Reviews: family entertainment, documentaries, resources, books, music
Reviews: family entertainment, documentaries, resources, books, music
AFA Staff
AFA Staff
AFA Journal staff reviews movies, books and other resources

July 2020Joy for the Journey
“We have huddled together against the cold winds of fear, doubt, and uncertainty,” wrote Minnesota pastor Matthew Miklasz and his wife Cyndy. Those words appear in the introduction to their book Joy for the Journey, a perfect prescription in today’s cultural chaos.

Their narrative includes Matthew’s decades of recurring bouts with cancer and leukemia, fear for the survival of a son with chronic heart issues, and Cyndy’s battle with anxiety and panic attacks.

Those major challenges accompany their “normal” life managing their small farm, pastoring a church, and raising four children to young adulthood (now ages 22-17). Matthew and Cyndy alternate writing chapters in the book, a pattern that reveals the wide range of obstacles they have hurdled.

For parents suffering the death of a child, the addict losing hope of deliverance, the widow suddenly setting a table for one, the spouse hammered by an unexpected divorce, the Miklaszes will empathize. Their extraordinary transparency comforts the reader with compassion and guidance that point to the One who can help the reader get a new grasp on hope – hope deeply rooted in the Word of God.

Available at online booksellers. Caution: There are other books by the same title.

Randall Murphree

Blaze of Light
Green Berets are the elite. They are trained for the harshest environments and the fiercest battles, but the struggles they face after their military journey often catch them by surprise and unprepared to deal with civilian life. Such was the case with Gary Beikirch.

In Blaze of Light, Marcus Brotherton relates Beikirch’s experiences as a medic in the jungles of Vietnam, especially in the bloody battle of Dak Seang. Severely wounded and paralyzed early in the attacks, Beikirch refused to cease providing medical care to his fellow soldiers until he was forcibly evacuated by medevac.

His physical healing took months, but his transition to civilian life and his emotional healing would take years. Blaze of Light is an inspiring biography of a soldier who overcame many battles, and became a man God is still using today. Available at online and retail booksellers.

Matthew White

Today’s culture is filled with people busying themselves in order to escape from their brokenness. In her book Stay, author Anjuli Paschall invites the reader to do the opposite. Through her masterful storytelling, Paschall illustrates the value of being still and confronting one’s brokenness, fear, vulnerability, and pain in order to grow closer to Christ.

Through her stories of being a missionary kid, reluctant photographer, and frazzled mother, Paschall transports the reader to moments of nostalgic beauty without shying away from the real and difficult issues of life. Each story points the reader to how God used these moments to help Paschall grow in Him and understand the truths of the gospel.

Her blunt honesty about past mistakes and fears serves as an invitation to readers to confront the difficult things in their lives.

Available at online and retail booksellers.

Canada Burns

When You Love a Prodigal
Author Judy Douglass has filled the pages of When You Love a Prodigal: 90 Days of Grace for the Wilderness with the refreshing “living water” of God’s word and constant reminders of the unconditional love demonstrated in Christ, both bodily and through His indwelling Spirit.

While boundaries and consequences are not left untouched, the book’s focus is on God’s mercy, grace, and forbearance – His kindness that leads to repentance. The small volume will offer hope and encouragement to all who love a prodigal. Each devotion includes response questions to help the reader cling to the preceding truths. The format allows for daily reading, or it can be read through.

Available at online and retail bookstores.

Anne Reed

An Appalachian Summer
In the fictional pages of An Appalachian Summer, Ann. H. Gabhart creates more than a wholesome, historical love story. She shares an intriguing look into the Depression Era through the eyes of Piper Danson, a wealthy debutante who volunteers as a courier for nurses working in the remote Appalachian Mountains of Kentucky. Based on historical accounts of midwives and nurses in Mary Breckinridge’s Frontier Nursing Service, An Appalachian Summer conveys the lessons Danson learns during her summer in the mountains, as well as the ways in which her relationship with God grows deeper
and stronger.

The author also manages to portray bittersweet stories of the Kentucky mountain mothers and their newborn babies. Both Gabhart’s protagonist and her readers discover just how precious and fragile is the veil between life and death. Available at online and retail booksellers.

Joy Lucius

Smoke Screen
Terri Blackstock is a master of fictional intrigue and suspense, and her latest book, Smoke Screen, delivers a storyline filled with twists and turns sure to captivate dedicated fans and new readers alike.

Protagonist Nate Beckett is a fire jumper who is injured on the job. He reluctantly returns home to visit his father who was recently released from prison. Convicted of killing Pastor Strickland, the father of Brenna, Nate’s high school sweetheart, the elder Mr. Beckett is now free and determined to prove his innocence.

