Tuesday, March 31, 2009

W.L. Dyson's Shepherd's Fall ~ Reviewed


Shepherd's Fall
By W.L. Dyson

Published by Waterbrook
ISBN# 1-4000-7473-8
214 Pages

Back Cover:

Bounty hunter Nick Shepherd, is fearless when it comes to chasing criminals. It's his difficult ex-wife, rebellious teenage daughter and dysfunctional siblings that keep him awake at night.

In charge of the family business, the Prodigal Recovery Agency, he thinks of himself as a shepherd of sorts.

When his "flock" is out of his control, Nick's well-ordered universe unravels.


Prodigal Recovery's search for Zeena, a prostitute on the run, leads to a faulty arrest, complicating Nick's business. He is thrown together with Zeena's twin, the beautiful Annie, and the two find themselves on a desperate search. The stakes significantly increase when Nick's daughter is kidnapped.


To save someone he loves, Nick must risk everything...but will it be enough?
In her latest romantic suspense novel, W.L. Dyson entices readers with her unique blend of faith, romance and intrigue for an unforgettable ride.

REVIEW:

W.L. Dyson has penned a story full of police action and suspense, interwoven with the theme of family. How do these police - bounty hunter type men - do family and how do the woman in their lives make them or break them?

Nick is the firstborn in their family, which means his father has left him in charge of their family business - bounty hunting. His father, Nickolas Shepherd, has left one-third of the business to each of his three children: Marti, Steve and Nick.
Things haven't been the same since pop died. Their mom is sick and Nick, along with his siblings, are doing all they can to keep the business afloat.

Nick has been all consumed with the business to the extent of neglecting his own family. His wife has divorced him - she couldn't wait on Nick forever - she had a life to live. Nick's
daughter is trying to get his attention by breaking the law - maybe she could see her dad that way. He's missed all her school functions - maybe he'll show up to bail her out. Nick is furious that Krystal has shoplifted. But, she reminds him that he hasn't been there for her. Krystal thinks to herself, "The only time they acted like parents was when she got into trouble." She had finally found what would get their attention and some love. Nick began thinking "no wonder God didn't answer his prayers anymore. He's done the same thing with God (as he had done with his family). He just lived his life his way, and expected God to be there to handle the things he didn't want to deal with. …Never listened to God; never considered God's opinions. God, do this, God, do that." That's no way to live. No wonder his wife divorced him and his daughter has rebelled. Nick struggles with "how" to do family on all fronts -- from his ex-wife, his daughter, his brother Steve, and Marti, his sister. Everyone wanted more from him. He was failing everywhere and everyone; even failing to hold the business together.

It took the kidnapping of his daughter to bring life as he's known it, to a screeching halt. What's important in life anyway? Nick faces the biggest challenge of his life so far, and clearly sees what is very important in his life -"family". This is such a high price to pay for his blunder.

But, now he knows that in order in insure his daughters safety, he has to work as a team with his family. Can he do this? He'll die trying!! You will definitely want to read how this ends.


Reviewed by: Nora St.Laurent - Book Club Servant Leader

Monday, March 30, 2009

Jill Williamson's By Darkness Hid ~ Reviewed


By Darkness Hid
Blood of Kings – Book 1
By Jill Williamson
Marcher Lord Press
ISBN: 978-0-9821049-5-8


Review by: Michelle Griep



Given the chance to train as a squire, kitchen servant Achan Cham hopes to pull himself out of his pitiful life and become a Kingsguard Knight. When Achan’s owner learns of his training, he forces Achan to spar with the Crown Prince, more of a death sentence than an honor. Meanwhile strange voices in his head cause him to fear he’s going mad. While escorting the prince to a council presentation, their convoy is attacked. Achan is wounded and arrested, but escapes from prison—only to discover a secret about himself he never believed possible.

By Darkness Hid is the first in the Blood of Kings series and wow…what a great start! Author Jill Williamson pulls the reader into this saga so completely that waiting for the rest of the series to be published will be agony indeed.

What I enjoyed most about Williamson’s style is her dialogue. Witty. Snappy. Humorous. The interaction between characters is entertaining and sometimes surprising. Williamson truly has a knack for clever conversation.

My favorite character is hero Achan Cham. Besides the fact that he’s handsome, this is one humble protagonist. He’s got his flaws all right, but he owns up to his shortcomings with a modest and sincere finesse. This is the kind of leading man every girl dreams of.

