Sunday, July 26, 2009

'Unveiling Mary Magdalene' by Liz Curtis Higgs

Mary Magdalene seems to be the “It” girl of the first decade of the 21st century. She has been variously portrayed as a slut, a prostitute, an adulteress, an epileptic, a business woman; she’s been labeled Jesus’ financial supporter, his lover, his wife and mother of his child(ren). Before Dan Brown made her a clue in his code, she was one of the Bad Girls of the Bible to author Liz Curtis Higgs.

Higgs excels at the practice of taking a well-known Bible story and setting it in a different locale, a different time period to remind us of the enduring truth underlying the familiar words. For her, Mary Magdalene is ripe for transporting to modern-day Chicago. Higgs does an admirable job of turning Magdalene into Mad Mary Margaret Delaney, an off-kilter woman roaming the streets of the north side. When Mary meets pastor Jake Stauros, her life takes a totally different tack.

Jake leads a barely surviving neighborhood church (across the street from a moving company’s warehouse, to give you an idea of the neighborhood) and specializes in helping those whom society has cast off. Mary fits the bill nicely. Through a series of events, we see Mary leave the tormented landscape of her mind and rejoin society.

Through Mary Delaney, Higgs sweeps away the centuries to bring us a portrait of a troubled woman who is redeemed by faith. The tone is gently conversational, as though Higgs is bringing you up-to-date on a mutual friend. While remaining faithful to known Biblical information, she fleshes out the character in a fresh setting to make us rethink the position of Mary Magdalene in the early days of the church.

The first half of the book relates Mary’s path; the second half is a study of the person behind the story and the basis of Higgs’ conclusions about her. It works on both levels. This book is imminently suitable for use as a study group subject and satisfying as a novel. Taken together, the book is a gem. Originally published as “Mad Mary,” the renamed “Unveiling Mary Magdalene” is a great read. It is available at most bookstores, as well as through Higgs online store. Visit her website at, if you have any difficulty finding it or would like to know more about this prolific author.

Copyright 2007 Mary Beth Magee

'No Legal Grounds' by James Scott Bell

Attorneys are sworn to uphold the law. What happens to one when the law he has trusted, defended and supported his entire adult life cannot protect him and his family?

This question takes on ominous importance for Sam Trask, protagonist of "No Legal Grounds," a legal thriller by James Scott Bell. Bell is a former trial lawyer himself and brings a ring of truth to the book.

Sam appeared to have everything going for him: loving wife, great kids, and successful law practice. The appearances begin to crumble when a former classmate from Sam's college days suddenly insinuates himself into Sam's life. What appears to be a reunion with an old acquaintance is really the start of a campaign of terror which threatens to destroy Sam, his family and his practice.

In a series of events every bit as exciting as any Stephen King novel, Trask fights to hold on to his family, his practice, his integrity, his faith and his very life. This is no light legal fiction. It is hard-hitting and emotionally draining.

Using language like a sculptor's knife, Bell delineates a soul in crisis. He shows us how the system works and, unfortunately, sometimes fails to work on behalf of victims. We walk this thorny path with Sam Trask, as he watches the chasm growing between him and all he holds dear.

Bell is a Christy Award winning novelist. He can tell a legal story without resorting to vulgarity or gratuitous sex. But don't pick up this book expecting a squeaky clean, goody-two-shoes story. Bell has drawn realistic characters in horrible situations and does not shy away from telling the story in its entirety.

"No Legal Grounds" is published by Zondervan and is available at most bookstores. For more about James Scott Bell, visit his website at

Copyright 2007 Mary Beth Magee

'Louder Than Thunder: A Contemporary Business Parable' by Carol Dunitz, Ph.D.

“Louder Than Thunder: A Contemporary Business Parable”
By Carol Dunitz, Ph. D
Illustrations by Helen Gotlib
Published by Canterbury & Parkside, 101 pages, hardcover
ISBN 0-9748659-0-7

When a skilled and accomplished craftsperson takes time to share their secrets, a wise person will listen. Carol Dunitz is a professional communicator who combines knowledge and theater to present entertaining and enlightening seminars on communications skills. She has chosen to share some of her secrets in writing through the highly readable “Louder Than Thunder.”

Dunitz frames her disclosures in the form of a series of vignettes which follow the life of a “very determined” little girl. Along the way, the girl learns lessons of life which she applies to future situations. These lessons are solid principles for business success, as well as for life.

