but her strong-willed determination came straight from Daddy. Growing up in Kentucky she dreamed of a simple life with a loving husband, a home of her own, and healthy kids. Instead she's become an international Supermodel, swapping the Appalachian coal country for New York City's Upper West Side and traveling the world in her private jet.
But, she'll need all the determination she can muster when her ex-husband sets out to destroy everything she's accomplished. But two questions remain to be answered: Can she do what needs to be done and still remain true to the promises she made at her mother's deathbed? And when the dust settles, will she at last find the loving relationship she always dreamed of as a girl?
Product Details
Paperback: 336 pages
Publisher: Cape Arago Press (October 16, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0982594917
ISBN-13: 978-0982594919
Product Dimensions: 6 x 9 x 0.7 inches

ABOUT GENESIS PEOPLE: Readers say, “Charming…Delightful…A marvelous teaching tool…” Gather the kids and join author Sheila Deeth as this long-time Christian Educator and Sunday School Teacher leads a fun and educational field trip through the Book of Genesis. Designed for independent reading by middle-graders, or reading aloud to younger children, each one of this series of linked short stories is not too long, not too short…but just the right length.

Make learning fun as you and your children come to know these Biblical characters in ways you never have before. All your favorites are here. She begins at the beginning with God, of course, then come Adam, Eve, Cain and Abel, Seth, Methuselah, Noah and others. Proceed on to the age of Patriarchs where you meet Terah, Lot, Melchizedek, Abraham, Hagar and Ishmael, Sarah and Isaac, Rebekah, Esau and Jacob, Laban, Leah, Rachel and many more.

From there, continue on to the story of Joseph, his brothers who sold him into slavery, and his life in Egypt where he eventually rescues the fledgling nation of Israel. All-in-all, Genesis People contains nearly 50 separate stories, each one the ideal length for reading at bedtime or before a nap. Using her insights, masterful storytelling skills and gentle way with words, Ms. Deeth creates a series of stories that will have your children begging for “Just one more.” Genesis People is a wonderful way to introduce youngsters to the Bible. Includes Author’s Notes.

Product Details
File Size: 259 KB
Simultaneous Device Usage: Unlimited
Publisher: Cape Arago Press (December 12, 2012)
Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
Language: English

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Wednesday, December 19, 2012


Putting Your Faith in Action
by Nick Vujicic

Having faith, beliefs, and convictions is a great thing, but your life is measured by the actions you take based upon them. You can build a great life around those things you believe and have faith in. I’ve built mine around my belief that I can inspire and bring hope to people facing challenges in their lives. That belief is rooted in my faith in God. I have faith that He put me on this earth to love, inspire, and encourage others and especially to help all who are willing to accept Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. I believe that I can never earn my way to heaven, and by faith I accept the gift of the forgiveness of sins through Christ Jesus. However, there’s so much more than just “getting in” through the Pearly Gates. It is also about seeing others changed by the power of His Holy Spirit, having a close relationship with Jesus Christ throughout this life, and then being further rewarded in heaven.
Being born without arms and legs was not God’s way of punishing me. I know that now. I have come to realize that this “disability” would actually heighten my ability to serve His purpose as a speaker and evangelist. You might be tempted to think that I’m making a huge leap of faith to feel that way, since most people consider my lack of limbs a huge handicap. Instead, God has used my lack of limbs to draw people to me, especially others with disabilities, so I can inspire and encourage them with my messages of faith, hope, and love.
In the Bible, James said that our actions, not our words, are the proof of our faith. He wrote in James 2:18, “Now someone may argue, ‘Some people have faith; others have good deeds.’ But I say, ‘How can you show me your faith if you don’t have good deeds? I will show you my faith by my good deeds.’”
I’ve heard it said that our actions are to our faith and beliefs as our bodies are to our spirits. Your body is the housing of your spirit, the evidence of its existence. In the same way, your actions are the evidence of your faith and beliefs. You have no doubt heard the term “walking the talk.” Your family, friends, teachers, bosses, coworkers, customers, and clients all expect you to act and live in alignment with the beliefs and convictions that you claim to have. If you don’t, they will call you out, won’t they?
Our peers judge us not by what we say but by what we do. If you claim to be a good wife and mother, then you sometimes will have to put your family’s interests above your own. If you believe your purpose is to share your artistic talents with the world, then you will be judged on the works you produce, not on those you merely propose. You have to walk the talk; otherwise you have no credibility with others—or with yourself—because you, too, should demand that your actions match your words. If they don’t, you will never live in harmony and fulfillment.
As a Christian, I believe the final judge of how we’ve lived is God. The Bible teaches that His judgment is based on our actions, not our words. Revelation 20:12 says, “And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works.” I act upon my beliefs by traveling the world and encouraging people to love one another and to love God. I am fulfilled in that purpose. I truly believe it is why I was created. When you act upon your beliefs and put your faith into action, you, too, will experience fulfillment. And please, do not be discouraged if you aren’t always absolutely confident in your purpose and how to act upon it. I have struggled. I still struggle. And so will you. I fail and am far from perfect. But deeds are merely the fruit—the result of the depth of a true conviction of the truth. Truth is what sets us free, not purpose. I found my purpose because I was looking for truth.
It is hard to find purpose or good in difficult circumstances, but that is the journey. Why did it have to be a journey? Why couldn’t a helicopter just pick you up and carry you to the finish line? Because throughout the difficult times, you will learn more, grow more in faith, love God more, and love your neighbor more. It is the journey of faith that begins in love and ends in love.
Frederick Douglass, the American slave turned social activist, said, “If there is no struggle, there is no progress.” Your character is formed by the challenges you face and overcome. Your courage grows when you face your fears. Your strength and your faith are built as they are tested in your life experiences.