Williamson also weaves into her story a good amount of action/adventure as well. From reekat hunting to giant knights, there’s never a dull moment, and thrown into the mix are greedy, power-hungry nobles.

By Darkness Hid is definitely a jewel in the crown of Marcher Lord Press. Be sure to pick up this title for a great read.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Laura Jensen Walker's Turning the Paige ~ Reviewed


Turning the Paige
by Laura Jensen Walker
Paperback: 320 pages

Publisher: Zondervan (March 1, 2009)

Language: English
ISBN-10: 0310276985


Back Cover:


Welcome to the in-between world of Paige Kelley.

At thirty-five, she’s put her dreams on hold to care for her ailing, high-maintenance mother.

Three years after her divorce she’s still not dating, still working at her temp job, and still longing for motherhood even though, as her own mother often points out, “You’re not getting any younger, you know!”


When her Getaway Girls book club friends urge Paige to break free and get on with her life, she desperately wants to try. But how? What about her mom? The unexpected answers come from a surprising source. A trip to Scotland and a potential new love interest help launch an exciting new chapter in her life, and lead Paige to discover that God’s plan for her life promises to be more than she ever imagined. This latest release in the Getaway Girls collection delivers a smart, funny, and warm account of one woman’s challenge to reconcile who she is—a dutiful Christian daughter—with the fulfilled woman she longs to be.

It will appeal to any woman whose ever forgotten, even momentarily, that God’s timing is perfect.
Read the first chapter, here.

My Review:

A divorced, controlled and borderline bitter female enters the zone wherein she will encounter stress upon stress and choose to either become more bitter or better. Laura Jensen Walker tortures poor Paige (Turner) Kelley via an extremely manipulative and uber-suffocating mother, an estranged sister, a happily remarried and expecting ex-husband, a job and a few other tossed in stressors just for the fun of it.

Paige's only life-enhancing activity is her book club, and the friends she has there keep her sane. A new florist in her neighborhood also begins to add color and beauty to her life, too.

A fictional trip that could be too overwhelming if you just need a few hours of light escape or have divorce, mother issues or infertility that haunt you. Book fans and lovers of adventures tied into some classic and fun reads may find much to like in Turning the Paige. Walker writes well and made the settings and characters multi-dimensional.


Reviewed by:
Kelly Klepfer

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Stephen Lawhead's Tuck ~ Reviewed


Tuck (The King Raven Trilogy) (Hardcover)
by Stephen R. Lawhead (Author)
Hardcover: 464 pages
Publisher: Thomas Nelson (February 17, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1595540873


Product Description:

"Pray God our aim is true and each arrow finds its mark."

King Raven has brought hope to the oppressed people of Wales--and fear to their Norman overlords. Along the way Friar Tuck has been the stalwart supporter of King Raven--bringing him much-needed guidance, wit, and faithful companionship.

Deceived by the self-serving King William and hunted by the treacherous Abbot Hugo and Sheriff de Glanville, Rhi Bran is forced to take matters into his own hands as King Raven. Aided by Tuck and his small but determined band of forest-dwelling outlaws, he ignites a rebellion that spreads through the Welsh valleys, forcing the wily monarch to marshal his army and march against little Elfael.

Filled with unforgettable characters, breathtaking suspense, and rousing battle scenes, Stephen R. Lawhead's masterful retelling of the Robin Hood legend reaches its stunning conclusion in Tuck. Steeped in Celtic mythology and the political intrigue of medieval Britain, Lawhead's trilogy conjures up an ancient past while holding a mirror to contemporary realities. Prepare for an epic tale that dares to shatter everything you thought you knew about Robin Hood.


Review: Rating: 5 of 5 stars
While going from really enjoying Hood and then to absolutely loving Scarlet it was no surprise that I was thoroughly impressed with Tuck. The first book in the series, Hood was told from a narrative standpoint outside the eyes of the main characters. The second, Scarlet was directly dictated by Scarlet himself. And lastly, the third, Tuck was narrated partially by Tuck and partially by an outside vision. The change in perspective through out the series was very unique to me and I felt that it made the series come more alive than it would have in a monotone narration.

Though, I suppose one could read this book alone without having read the first two in the series. I would not suggest it because you will miss so much, however the bard's poetry through out in the beginning of each section does a wonderful job of recreating the tale. Having read the first two books over two years ago, I really loved having the reminder of the plot that I might have forgotten.

Friar Tuck's final installation to the trilogy completes the story in a favorable manor that I could never have imagined. There is much action and battle, but also underlying romance from characters you would not have thought it possible. Easily, I would tell you that this story is about hope and perseverance. Journeys to other areas of the continent filled with excitement and disappointment as well build through out the story and give you encouragement to continuously turn the pages until there are no more.