“Louder Than Thunder” is a quick read, with its pages generally laced with illustrations. Don’t be fooled…quick read doesn’t equate to fluff. There are valuable nuggets of wisdom within each chapter. Rather than buried in obscure professorial language, these nuggets are easily available in a delightful story. The danger is the reader may mistake ease of access with lack of value.

This is a book for everyone. Although subtitled as a business book, there are applications to life itself. It can be read aloud as an entertainment to children, used as the basis of a business class or anything in between.

I won’t spoil it by giving you the details, but there is a very special riddle in the book. Think it through before you look at the answer – it will be well worth your while to reflect on it.

The book is available through the author’s website,

© 2007 Mary Beth Magee

'The Greatest Salesman in the World' by Og Mandino

"The Greatest Salesman in the World" is a mighty big book in a small package. The book is a classic, yet it is contemporary. It is fiction, yet it is truth. It is a self-help book, a sales training book, a romance, a spiritual book and an entertaining story, all at the same time.

Og Mandino first published "Salesman" in the late 1960's. Since then it has been reprinted and re-released numerous times. I first encountered the book in the mid-1970's, when I heard the late Mr. Mandino being interviewed on a talk radio program. The book sounded so interesting, I immediately bought a copy. It was my first Mandino book, but not my last. I am on my third copy of "Salesman," having worn out or given away the others.

The little book opens with a young camel boy, Hafid, seeking a means to improve his lot in life. He wants to become a salesman and to earn wealth and happiness. His first test is to sell a single blanket in the town of Bethlehem, a village bypassed by the experienced salesmen as not worth their time. Through his experiences there, Hafid shows himself to be the chosen student to study ten scrolls of success.

Mandino himself was a salesman for many years. Following a time of personal desperation, he became a student of motivational writings, especially those of W. Clement Stone. Taking and applying what he learned, he changed his situation, even going to work for Stone. Later, he synthesized his theories into several books, the first of which was "The Greatest Salesman in the World."

By couching the lessons in a fictional framework, Mandino makes the book very palatable. The story gives the details of the ten "Scrolls of Success," passed to Hafid from his employer. This is no dry text. It is a workbook for change without making the change a torture.

The first scroll gives instructions for using the other nine. Each of the follo
wing scrolls focuses on a principle of success, both in business and in life. Lessons of caring, perseverance and appreciation of what one has are only a few of the offerings of the scrolls.

Whether you are in sales or not, you will find "Salesman" satisfying on some level. If nothing more than a historical romance, it is worth your time. It is a quick read and a lifelong study tool, as you prefer. Enter Hafid's world. You will not leave it without experiencing something very special.

"The Greatest Salesman in the World" by Og Mandino is available in paperback. The official Og Mandino website calls it the #1 selling self-help book of all time. Mandino's legacy will work change in the world for generations to come.

© 2007 Mary Beth Magee

Saturday, July 25, 2009

'Skidmarks on the Road of Life' by Ann Downing

When you think life can't get any better, you should read 'Skidmarks on the Road of Life.' When you are sure life can't possibly get any worse, you should read 'Skidmarks on the Road of Life.'

This little gem of a book recounts the highs and lows faced by gospel singer/songwriter/author/conference speaker Ann Downing. Joy, pain, disillusionment and enlightenment are all part of her story, along with triumph and more.

Ann's fan base, known as the fANNtastics, will already be familiar with some of her story. Others will find revelations of her inner thoughts as she recounts her career, courtship and marriage, widowhood and the lessons God has given her along the way. Written in a very conversational style, the book feels like a chat with a friend.

For comfort and encouragement, Ann's biography is a rich resource. You're sure to find at least one episode (and probably many more) which will touch your heart. The book is highly readable. My only complaint is that I wanted more - when I came to the end of the book, I felt as though I was saying goodbye to a pal.

'Skidmarks on the Road of Life' carries a subtitle: 'Every Path Has A Purpose - Every Mile Has A Meaning.' Ann Downing shares what she has learned along the way and her story is one that carries a mighty impact.

'Skidmarks on the Road of Life' by Ann Downing
Published by LifeBridge Books at $12.95
ISBN 978-0-9817608-6-5
It is available through many channels, including Ann Downing's website (

© 2009 Mary Beth Magee