Wednesday, December 12, 2012

DIVIDE BY ZERO by Sheila Deeth

Divide By Zero may sound like an unusual title until you realize that author, Sheela Deeth, is a Mathematician. So how did this left-brained person write a novel? Very well.

Sheela Deeth’s outstanding writing skills, her descriptions and precise attention to detail have always impressed me.

Divide by Zero is filled with realistic portrayals of family dynamics. As the book unfolds, many fascinating characters are introduced and I began to worry whether I’d be able to keep track of them all. Not to worry, Ms. Deeth weaves them together in relationships that work while carefully reminding us who each person is. One special participant is a white cat—a cat some dubbed an “angel cat”—who wanders through chapters seeming to bring about subtle miracles here and there.

These typical people in an ordinary neighborhood experience life from a perspective that makes us stop and consider our own. We get to view the personalities of family members, and the people in their neighborhood, through their thoughts and feelings. Sheila Deeth does this with remarkable ability and insight.

Through four generations of men, we gradually learn of their self-destructive behaviors and, for some, their redemption. We sympathize with one whose childhood was dreadful, but then later learn how he hurt others. Will his son or grandson do this too?

We watch a daughter sacrifice her happiness to care for an ailing mother. And, although she was stricken by a stroke and unable to successfully communicate, we see through the mother’s thoughts how much she appreciates and cares about her daughter and grandson. She is a human being with feelings and definitely is not useless.

We watch the mother of an autistic child cope and adapt. We fear for some characters and cry for others. There is death and there is love. And, in the end, there is hope and joy.

Ms. Deeth manages to enter the heads of many characters and successfully portray their thoughts in ways few authors attempt. She brings us insights into the thoughts of all kinds of people and does it extremely well.

I highly recommend “Divide By Zero.” —Gail Lewis

Product Details:
Paperback: 254 pages
Publisher: Publishing (August 20, 2012)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1600763405
ISBN-13: 978-1600763403

Sunday, December 9, 2012


Sara Little has ached to live in America. But being born of a single mother in London’s working class, she could only dream. Then, scrawled in hasty intensity, Sara receives an invitation to America. Drawn to the possibility of a new beginning, she follows God’s whisper and steps forward into the unknown. But more awaits than the realization of her dreams. Sara’s benefactor is handsome widower Christopher Lake, a philanthropist dedicated to helping the less fortunate redefine their future. Though devastated by the loss of his wife, he dedicates himself to her last request: To provide Sara the means for a brighter future. Sara’s gift of art inspires Christopher’s sponsorship, and he is determined to protect her gentle heart while propelling her into artistic society. Even if he must press her forward beyond her shy nature. But when a local paper weaves tales of a romantic entanglement, Sara is stricken by the stark reality of a growing devotion. Caught in the whirlwind of debuts and dinner parties with prospective patrons, she has fallen in love with the one man she believes she does not deserve. Could a servant girl hope to bless such a noble man to happiness?

Hello and Welcome:
Summit Books Reviews is participating in the Blog Tour celebrating the release of friend and fellow author, Nona King’s newest novel, Searching for Sara. We decided to forego our usual review format. Instead, let’s pour a cup of tea, settle into a comfortable chair, and learn a little more about  
Searching for Sara and its author, Nona King.

Nona, can you tell us why you write?
I cannot imagine doing anything else. These characters and stories are so real that I feel I let them down when I do not put their tales to paper. The motivations are simple, either I write their stories so they can find love and redemption, or their experiences are more for me than for anyone else…a way for me to work out a challenge in my own life. They are like my friends, because they help me discover things about my own character that need to be enhanced or changed.

How did your new book, Searching for Sara, come into being?
Searching for Sara has been in the works in some form or fashion since 2001. At first it was a sequel to Broken Angel (not yet released). In this first version of Sara I killed the heroine, Rachel Samson, and inserted Sara Little as a new love interest for our grieving hero Robert Trent. This appalled my sister, who insisted I rewrite it.

To be honest, the only reason I killed the heroine was because I wanted to experiment with the intense emotions of grief and sorrow. When my sister scolded me and tasked me with rewriting that storyline, it gave me a sense of relief and became the best project I have ever undertaken. It helped that I was able to create our new grieving hero, Christopher Lake.

What are a few of your favorite parts/scenes of the book?
I enjoyed writing the scenes between Sara and Christopher’s five-year-old daughter, Gwynnie. Not having children of my own, it gave me an opportunity to write a different type of devotion. Another favorite were the scenes between Sara and Christopher when she helps him rediscover his inspiration for art. God used those scenes to show me how the meek could be strong.

What do you hope readers will take away from Searching for Sara?
My hope is readers will see the blessing which comes from walking in obedience to God’s will. In addition, I wanted them to see that facing our fears is the best way to open ourselves to the blessings God has waiting for us.
How did writing this book change your life?
Because of writing the life lessons for Sara and Christopher, it gave my own mind and heart the opportunity to see the cause and effect of facing fear. I took Sara’s experience to heart and, as a result, found the love of my life in 2006. I have been happily married ever since. The journey was not easy by any stretch of the imagination, but it was worth the love and joy I have found.
What are you working on…what’s coming next?
For November I am devoting my time and effort to a fantasy adventure, Para Sedi, a prequel to the the 2008 National Novel Writing Month contest winner To Save A Soul. Come December, I will be working on two sequels, the continuation of Sara’s story in Releasing Yesterday, and the next installment in Para & Mun’s story in Silver & Iron (a 2009 NaNoWriMo contest winner). My goal is to have Silver & Iron release next May and Releasing Yesterday next December.