My one regret with this story is that it has ended. It was so good and so much fun to read that I cannot wait for future books filled with the imagination of Stephen Lawhead to become available. I highly recommend this book, but also the entire series as well. Go read the excerpts available on Lawhead's website and decide for yourself if it might be of interest. I doubt you will be disappointed.

Reviewed by: Margaret Chind

Monday, March 23, 2009

James Scott Bell's Deceived ~ Reviewed



DECEIVED
By James Scott Bell
Published by Zondervan
ISBN#978-0-310-26904-5
327 Pages

Back cover:

She thinks she knows who she is and what she wants, but when the web gets terribly tangled, is her game of deception a clever lie or a deadly trap?

Two bodies in an isolated canyon on the edge of L.A.; One with saddlebags filled with diamonds.

That’s how it begins for Liz Towne, a stunning blond with a devout husband who had given up a prime job for reasons Liz cannot understand – for “Mac” MacDonald, a Gulf War vet who’s done time in prison and is just now finding his way back to normal life – and for Roxanne “Rocky” Towne, Liz’s sister-in-law, who suspects things she cannot prove. All three are thrown together after a tragedy in Pack Canyon.

After finding the stolen diamonds, Liz is faced with an escalating set of choices: Truth or lies? Stop or keep moving? All in or all played out?

REVIEW:

“Sin’s real, even if you don’t believe it. And it affects the mind. If you ignore it, you dissociate, you try to compartmentalize it. But the guild seeps through, and if you don’t turn it over to God, it will turn on you.”

James Scott Bell really brings home the message of 'sin' being real and the 'peace' God gives us (which surpasses all understanding), through the pages of this very complex, suspense thriller. The author also delves into what any human might be capable doing given the right circumstances. What would you do if you happened upon a dead man with a duffle bag filled with diamonds worth millions, AND no one was watching? The author tells one mind boggling tale.

Liz Towne sets out to take a quiet hike one beautiful day. All is well until she starts talking to her husband about him being a Christian. Why did he have to go do that? He has ruined everything in life; everything Liz held dear anyway! Then they discover the dead body and the diamonds. What is the right thing to do? Liz and her husband have different worldviews on how to proceed and so the story goes.

You won’t stop reading this book until the end. It will leave you deeply moved. Although some parts are disturbing, "Deceived" will definitely have you thinking about the deeper things in life. You’ll start talking to your friends about life and many other aspects of this page-turner, which takes so many twists and turns. James Scott Bell weaves this masterfully told story of what 'sin' looks like and how much greater God’s love is. The love which never fades or dies no matter what we’ve done. He forgives our sins as far as the east is from the west, but can we accept His forgiveness of our sin and forgive ourselves? That’s the big question.

Reviewed by:
Nora St.Laurent – Book Club Servant Leader


Bonus Review:


James Scott Bell writes great stories. From the first paragraph I was sucked into his latest, Deceived.

A novel that will be just the beginning of a series because these characters need to continue their stories. Liz, a new and tortured widow with some hellish secrets. Mac, a struggling vetran, ex-con just trying to get back on his feet and find his way in the world. Rocky, scarred inside and out and full of a lot of songs that she needs to sing.

This novel is dark but ends with hope. Deceived shows the depths to which humanity sinks when left to twisted thoughts and broken moral compasses. Bell aces my grade sheet with compelling characters, tightly wound plots, scenes that hum with realism and dialog that is both entertaining and real. Scott's legal background adds additional depth.

Character collectors, fans of crime fiction and Bell fans should check further into Deceived.

Reviewed by:
Kelly Klepfer

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Diana Wallis Taylor's Journey to the Well ~ Reviewed




Journey to the Well
By Diana Wallis Taylor
Published by Revell
ISBN# 978-0-8007-3309-4
329 Pages

Back Cover:

Marah is a young girl in love with her childhood friend, Jesse. When she is forced to marry an older man, she must abandon her dreams of happiness. At the mercy of men who are often only interested in using her, Marah must fight for survival. Will she ever meet a man who can save her?

The story of the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well is one of hope, redemption and a life changed in an instant through a remarkable encounter. Jesus told her “everything she’d ever done,” but we are left to wonder at the circumstances that led her life on such a tragic path to begin with. Now from the creative mind of Diana Wallis Taylor, comes the full story of the woman at the well.