That turns out to be tense for everyone, especially Nate, who still (14 years post-high school) holds a flame for Brenna. To compound matters, an arsonist is on the loose, and people point to Nate as the culprit. Through it all, Blackstock subtly but surely points to God as the true source of help for Nate, Brenna – and her readers.

Available at online and retail booksellers.

Joy Lucius

Where is Wisdom?
“A treasure hunt through God’s wondrous world” (based on Job 28) is the theme author Scott James uses to teach children about the mystery and majesty of creation, while revealing Christ as the true end of wisdom. The hardcover book is beautifully illustrated and intended for children ages 4 through 8.

An application page cross references with New Testament passages and provides a tool for parents to engage their children and further point them to Christ as creator, treasure, and savior. Available at online and retail stores.

Anne Reed

The Widows’ Tea Challenge
In her debut novel, The Widows’ Tea Challenge, longtime writer Joanne Stuart Sloan crafts one of the year’s most delightful novels about four colorful widows who meet monthly for tea and fellowship. Over 13 months (correlating to 13 chapters), readers come to admire all four widows and their families. When the eldest widow issues a New Year’s challenge to her fellow teetotalers, Sloan unveils her characters’ deepest longings and darkest secrets, while simultaneously demonstrating their individual strengths and weaknesses.

This is not just a charming story of widows sipping tea and sharing tales of the past. It is a completely Christ-centered story of friendship that crosses barriers of age, race, education, and income. With precision, Sloan handily orchestrates the four stories of diversely different widows into one cohesive and deeply moving tale of ageless wisdom and truth.

A bonus feature includes group discussion topics and study questions. Available at retail and online booksellers.

Joy Lucius

Starting Now
When starting college, students may be overwhelmed with an endless stream of questions, from declaring a major to where to live or who to associate with. However, Crystal Chiang and Gerald Fadayomi believe there is a more important issue than what one does in college.

Instead, they believe the formation of one’s identity is a vital part of the years spent in higher education. For this reason, the two have written Starting Now, a 30-day devotional for the college beginner. Armed with five weekday devotions, the book challenges the reader to analyze what it looks like to pursue faith-based, worthwhile endeavors while in college, things such as community, integrity, and service. Unlike choosing classes or career paths, these choices define who someone is, who he will become, and how he’ll affect those around him. To learn more, visit Available at online booksellers.

Mason Beasler

The Beautiful Ashes of Gomez Gomez
Author Buck Storm is creative in every sense of the word. He can also be a little bit crazy. His website calls him a singer, songwriter, and storyteller; he does them all well. He wrote his first song at age 9 and his first novel more than three decades later (Miracle Man, 2015). He has earned his rightful place on the top shelf of this generation’s storytellers.

Not only has he come up with this wacky title – The Beautiful Ashes of Gomez Gomez. He has also anchored the engaging plot with a down-and-out main man whom the reader cheers for from
the start.

In sleepy little Paradise, Arizona, Storm pits his protagonist – lovable, eccentric, homeless widower Gomez Gomez – against a powerful and wealthy small-town businessman. The whole town chooses sides in the conflict. Readers will quickly be joining the cast of funky supporting characters, grooving on creative plot twists, and wondering if this hero-and-villain drama can ever be resolved.

AFA Journal reviewed Storm’s novel The Light, another new release, in last month’s issue. It has a gripping biblical setting in the time of the crucifixion of Christ.

The Beautiful Ashes was scheduled for release by Kregel Books in mid-July; pre-order at

Randall Murphree

Secret Slide Money Club series teaches godly values for kids
The Great Lemonade Stand Standoff
The Great Lemonade Stand Standoff is a fun, fictional adventure written by Art Rainer. It’s a story geared toward kids 11 and under. With fun challenges to grasp the junior reader’s attention, this story is told in only 76 pages. It takes the reader on an entertaining journey with Brody, Drew, Sophia, and Jake. These four daring kids are raising money for a local animal shelter, but when feisty competition known as the Albatrosses arrive, they are in for a challenge. Through guidance from the Master of a secret underground headquarters and a piece of powerful advice from 2 Corinthians 9:7, these kids learn the true meaning of giving.

The Mad Cash Dash
Art Rainer goes at it again with The Mad Cash Dash, a thrilling story any young reader would gravitate to. The same four friends are faced with another quest regarding the Secret Slide Money Club (the name of their secret underground headquarters).

In the action-packed story, readers again encounter a life lesson and a Scripture dealing with using money responsibly. The four friends help classmate Kate learn the importance of the Master’s money plan – that she doesn’t need to spend money carelessly to be happy. Available at retail and online booksellers.

Macy Dean, Guest Teen Reviewer