Nona King is an independent writing professional for Angel Breath Books. She has dedicated herself to writing true-to-life characters, be they villain or hero, so her readers can experience life and its many passions. All her stories focus on faith, honor, and the importance of communication and trust in our relationships with others.
Searching for Sara:
Nona's Fiction:
Nona's Blog:
Nona King at Amazon:
Nona King at Barnes & Noble:
Nona King at Smashwords:


Friday, November 30, 2012

Win a FREE copy of JESUS OF NAZARETH, THE INFANCY NARRATIVES. Place a Comment Below to be Eligible.

Leave a Comment at the end of this post to be eligible to win a hard copy of this book. Be sure to leave an email address so we can contact you when you win!

We have exciting news to share. Pope Benedict's new  book JESUS OF NAZARETH; The Infancy Narratives was released on the 21st of November. Summit Book Reviews is participating in the kick-off by giving away three free copies of this book.

It's easy to get your name into the pot. After you have viewed the trailer above, leave a comment along with your email address. As soon as we receive the books from the publisher we'll draw out the winners and arrange to get them to you just in time for Christmas.

Be sure to spread the word. FREE is a very good price. Comment below with your email address so we can ask for a mailing address.

Peace and Blessings!

Thursday, November 29, 2012


Last day to get this wonderful non-fiction, Christian eBook FREE from!
Hard copies are $9.95.

ALL THINGS CHRISTMAS, The History and Traditions of Advent & Christmas

Monday, November 26, 2012


Attention Kindle Users: All Things Christmas by Summit Books Reviewer E G Lewis will be available for FREE Download Sunday, Nov. 25th through Thursday, Nov. 29th at Don't miss the opportunity to enjoy this seasonal favorite at no cost.

Delve into the history and development of the celebration of Christmas in this interesting and informative study on the lore, legend and history of Advent & Christmas. Advent Wreathes and Calendars. Why does Christmas come on Dec. 25th? Who were the Wise Men? Is Santa Claus really St. Nicholas? The Two Men who Defined Christmas, Was there really a Good King Wenceslaus? Laganum Fructus — the fruit cake of the First Century, What are the 12 Days of Christmas? What’s a Mummer? A Tale of Two Mothers: Hannah, the mother of Samuel contrasted with Mary, the mother of Jesus. Three views of St. Joseph, The Christmas Miracle of 1914, Recipes for Advent foods and much more. Includes Bonus Supplement —The Christmas Story from Witness, Book One of E G Lewis' bestselling Seeds of Christianity Series.
Click HERE to download it now.

Monday, November 19, 2012

ISLE OF SHADOWS by Tracy L. Higley

Tracy L. Higley's interest in the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World has led to some excellent reading opportunities for the rest of us. After reading her novel, Garden of Madness, which takes place amidst the gardens of Babylon, I was eager to read Isle of Shadows too.
This is the tale of a beautiful and intelligent courtesan to a wealthy dignitary in ancient Rhodes. She desires freedom above all else. Since it seems beyond her grasp, she considers suicide beneath the shadow of the colossal statue of the Greek God Helios. But, there are two other men who will rescue and play major roles in her future. The handsome Nikos, who seems to be a Greek slave, and Simeon, the fatherly head servant in the household of her patron.
In addition to a story that keeps you turning pages, at the end of the book Ms. Higley includes The Story behind the Story...and Beyond! You will learn how the Colossus was built, how long it took and how long it stood before being destroyed in a great earthquake. All fascinating facts and more. Also, she offers sights, sounds and locations on the Isle of Shadows page entitled "Interactive Reading," at her website
Isle of Shadows was originally published in 2008 titled, Shadow of Colossus. It was very wise of Thomas Nelson Publishers to acquire it and republish a new, improved edition.
Isle of Shadows is an exciting, fun read. I thoroughly enjoyed it and am grateful to Thomas Nelson for a complimentary review copy. Gail Lewis
Product Details
  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Thomas Nelson (November 13, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 140168744X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1401687441

Link to Garden of Madness Review

Wednesday, November 7, 2012



We have exciting news to share. Pope Benedict'snew  book JESUS OF NAZARETH; The Infancy Narratives will be released on the 21st of November. Summit Book Reviews is participating in the kick-off by giving away three free copies of this book.

It's easy to get your name into the pot. After you have viewed the trailer above, leave a comment along with your email address. As soon as we receive the books from the publisher we'll draw out the winners and arrange to get them to you just in time for Christmas.

Be sure to spread the word. FREE is a very good price.

Sunday, November 4, 2012


Friend and fellow author, K Dawn Byrd, released a new novel a few days ago. It's currently available as a Kindle book...a print copy should follow shortly.

Amazing Love is the Biblical story of Hosea and Gomer retold for modern audiences. A Christian novel, the book's plot illustrates God's unconditional love. She says it was a hard story to write because her herione suffered severe consequences for her sins. In spite of this she never lost God's love and, like the Prodigal Son, eventually found her way back home.

Here's a short synopsis:
Gabe Knight, a pastor in a small coastal town, finds his life is turned upside down when Dee Dillow arrives and hires him to remodel an estate she's inherited from her aunt. Dee dashes his plans for wedded bless when on a drunken binge, she divulges that she's the highest paid call girl in Nevada and part-owner of the ritziest brothel in the state.

Gabe falls in love with her, but can't believe he's hearing the voice of God when a still, small voice tells him to marry her. After much questioning, they marry and he is deliriously happy. Until, Dee betrays him.

Gabe soon discovers just how hard it is to have the unconditional love God calls him to have for his wife, the kind of love God has for his children. When faced with losing her, Gabe realizes what true love is, how much it hurts, and just how much God loves and is willing to sacrifice for his children.