REVIEW:

This book was 25 years in the making. The author paints an amazing story which will take you back in time - a time when Jesus lived. I have to admit I had always thought of the 'woman at the well' to be a woman of poor moral character. Diana describes a tale of a faithful woman, a woman after God’s own heart, who is thrust into circumstances beyond her control. How quickly people judge someone without knowing all the facts...but once all the facts are known, and they can’t pin it to one bad choice that brought about all the bad luck. People start to speculate things or imagine stuff. You can’t win - especially back then. There is no redemption except through Jesus. Forgiveness, love, compassion...those are just a few things Marah finds at Jacob’s well that day.

The author not only tells the tale of Marah and how women were treated back then, but she also tells of other characters that could have or did intersect with her life. Some of the people discussed at length were Reba, Zibeon, Shimei, Jessie, Hamon, Ahmal and Jesus. To me, a good book brings the bible to life in a very creative way. I love that it caused me to turn to scripture and see what else I can glean from its pages. Diana Wallis Taylor walks you through Jesus' time customs and the many people he met and healed along the way. After reading "Journey to the Well", scripture will come alive for you and you’ll find yourself (like I did) digging though its pages and coming to your own conclusions of what could have happened back then.

Reviewed by: Nora St.Laurent – Book Club Servant Leader

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Jill Eileen's Smith's Michal ~ Reviewed



Michal: A Novel (The Wives of King David)
by Jill Eileen Smith

Paperback: 384 pages

Publisher: Revell (March 1, 2009)

Language: English

ISBN-10: 0800733207


From the Back Cover:


Can their epic search for true love survive a father's fury?

The daughter of King Saul, Michal lives a life of privilege--but one that is haunted by her father's unpredictable moods and competition from her beautiful older sister.

As a girl, Michal quickly falls for the handsome young harpist David. But soon after their romance begins, David must flee for his life, leaving Michal at her father's mercy in the prison that is King Saul's palace.

Will Michal ever be reunited with David? Or is she doomed to remain separated from him forever?

Against the backdrop of opulent palace life, raging war, and daring desert escapes, Jill Eileen Smith takes you on an emotional journey as Michal deals with love, loss, and personal transformation as the first wife of King David.


Read the first chapter, here.

Review:


Epic story lovers and those intrigued by the tumultuous life of King David of Jerusalem are very likely chomping at the bit to get their hands on a copy of Michal. Almost as fascinating as the epic story told ably within 374 concise pages is the story behind the book. Jill Eileen Smith birthed the story idea in 1989 and has patiently waited for God's timing for publication.


This novel isn't exclusively in Michal's point of view but much of it is. Readers get a glimpse into Jonathan's, David's and even Paltiel's (Michal's second husband) thoughts, actions and drives. Smith obviously did her Biblical homework and follows the account, adding personality and color to the events as they may have unfolded.

Her language choice is fully modern so if you love historicals or Biblical fiction but struggle with difficult language and vocabulary you won't have any issues here. On the flip side, that does take away a bit from the feeling of authenticity so take note if you want your ancients to speak like ancients. So many characters and so many spans of time over the two and a half decade period makes deeply fleshed out characters limited in number.


Reviewed by: Kelly Klepfer

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Chuck Black's Sir Bentley and Holbrook Court ~ Reviewed




Sir Bentley and Holbrook Court
By Chuck Black

Multnomah Books

ISBN 978-1-60142-125-8


Sir Bentley, an honorable young knight, abandons his calling in order to seek the truth of the Prince. Choosing to live as the Prince did, he forsakes his former lifestyle and wealth to live as a pauper.

His travels take him to Holbrook, where the townsfolk live in poverty, paying high taxes to support the lavish lifestyle of Lord Kingsley and his court. But something even darker is lurking in the shadows of the beautiful castle.


Bentley Soon befriends Eirwyn, a mysterious but compassionate young woman who often distributes food among the poor. When Eirwyn is kidnapped by a ruthless tribe to serve as a sacrifice, Bentley battles a vicious mountain creature to save her life. But when he discovers who is really behind Holbrook’s downfall, he is faced with an even bigger challenge—battling the Dark Knight’s most evil commander and his shadow warriors as they attack the castle.


Will greed destroy the kingdom the way it destroyed Lord Kingsley? Or can Sir Bentley and Eirwyn work together to restore order and Prosperity to the kingdom through the compassion and grace of the Prince.


Journey to Arrethtrae, where knights of noble heart live and die in loyal service to the King and the Prince.