Check out Amazing Love and K. Dawn Byrd's other novels today.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012


In a book subtitled, How Ten Trends are Revolutionizing the Catholic Church, John Allen presents a well-researched and insightful exercise in futuristic thinking for Catholics and those interested in the prevalent trends within world Catholicism. Allen presents his material in the format of a researcher. He has designated a group over-arching trends and explains his criteria for selecting them as well as naming some that he considered, but discarded. Each of these topics is investigated in depth with a discussion of both their positive and negative impacts. The book is thorough in scope and depth.

Although I would not have chosen some of the trends he did, and at times disagreed with his conclusions, the book is fair and balanced. It makes fascinating reading and forces the American reader, in particular, to think beyond immediate ecclesiastical concerns of our own backyard.

If the book has a flaw, it is the same one that affects any projection of the future…a reliance on a set of events unfolding in a specific way. Life has many inter-dependencies and changing one or two of the underlying assumptions can sometimes derail the whole train. All in all, The Future Church is an interesting book that exposes the reader to happenings, events and trends within the Church that, I for one, was unaware of. I recommend it to anyone wants their vision of the Church broadened while at the same time enjoys speculating about where the Church may be heading.
- E. G. Lewis

Thursday, October 25, 2012

DIVIDE BY ZERO by Sheila Deeth

Divide by Zero: A community united by family and friendship, divided by tragedy, and reunited by the wisdom of a little boy.

The following review is by A O'D from Amazon UK:

"An intriguing and moving novel about a new rural/suburban community in the US, describing how the residents interact and develop. It demonstrates how easily people can lapse into depression and other destructive behavior, but at the same time indicates how small initiatives can have a significant effect. Even the least appealing characters are portrayed sympathetically and are shown to have a rationale for their actions. There is a faint touch of mysticism, but not in an intrusive way, and the book as a whole leaves a positive feeling behind."

I look forward to reading Sheila's newest novel. As a mathematician, as well as an excellent writer, her title is particularly intriguing. The cover is appealing too. Sheila Deeth's novel is available in paperback or for Kindle. There is a link below. - Gail Lewis

  • Paperback: 254 pages
  • Publisher: Publishing (August 20, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1600763405
  • ISBN-13: 978-1600763403

  • Wednesday, October 3, 2012


    It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

    You never know when I might play a wild card on you!

    Today's Wild Card author is:

    and the book:

    Wiley; 1 edition (August 28, 2012)

    ***Special thanks to Rick Roberson for sending me a review copy.***


    Widely cited on matters pertaining to Israel, Dr. Daniel Gordis has been called "one of Israel's most thoughtful observers." It is a task he does not take lightly. Throughout his career, Dr. Gordis has tirelessly observed, written and lectured on Israeli society and the challenges the Jewish state faces. His writing has appeared in magazines and newspapers, including the New York Times, the New Republic, the New York Times Magazine, Moment, Tikkun, Azure, Commentary Magazine, Foreign Affairs and Conservative Judaism.

    Today, Dr. Gordis is senior vice president and Koret Distinguished Fellow at the Shalem Center in Jerusalem. A prolific writer, The Promise of Israel is his ninth book. In 2009, his book Saving Israel: How the Jewish People Can Win a War That May Never End received the National Jewish Book Award. His biography on former Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin is scheduled for release in 2014. Gordis continues to be a much sought after speaker, traveling around the world to speak on the Jewish state and the challenges to Israeli society. In addition, he regularly blogs Dispatches from an Anxious State. He and his wife, Elisheva, make their home in Jerusalem. They are the parents of a married daughter and two grown sons now serving in the Israel Defense Forces.

    Visit the author's website.


    What Israel's critics in the West really object to about the Jewish State, Daniel Gordis asserts, is the fact that Israel is a country consciously devoted to the future of the Jewish people. In a world where differences between cultures, religions and national traditions are either denied or papered over, Israel's critics insist that no country devoted to a single religion or culture can stay democratic and prosperous. They're wrong. Rather than relentlessly assailing Israel, Gordis argues, the international community should see Israel's model as key to the future of culture and freedom. Israel provides its citizens with infinitely greater liberty and prosperity than anyone expected, faring better than any other young nation. Given Israel's success, it would make sense for many other countries, from Rwanda to Afghanistan and even Iran, to look at how they've done it. Most importantly, perhaps, rather than seeking to destroy Israel.

    The Promise of Israel turns the most compelling arguments against Israel on their heads, undoing liberals with a more liberal argument and the religious with a more devout one. The Promise of Israel puts forth an idea that is as convincing as it is shocking-that Iran's clerics and the Taliban could achieve what they want for their people by being more like Israel.

    Product Details:
    List Price: $25.95
    Hardcover: 256 pages
    Publisher: Wiley; 1 edition (August 28, 2012)
    Language: English
    ISBN-10: 1118003756
    ISBN-13: 978-1118003756
    Product Dimensions: 9.4 x 6.3




    For I dipt into the future, far as human eye could see
    Saw the Vision of the world, and all the wonders that would be;
    Till the war-drum throbb’d no longer and the battle flags were furl’d
    In the Parliament of man, the Federation of the world.

    —Alfred Lord Tennyson, “Locksley Hall,” 18371

    What struck me most about California when I started to visit it was its newness. Nothing seemed old. The cars all appeared new; the people dressed young and acted younger. To a young East Coast kid just starting a career, California seemed all about the future, almost devoid of a past.

    But all of us have pasts. All of us come from someplace, and even in the shiny new West, it often takes very little for people to start talking about their lives, their deepest regrets, and their senses of how they have, or have not, honored the legacies from which they were born. It’s amazing, actually, what people tell a clergyperson, no matter how young he or she may be. When I first headed out to Los Angeles after finishing rabbinical school, I had no real conception of what awaited me. Some of what I hazily imagined actually came to be. Much did not. But one of the things that I remember most clearly is the stories that people, especially elderly people, told me, even though they barely knew me.