These knights are mighty, for they serve a mighty King. They are…..the Knights of Arrethtrae.

Review:
Sir Bentley and Holbrook Court is a fantastic journey into the world of a knight of the Prince. Sir Bentley and his friends represent the many people in the world who fight and die for Christ. This story captures the reader, and he can't put it down! I've read books that have captured me, but rarely to this extent. This book is amazing! I highly recommend it. Review by Reid, Age 12

Monday, March 16, 2009

DiAnn Mills' Breach of Trust ~ Reviewed


Breach of Trust
By DiAnn Mills
Published by Tyndale
ISBN#978-1-4143-2047-2
Pages 381

Back Cover: Paige Rogers is a former CIA agent who lost all she treasured seven years ago when her entire team was killed in a covert mission. She blames their leader – Daniel Keary – whom Paige believes betrayed them. Disillusioned and afraid for her life, she disappears and starts a new life as a small-town librarian.

But when Keary announces his candidacy for governor of her state, he comes after Paige to ensure that she won’t ruin his bid for office. He threatens everything she holds dear, and Paige must choose between the life of hiding that has become her refuge…or risking everything in one last, desperate attempt to right old wrongs.

Read the first chapter -- HERE.

REVIEW:

Paige Rogers reminds me of Clark Kent, mild-mannered reporter, trying to keep his real identity secret. He has super powers that can’t be revealed to the public. He only uses his powers to help people he cares about and/or to save them from danger.

I like DiAnn’s spin on Paige, mild-mannered librarian, “Is she faster than a speeding bullet? Prettier than any belle of the South? It’s a bird. It’s a plane. It’s Super Librarian!” The author does have some really funny lines mixed in with all the action, suspense and drama.

Paige Rogers has seen more action than someone would see in a couple of life times. All is well until Keary starts turning up the heat near the end of his run for governor. She’s done her part and she wants Keary to hold to his end of the agreement they made in Africa. The price was high and she lost everything; there was nothing more to give him.

Paige struggles with her double life and holds off using her super-training until peoples lives are at stake - especially her own. I love Paige’s sense of humor as she turns down a motorcycle ride from Miles because he thinks she is a shy, quiet librarian. She's playing the part when she says to Miles, ”…I have a theory that people have only so much luck in life, and I’ve already stretched mine to the limit. Keep your Harley. I’ll stick with my sensible economic car. And seat belts.”

DiAnn writes a very exciting, surprising story about politics, the CIA and corruption. Readers beware!!! Once you pick up this book you won’t stop until the end...

Review by: Nora St.Laurent – Book Club Servant Leader

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Jon Nappa's Storm Warriors ~ Reviewed


Storm Warriors
By Jon Nappa
Published by NavPress
ISBN# 978-1-60006-172-1
Pages 280

Back Cover:

Somewhere off the coast of England, Lionel Lunkin and his family fight for their lives. Caught in the cross hairs of a violent storm, their small ship is quickly slipping beneath the crashing waves. Lionel is miraculously washed to shore, only to discover that his wife and son are lost at sea.

Broken and alone, Lionel determines to help others avoid the same tragic fate. Now he will overcome tremendous odds to save countless lives and change the world forever.

Discover the incredible story of Lionel Lunkin, the inventor of the English lifeboat. Inspired by real-life rescues that took place in the nineteenth century, "Storm Warriors" shares a compelling story of personal tragedy to heroic triumph, and the inspirational legacy of one man who dared to make a difference.

Review:

I was submerged into raging storms and thrust onto ships battling Mother Nature herself from the very first page. I was swept up into this astonishing story that went from personal tragedy to God's victory in Lionel Lunkin’s life.

This riveting story shows how the enemy wanted to destroy Lionel life but God helped him overcome many horrendous circumstances. His passion to save others from shipwrecks brought a community together in the most unlikely way. I love how Lionel talks to himself and says, “Now he wondered if it was an idea that had existed long before he had ever thought of it. Had he found it, or had it found him?”

Lionel is definitely a 'Rocky Balboa' type of guy - fighting for something he believes in with his whole heart. The scripture about laying your life down for another becomes real to Lionel as he embarks on this new lot in life.

While reading this book, I experienced the ocean and storms like I have never done before. Jon Nappa has a way of putting you in the middle of the action. He has one of his characters say this about the ocean, “…We didn’t kill your family. The sea rules the coast. The sea decides who lives and who dies. It’s the way of things…” Because Jon’s story was based on real life events I couldn’t stop thinking about the characters and circumstances long after reading the very last page. Jon’s story will change the way you look at lifeboats and life situations forever.