    There was one story that I heard several times, in one form or another, always from people around the age of my grandparents. These people told me how their siblings who had arrived in America before them would meet them at the New York harbor. The new arrivals came off the boat with almost nothing to their names, but they had, in addition to their meager belongings, Jewish objects like candlesticks for the Sabbath or tefillin that they had transported with great care. The sibling (usually a brother) who had arrived in the United States a few years earlier would take the bundle with these Jewish religious objects, nonchalantly drop it into the water lapping at the edge of the pier, and say, “You’re in America now. Those were for the old country.” The men and women who told me these stories were much, much older than I was, and the events they were describing had unfolded more than half a century earlier. When I was younger and first heard them, what horrified me was the mere notion of throwing those ritual objects into the ocean as if they were yesterday’s garbage. As I grew older, I was struck by the fact that these elderly people still remembered that moment and that it troubled them enough for them to recount the story to a young person like me, so many years later.

    Later still, I began to understand the deep pain and mourning implicit in those stories. There was a sense of having betrayed the world from which they had come. There was a sense of the cruelty of their brothers’ cavalier discarding of the bundles; it might have been well intentioned, but it was callous and mean, and half a century later, it still evoked such pain that they sought to talk about it.

    Before we judge these siblings at the pier, we should acknowledge that both sides were right. Both the elderly Jews who told me their stories and the brothers who had tossed their possessions into the oily, filthy water reflected a profound truth. The brothers were right that there is a price of entry to the United States and that it is a steep one. In large measure, many immigrants have done as well as they have in the United States precisely because they were willing to drop bundles of memory, ethnicity, and religious observance into the harbor. And the people who told me these stories were right that the pain and the anger that they felt about that price were real, abiding, and deeply scarring. They had given up something of themselves when they came to the United States, and the scars never fully healed. Being forced to pretend that they had paid no price at all only made matters worse.

    Jewish, Muslim, Buddhist, Hutu, Pashtun, or Christian—it makes no difference. All of us can imagine and even feel the visceral horror of being told to take our past and figuratively toss it into the harbor. Those immigrants were told that they were welcome, as long as they dispensed with the heritage with which they had come to their new “home.” But the story of demanding such sacrifice for acceptance is hardly over. It continues for some immigrants to the United States today, and it occurs in the international arena as well.

    Sad to say, it is that same attitude that the United States (like much of the West) now exhibits toward Israel. You are welcome to join us, the West essentially says, as long as you drop your ethnic heritage in the ocean forever. We welcome you to the family of nations, but with a price: we want you to be precisely like us. Be different, and our patience will soon run out.

    Later portions of this book will explain why preserving ethnic heritage is such an important human endeavor. For now, though, we ought to acknowledge how troubled we should be by saying to anyone—anywhere and at any time—that he or she must abandon a precious heritage and not transmit it. Those elderly immigrants who told me their stories had no choice when they arrived at the shores of New York. Often penniless and usually frightened, they had nowhere else to go. When their siblings took the parcels and dropped them in the water, there was little the new immigrants could do but stifle their cries and hold back their tears.

    Israel, however, is not in that position. Israelis are independent, and the Jewish state rightly resists the demand that it become just like all those other states that are not based on a particular ethnic identity. Even though we rarely think of matters in these terms, the sad fact is that it is Israel’s very unwillingness to be a state like all other states in this regard, its resistance to erasing its uniqueness, that now has Israel locked in conflict with much of the West.

    This book makes an audacious and seemingly odd claim. It suggests that what now divides Israel and the international community is an idea: the ethnic nation-state—a country created around a shared cultural heritage. This is what has the West so put out with Israel. Israel has lost its once-charmed status in the international arena, I argue, because of a conflict over this very idea. It is true that the Israelis and the Palestinians are still tragically locked in an intractable and painful conflict; the issues of borders, refugees, and Palestinian statehood still await resolution. But those matters, as urgent as they are, are not the primary reason for Israel’s unprecedented fall from international grace.

    Israel is marginalized and reviled because of a battle over the idea of the nation-state. (The dictionary defines nation-state as “a form of political organization under which a relatively homogeneous people inhabits a sovereign state . . . a state containing one as opposed to several nationalities,” so I use nation-state and ethnic nation-state inter- changeably in this book.) Israel, the quintessential modern example of the ethnic nation-state, came on the scene just as most of the Western world had decided that it was time to be rid of the nation-state. Today, Europe’s elites wish to move in one direction, whereas Israel suggests that humanity should be doing precisely the opposite. The now young countries that emerged from what was once the Soviet Union and the former Yugoslavia are mostly nation-states; their creation—and the demise of the larger conglomerates that once included them—attests to the widespread and deep-seated human desire to live in a manner that cultivates the cultures that we have inherited from our ancestors. But many of Europe’s intellectual elites prefer to pretend that we have no lessons to learn about human difference and cultural heterogeneity from the demise of the USSR and Yugoslavia.

    Israel suggests that they are wrong. The conflict in the Middle East is about borders and statehood, but the conflict about the Middle East is over universalism versus particularism, over competing conceptions of how human beings ought to organize themselves.

    The purpose of this book is to explain the ancient origins of this conflict, how this tug-of-war about an idea has developed, how Israel got caught in it, and, most important, how a world bereft of the idea that Israel represents would be an impoverished world. Instead of being so commonly maligned, Israel ought to be seen as a beacon among nations, a remarkably successful nation that has persevered despite wars fought on its borders and that has brought prosperity to its people despite a shared history of misfortune. Israel has secured significant rights for all of its citizens, including even those who reject the very idea of Israel’s existence. All of this has been accomplished because of Israel’s commitment to the future success of the Jewish people, not in spite of it.

    What is at stake in the current battle over Israel’s legitimacy is not merely the idea on which Israel is based, but, quite possibly, human freedom as we know it. The idea that human freedom might be at risk in today’s battles over Israel might seem far-fetched or hyperbolic. This book will argue that it is not, and that human beings everywhere thus have a great stake in what the world ultimately does with the Jewish state.

    Imagine a world in which instead of maligning Israel, the international community encouraged emerging ethnic nations to emulate Israel. Egyptians, for example, may have demonstrated for regime change and for democracy, but they did not gather to demonstrate against Islam or their Arab identity. They have no plans to become the “America” of Africa, secular and heterogeneous. They wish (or so the most Western of them claim) both to celebrate their Muslim heritage and thousands of years of Egyptian history and to join the family of modern democratic nations. As they do so, to whom can they look for a model of a stable, prosperous, and open state based on a shared religion and heritage? There is no denying that Egypt, Syria, Pakistan, and many other Muslim countries would benefit from being more like Israel instead of hoping for its destruction.

    Yet it is not only Middle Eastern and Muslim nations that should be looking harder at the Israeli experiment. The whole world would benefit from thinking in terms of the questions Israel raises. The United States, Sweden, Brazil—it makes no difference. All citizens of every nation would benefit from asking themselves, explicitly, what values they hope their nation will inculcate in its citizens, what culture they are committed to preserving and nourishing. Such conversations would change the way Israel is seen in the world, but they would also change how everyone else sees his or her own country—and how people come to think about the reasons that countries actually exist.

    The idea of a state for a particular ethnicity strikes many people as problematic, immoral, and contrary to the progress that humanity has made in recent decades. The idea of a state meant to promote the flourishing of one particular people, with one particular religion at its core—a state created with the specific goal of Jewish revival and flourishing—strikes many people as worse than an antiquated idea. It sounds racist, bigoted, or oppressive of minorities.

    When the United Nations voted to create a Jewish state in 1947, the fires of the Second World War had barely been extinguished. Dispossessed Jews were still wandering across Europe by the thousands. The enormity of the genocidal horror that the world had allowed the Nazis to perpetrate was still sinking in. One of the many effects of that horrific period of history was that despite opposition from many quarters, creating a state for the Jews seemed like the right and expedient thing to do.

    But times have changed. Memories of the Shoah are fading.* Jews are no longer dispossessed refugees; in most of the world, they are settled and prospering, and today it is the Palestinians who are stateless. Postwar Europe has decided that it was unfettered nationalism that led to the horrors of the two world wars; therefore, much of Europe’s intellectual elite now believes that the nation-state is a nineteenth- century paradigm that should be relegated to the dust heap of history,*Holocaust means “burnt offering” or “sacrifice to God.” I thus avoid it when discussing the Nazi genocide of the Jews. Europe’s Jews were not sacrificed; they were tortured, murdered, and annihilated. There is a profound difference. This book uses the word Shoah, which means “utter destruction” (see Zephaniah 1:15 and Proverbs 3:25), to honor that distinction just like those bundles that were dropped into the harbor to sink out of sight.

    In several important respects, Jews drew the opposite conclusion from the horrific century they had just endured and barely survived. Battered by Europe and by history, the Jews emerged from the Shoah with a sense that more than anything, they needed a state of their own. Just as some of the world thought that it might move beyond nations, the Jews (who had dreamed of a restored Zion for two millennia) now intuited that nothing could be more urgent than finally re-creating their state. Zionism and postwar Europe were thus destined for conflict.

    Zionism was not a matter of mere refuge; it was a matter of breathing new life into the Jewish people (the subject of my book Saving Israel: How the Jewish People Can Win a War That May Never End), of reimagining Judaism for a world after destruction, and, ironically, of insisting on the importance of the very difference that the Nazis had focused on as they perpetrated the horrors of the Shoah. What was at stake was much more than differing views about the nation- state; it was a battle over fundamental worldviews. For it was not only the nation-state on which Europe and postwar Jews differed. At issue was also the whole question of human differentness. To much of the world, the racially motivated genocide of twentieth-century Europe suggested that human difference ought to be transcended.

    At our core, it therefore became popular to assert, human beings are largely the same. Our faces may have different shapes and our skin colors may differ, but those are simply superficial variations. We may speak different languages, but our aspirations are very similar. We may cherish different memories, but the future we create can be a shared one. Because human beings are essentially similar, this argument goes, the countries that separate peoples and cast a spotlight on their differences should now be dissolved, too. John Lennon put this idea to music in his song “Imagine”: “Imagine there’s no countries / It isn’t hard to do / Nothing to kill or die for / And no religion too.”

    We might well have expected the Jews to embrace this vision. After all, since it was their difference that had condemned them to the horrific fate of the Shoah, we might have thought that the Jews would enthusiastically join the quest for a world without difference. In a world without difference, the Jews might finally be safe. But here too the Jews disagreed.

    The Jews disagreed because whether or not they could articulate it, they intuited that they and their tradition have been focused on differentness from the very outset. The image of Abraham as the world’s first monotheist says it all: Jews have long been countercultural. And they have celebrated difference in many ways. The Talmud itself notes that it is differentness that is the very essence of humanity: “If a man strikes many coins from one mold, they all resemble each other,” it asserts. “But the Supreme King of Kings . . . created every man in the stamp of the first, and yet not one of them resembles his fellow.”