Reviewed by: Nora St.Laurent – Book Club Servant Leader

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Robert Elmer's The Owling ~ Reviewed


The Owling
By Robert Elmer
Zondervan books
ISBN: 987-0-310-71422-4

Those who live in lush comfort on the bright side of the small planet Corista have plundered the water resources of Shadowside for centuries, ignoring the existence of Shadowside’s inhabitants, who are nothing more than animals. Or so the Brightsiders have been taught.

It will take a special young woman to expose the truth—and to help avert the war that is sure to follow.


In book two, the world becomes even more confusing for fifteen-year-old Oriannon when her former music mentor, Jesmet, miraculously returns from the dead and promises his followers a special power called the Numa. But his is not the only offer of hope. Sola, Corista’s charismatic head of Security, proposes the Ultimate Solution for peace, and she recruits Oriannon to help her carry out her plan. But Oriannon’s closest friends are skeptical and try to convince her that the plan involves evil acts against the Owlings.

Will Oriannon embrace Sola’s solution as the answer to the world’s dilemma? Or will she believe the promise of a mysterious holy man?


Review:

The Owling is an eye-opening extension to the Shadowside trilogy. It is a book about what might have happened if Jesus had come to a different planet. It includes similar occurrences to the ones in the Bible. This book draws you so far in you don't even realize that you finished the chapter. You just go right on reading in desperation to find out what happens next.


Review by Reid, Age 12

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Lisa Samson's The Passion of Mary-Margaret ~ Reviewed


The Passion of Mary-Margaret (Paperback)
by Lisa Samson
Paperback: 320 pages
Publisher: Thomas Nelson (March 10, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1595542116

Product Description:


Mary-Margaret yearned to dedicate her life to the Lord. Jesus had another idea.

When Mary-Margaret Fischer met Jude Keller, the lighthouse keeper's son, she was studying at a convent school on a small island off Chesapeake Bay. Destined for a life as a religious sister, she nevertheless felt a pull toward Jude--gorgeous, rebellious, promiscuous Jude. But Jude, driven by demons no one really understood, disappeared into Baltimore's seamy red-light district. Mary-Margaret moved on with her life, preparing to serve God with her sisters as a teacher and artist.

Then Jude comes home--but now he's bitter, dissolute, and diseased. And Mary-Margaret receives a divine call that shakes her to the core, a call to give up her dreams for the troubled man who befriended her so long ago. For Jesus' sake, can she forsake the only life she ever wanted for a love that could literally cost her life?


Read the first chapter here.

Review:


Lisa Samson can write. Not only was I transported by the skill and beauty with which Samson told this story, I was sucked into this memoir of a religious sister as she shared her life journey and the threads of faith and God's sovereignty within that life.

Mary-Margaret was born into a calling. She always knew what and who she needed to be. Her family depended upon her following in the footsteps and completion of the call her mother was unable to fulfill.

Jude, the son of the lightkeeper, became a friend. One who both horrified and amused Mary-Margaret. A young man she didn't need but enjoyed having around.

Circumstances and life surged forward. And a difficult thing is asked of Mary-Margaret, a difficult thing asked by Jesus, Himself, of Mary-Margaret. A seven decade narration wending through past, present and future by a woman who chose to follow Christ whatever the cost compels and horrifies and bleeds with love and compassion. Samson weaves a tapestry that is full of ugly details into something worthy of heaven.

This is a challenging book of fiction that contains massive amounts of truth. Some shouldn't read it. The truth is sometimes painful, raw, ugly and often not polite Sunday School conversation material. Samson delves into Catholicism and the Holy Spirit. Not a traditional Christian novel in any way. Some of the topics are rough: racism, violence, AIDS, sexuality and the acceptance of those who believe yet behave differently than what you may believe to be right. If you are concerned about content, read more reviews and tread with caution. However, if you hunger for great storytelling, literary writing, edgy or raw fiction that points at the lavish grace of the gospel message, then please look further into The Passion of Mary-Margaret. It's that good.