    Difference matters, Judaism has long said, not just for individuals, but for peoples, too. Later in this book, we will see how this commitment to differentness became so central to Jewish life and thought. But this commitment to difference, to celebrating the uniqueness of the Jewish people, was never meant to foster rejection of those who are not Jewish. Indeed, at its best, Jewish celebration of difference is also about the celebration of the other. The horrific excesses of human his- tory have certainly led many to see in difference a frightening and terrible idea; too often the distinction between “us and them” was drawn to make it seem okay for “us” to kill “them” and for “them” to kill “us.” Israel, however, with all of its imperfections, has for decades been drawing lines and then reaching across them. Israelis do not pretend that being a global citizen is either sufficient or terribly meaningful, yet they willingly send medical teams to Japan or Haiti in a crisis. The Jewish state is a country that could very soon be annihilated without a moment’s notice by Islamic extremists in Iran and that has been at war with Arab countries since even before its independence, but its national government has more democratically elected Muslim officials than all the other non-Muslim states combined—more, even, than the United States.

    The Jewish tradition is replete with references to the differences between the Jews and other nations. From the very outset, Jews saw part of their purpose as being different, as having something to say that the rest of the world ought to hear. In a world without difference, the very point of Jewishness would be lost. Whether or not they could articulate it, Jews understood that being just like everyone else, even if that might somehow make them physically safer, was not at all what thousands of years of Jewish tradition and survival had been about.

    Even after the horrors of what they had just experienced because of their difference, most Jews emerged from the Shoah determined to preserve their collective inheritance. Some enthusiastically embraced international movements like socialism or communism. But many more sought to celebrate their difference, to breathe new life into the unique way of living that had been theirs for thousands of years, to gather up the fragments of their texts from a century in which both their books and their bodies had been burned indiscriminately, and to fashion anew their libraries, memories, holidays, and long-dormant language. To do that, they realized, they would need a state. They had prayed for one for two thousand years, but now, after the Shoah, that age-old prayer took on newfound urgency.

    Increasingly, however, the rest of the world has decided that it does not agree. The United Nations and much of the international com- munity are notoriously complicit in the push to rob Israel of its status as standard-bearer for the nation-state idea. As long as a country that is openly rooted in a religious or cultural tradition prospers, as long as its democracy serves its citizens well, as long as it defies the predictions of secular scholars and pundits who believe that religion and ethnicity are the handmaidens of imperialism and fascism, it must be reviled.

    Otherwise, it could prove the intellectual elites of western Europe and North America, who believe that an experiment like Israel can- not work, wrong. What was once a well-meaning, liberal academic orientation to religion, ethnicity, and statehood has morphed into an international diplomatic witch hunt that smacks once again of intolerance for the Jew and the Jewish state, that is filled with the sense that in any conflict in which Israel finds itself, the Jewish state must be wrong. Sides are being chosen daily, and Israel’s fate is being decided, often by people who do not realize what is really being disputed. My simplest goal in writing this book, beyond advocating one side or the other, is just to make clear to people what the two sides are and what is really at stake in this battle of ideas.

    Israel’s real problem, this book demonstrates, is that the state of Israel was founded to move the Jews to precisely the condition that the rest of the Western world was trying to avoid. For that reason, too, the Jewish state was almost bound to be in conflict with the West. That is why many in the ostensibly forward-thinking international community have now decided, consciously or not, that it is time to bring the Jewish state to an end. They propose to do so without armies and without violence. They will bring Israel to its knees with words, with philosophical and principled arguments, and with appeals to the loftiest moral standards. After all, they note, both apartheid South Africa and the Soviet Union were felled in large measure by a widely shared international view that they were illegitimate, founded on ideas that were simply indefensible.

    Given this new tactic, those who believe in the ongoing importance of a Jewish state need to ask themselves the right questions and provide principled answers. Can an argument really be made for a state that seems so out of sync with the direction of modern progress? In the twenty-first century, is there really a place for a country that defines itself as Jewish (or committed to any other ethnicity, for that matter); that does not see all its citizens as equally central to its mission; and that unabashedly declares that one religion, one people, one ethnicity, and one heritage will be more essential to its national life than any others? How could Israel’s supporters possibly defend such a country?

    Such a state seems anathema to everything that many of us have been taught to believe.

    Many of Israel’s supporters have no idea what to say in response to such attacks on Zionism and its legitimacy, and Israel has paid a terrible price for the silence of today’s Zionists on these issues. Its international status has plummeted with scarcely a countervailing word being said about why the Jewish state matters. The campaign to defend Israel has been sporadic, reactive, defensive, almost entirely devoid of theoretical argument, and focused almost exclusively on the conflict with the Palestinians. Zionists’ failure to make a case for their particular sort of state creates the impression that they know they cannot really justify Israel’s existence; it feeds a suspicion that they have decided that it would be best to stay under the radar, because when push comes to shove, what Israel is cannot be thoughtfully defended.

    But in today’s world, Zionists can no longer afford the luxury of staying below the radar. The questions are too powerful, the focus on Israel too intense. No longer can the case for Israel be made simply by hoping that no one raises the question of whether the idea of a Jewish state is defensible. Those who believe in the importance and the legitimacy of the state of Israel need to be able to explain why a country founded for a particular people, ethnicity, tradition, and religion has a place—indeed, a noble one—in the twenty-first century.

    Therefore, Israel’s response to these challenges has to be equally thoughtful and no less compelling. Israel’s defense must also be based on moral claims. In a nutshell, what needs to be said is this: What is at issue between Israel and the international community is whether ethnic and national diversity ought to be encouraged and promoted. Israel has something to say about the importance of human difference that is at odds with the prevailing attitudes in the world today. It is a country that insists that people thrive and flourish most when they live in societies in which their language, their culture, their history, and their sense of purpose are situated at the very center of public life.

    Let’s address one common objection right at the outset. Contrary to what many naysayers will claim, a country does not have to be entirely homogeneous to accomplish this. As even PBS (which is often very critical of Israel) once noted, “As a Jewish state, [Israel] is both homogenous and multiethnic.”3 As strange as it may sound, countries can have a predominant ethnic character and be deeply tolerant of minorities at the same time. Every nation-state has minorities, and part of the challenge to the majority is not only to accommodate the minority but also, even more, to help those citizens flourish.