Reviewed by:
Kelly Klepfer

Monday, March 09, 2009

Amy Deardon's A Lever Long Enough ~ Reviewed


A Lever Long Enough
by Amy Deardon
Paperback: 368 pages
Publisher: Taegais Publishing, LLC (January 12, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0981899722


Product Description:

In the near future, the Israeli military has developed a prototypic time machine. When believers in Yeshua (Jesus) create a politically explosive situation that threatens the balance of peace between Israel and nearby countries, the Israelis must send a team of four elite soldiers back to film the theft of Jesus╩╝ body from the tomb and thus disprove Christianity. The team, consisting of a Special Forces soldier as leader, an ex-American astronaut as engineering specialist, an archaeologist, and a linguist, has exactly seventy-two hours to collect the video evidence. Drawn into a web of first century deception and death, the only way to escape is for the team to change the past. In the present, a traitor attempts to sabotage the mission and seize control of the military complex. The Special Forces leader operating in the past is the only one who can reveal him, but he is trapped two thousand years away. Even with a time machine, time is running out...

Review:

Amy Deardon has bitten off a whole lot of story substance in A Lever Long Enough... biblical and historical fiction, speculative fiction, time travel, suspense and a bit of a love story. I'm impressed with the homework she invested in this involved novel to meld all of the above into a flowing story that spans centuries, political realms and spiritual attitudes.

Intense action takes place on a closed military base in pre-apocalyptic treaty, modern Israel while simultaneously a team of agnostics slip through the fabric of time to film the theft of Jesus Christ's body. The time travelers land late and end up fighting for their lives, and to keep from changing the future, unaware of the damage unfolding back home.

Though I'm not a big sci-fi fan and tend to skip over details involving machines, I enjoyed the story. Those who toy with the truth or untruth of the death, resurrection and life of Jesus Christ may find this novel intriguing. Those who don't want to feel preached at in their fiction choices could be offended at the minimal pages that go there. The writing is solid and nuts and bolts rather than beautiful and poetic and the main characters are fleshed out well enough. I did have to suspend disbelief a time or two especially regarding a member of the team who ended up being unstable enough that she shouldn't have been on the mission in the first place. Those who want a happy and clear ending may feel a bit frustrated. Overall, I'm giving Lever a solid four stars because of the impressive way Deardon pulled all of the details together and produced a satisfying read.

Reviewed by: Kelly Klepfer

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Jennifer Cody Epstein's The Painter of Shanghai ~ Reviewed



The Painter from Shanghai (Historical Fiction)
by Jennifer Cody Epstein

Hardcover: 416 pages
Publisher: W.W. Norton & Company
Language:
English
ISBN-10: 0393065286

Synopsis:

Reminiscent of Memoirs of a Geisha, a re-imagining of the life of Pan Yuliang and her transformation from prostitute to post-Impressionist. Down the muddy waters of the Yangtze River and into the seedy backrooms of "The Hall of Eternal Splendor," through the raucous glamour of prewar Shanghai and the bohemian splendor of 1920s Paris, and back to a China ripped apart by civil war and teetering on the brink of revolution: this novel tells the story of Pan Yuliang, one of the most talented—and provocative—Chinese artists of the twentieth century.

Jennifer Cody Epstein's epic brings to life the woman behind the lush, Cezannesque nude self-portraits, capturing with lavish detail her life in the brothel and then as a concubine to a Republican official who would ultimately help her find her way as an artist. Moving with the tide of historical events, The Painter from Shanghai celebrates a singularly daring painting style—one that led to fame, notoriety, and, ultimately, a devastating choice: between Pan's art and the one great love of her life.

Review:

The Painter of Shanghai is a must read for fans of Amy Tan's writing and Memoirs of a Geisha lovers. Jennifer Cody Epstein writes about the life of a famous Chinese "Western-style Woman Painter" Pan Yuliang spanning 1913 through 1957. Did I say writes? Understatement. Make that paints, sculpts, embroiders a sweeping portrait of a child sold into prostitution for an opium fix.


Epstein pens Yuliang as authentically as I've ever seen a character written and once I picked up the book I was in China or France or the Hall of Eternal Splendor. Yuliang's point of view bleeds colors, shadows, light and contrast, painting with lush words the horror of her situation. Melancholy and longing wash each chapter and each scene, not with gray, but with monochromatic blues and purples. This is not an easy read. The horror of Yuliang's life is raw and ugly. Her spirit and the beauty that she was able to find within that life make the book one I will pick up again.

Don't expect a clean, happy ever after read, instead it is a rich story that will haunt you.


Reviewed by: Kelly Klepfer

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Terri Blackstock's Double Minds~Reviewed




Double Minds: A Novel (Paperback)
by Terri Blackstock
Paperback: 336 pages
Publisher: Zondervan (February 1, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0310250633

If you'd like to read chapter one, click here.