    Indeed, flourishing is the key issue. Israel is a country based on a belief that human beings live richer and more meaningful lives when those lives are deeply rooted in a culture that they have inherited and that they can bequeath. Human life flourishes most when a society’s public square is committed to conversations rooted in that people’s literature, language, history, narrative, and even religion. There is the possibility of a more fully integrated life in the nation-state in which all these spheres of human life overlap to much greater extents than other countries make possible. Ultimately, human diversity will be protected most by an amalgam of countries, each of which exists for the flourishing of a particular people, culture, way of life, and history and, at the same time, engages in an open and ongoing dialogue with other cultures and civilizations.

    The world celebrated the Arab Spring in 2011, but that story is not yet fully written. Will it bring democracy? Rights for women? Tolerance for gays and lesbians? It would be foolish and naive to expect that we’ll see any such progress soon. Still, there’s no reason that Egypt couldn’t develop an engagement with modernity while staying committed to the dignity of its past. There’s no reason that Libya, finally freed of Muammar Gaddafi, couldn’t in theory develop both intellectual openness and a freedom of the press, since both could actually strengthen the nation’s understanding of Islam. Syrians too could someday live richer and more meaningful lives if those lives were deeply rooted in a unique Syrian culture coupled with freedom of choice at the voting booth. Even Iran could discover that Iranians flourish most when the public square is committed to open conversations rooted in Persian literature, language, history, and narratives, in constant and vigorous dialogue with the West and other civilizations that have very different takes on core human values.

    But does the West really want to see those countries develop in that way? If Egypt remained deeply and profoundly Egyptian, and Iranian culture and history defined the Iranian public square, would the West approve, or would the West say that as long as those countries insist on maintaining those ancient attachments, they are not fully liberated? Would the West not still tell them they are doing it wrong? Perhaps. But the West would be wrong; difference and uniqueness do not mire people in the past but rather give them guidance and meaning as they build a better future.

    This is now the challenge for Zionists. Precisely because Israel stands for a conviction not held by most of the enlightened world today, the time has come to defend Israel by boldly addressing the conversation that is at the heart of this book. It is time for Zionists not only to discuss borders, settlements, security, and Palestinian state- hood but also to proclaim that what is at stake is not just the Jewish state, not just the future of the Jews, but a profound vision for how humanity can most compellingly chart its future. No other country in the developed world calls into question today’s assumption that eradicating differentness is the best path toward human flourishing. That is precisely what makes Israel so countercultural, so divisive, and often so maligned. And that is what makes Israel so vitally important.

    Today’s infatuation with the notion that human difference ought to be papered over is not the first time that the world has embraced a dangerous and dead-end philosophical fad. In the past century alone, humanity has lived through infatuations with unfettered social- ism, then with communism, and even with the belief in the nobility of imperialism. But Israel is a reminder to the world that there are moments when someone—be it a prophet in biblical times or a nation-state in today’s international community—has to speak truth to power and insist on what is right and true, regardless of how unpopular the idea is. Israel represents the argument that the nation- state is not a fad, but rather an ancient and still compelling vision for humanity.

    Like the ancient Hebrew prophets Isaiah, Amos, and Hosea, who were highly unpopular in their own time but whose visions for humanity are still cited thousands of years later, the state of Israel is meant to be a clarion call to all of humanity. If Israel can survive (and that is by no means certain), history may one day come to thank the Jewish state for its role in reminding humanity what it stood to lose when it began to pretend that our differences were unimportant.
    Our Review: I found it refreshing to read something positive about Israel. Daniel Gordis' approach to the nation of Israel's place in world is enlightened, optimistic and impressive. The basis of most criticism of Israeli actions boils down to, "They're not doing what I want them to." As God's chosen people, the Jews have never done what people expected them to, why should things be different now? Godis shows that rather than being criticized, Israel deserves to be applauded. Most of the world could learn much from this tiny nation, including their Arab neighbors in the Middle East. The Promise of Israel is thoroughly-researched and well-written. Gordis makes his points convincingly. I stongly recommend this book.

    Friday, September 21, 2012

    MORTAL FIRE by C. F. Dunn

    Author, C. F. Dunn, weaves an intriguing tale of mystery, romance and danger. She had me hooked when the heroine, Dr. Emma D'Eresby, is given a bookcase for her office by an admirer and another admirer visits and asks her if it's new. Not willing to divulge where it came from, she avoids the issue by replying, "No, it's an antique, actually." Clever and humorous way to avoid answering.
    Her first admirer, Dr. Matthew Lynes, was able to carry the heavy, antique bookcase to Emma's office without help. Yet, she and another young man are barely able to push it aside to retrieve something behind it. This might be the first indication that Dr. Lynes is more than he appears to be. He has abilities others don't have. Has she fallen in love with a superhero? 
    Author, C. F. Dunn
    When Emma arrives in Maine, after leaving her position in Cambridge, she makes friends with some lovable characters, Russian born Elena and her significant other, Matias. However, she also meets Professor Staahl, and instantly dislikes him. She senses he is evil, and rightfully so.
    Dr. Lynes rescues Emma twice, the second time saving her life. And, as time marches on Emma learns more and more about his remarkable abilities. What, or who, is he and why is he so adept at everything? I suggest you read this novel and discover for yourself.
    I highly recommend this novel and appreciate receiving a free copy from Kregel Publications in exchange for an honest review. -- Gail Lewis 
    Paperback: 384 pages
    Publisher: Monarch Books (August 1, 2012)
    Language: English
    ISBN-10: 0857212028
    ISBN-13: 978-0857212023