Back Cover:

The young girl with the Bohemian style was on the floor where she’d fallen, between Parker's computer case and her file cabinet. She wore a long, flowing skirt—lavender, the color of calm—and camel-colored Uggs. She lay on her back, her long, wavy blonde hair matted with blood.

For struggling singer/songwriter Parker James, the music business has just turned deadly. Her desk in the reception area of a busy recording studio has become a crime scene, and Parker finds herself drawn into a mystery where nothing is as it seems.

Unraveling the truth puts her own life at risk when she uncovers high-level industry corruption and is terrorized by a menacing stalker. As the danger escalates, Parker begins to question her dreams, her future, and even her faith.

Double Minds is a double treat—combining a compelling suspense novel with an inside look at the world of the Christian music industry in Nashville. Terri Blackstock grabs readers at page one and keeps them riveted until the final plot twist is untangled.

Review:

Blackstock introduces readers to the darker side of Christian music in Double Minds. Not all is dark, of course, but the scenario she weaves includes murder, investigation, stalking and a cast of unusual characters. The underlying theme of grown-up children who've experienced horrible or painful lives ends up being an interesting thread.

Parker James, the main character, is a songwriter/performer who is at the very brink of making a name for herself. Her best friend, the girl who has made some of Parker's songs hit the charts, struggles with an eating disorder and a past that haunts her. Parker's own past is still a lingering presence in the loving divorce status of her praying mother and her alcoholic father.

A murder of a girl who was sitting at Parker's desk rattles the tight-knit community of musicians. Fortunately, Parker's brother Gibson is one of the detectives assigned to the case. But as things unravel and are revealed, the tension increases. Parker begins to fear for her life. It seems the murderer isn't finished yet.

A solid story full of humanity in its beauty and ugliness that will take readers on a roller coaster ride to the very end. A strong faith thread that may challenge readers to consider motivation and to see people in a different light.

Reviewed by: Kelly Klepfer

Bonus Review:


Terri Blackstock begins this murder mystery with a bang!! Not only is this stand-alone book filled with suspense, mystery and intrigue, it’s very thought provoking. I love how this author weaves the tough questions of life throughout this gripping tale.

Songwriter Parker James, has written some Top 10 Christian songs for her friend Serena. Serena is about to sign a deal with a Billboard record company to expand her audience. Parker is struggling with her friend’s decision to sign with a secular label. Parker’s brother says to her “…God doesn’t only call us to do things in Christian arenas. I’m not a Christian cop. I’m a cop who’s a Christian. I don’t just solve Christian murders.” I LOVED this line. How true is this? Ever struggle with that in your life? Parker struggles with that and more.

Parker learns of others agony and struggles through the course of this murder mystery. Her mother says “...a person had to want freedom more than bondage before God would grant it.(freedom) Prayers of the double-minded often went unanswered.” Wow!! Terri Blackstock has so many profound moments right from the beginning of this thrilling story up to the end. I know you’ll enjoy the message and excitement of this book so much you'll be compelled to share this with a friend or two.

Reviewed by: Nora St.Laurent Book Club Servant Leader

Monday, March 02, 2009

Laura Hayden's Red, White, And Blue ~ Reviewed


Red, White, And Blue
By Laura Hayden-
Published by Tyndale
ISBN#978-4143-1940-7

Back Cover:

Emily Benton is ready to take her place in the oval office, but her closest advisor, Kate Rosen, is plagued with doubts. As a person of faith, Kate owes her allegiance to a power higher than a mere political machine. And though Emily’s platform includes many faith-political initiatives, Kate fears that Emily has been corrupted by her quest for power. She is soon torn between helping Emily stay at the top – or bringing her down before she can remake America in her own image.

When scandal brings the presidency to the brink of disaster, Kate must weigh the bonds of loyalty and duty, ambition and submission, and choose to stand and fight...or walk away.

REVIEW: Red, White and Blue is quite a page-turning, riveting sequel to "America the Beautiful". Emily Benton wins the election, and Kate Rosen decides if she can be the Chief of Staff to her friend Emily, the President of the United States of America. Kate struggles with being faithful to God by doing the right thing, as she is thrust into the middle of this political machine that wants to suck her into a world of corruption. Because of the Clinton Administration’s real life drama, and scandals from shady land deals, murder and adultery, this story is believable.

I couldn’t help but reflect on how our president elect took his oath of office earlier this year as I read about Emily Benton - first female President. Like our current President, this is a life-changing presidency. The author captures behind the scene details that are fascinating to discover. This story begins with election night and with all its parties. Soon Emily Benton takes her oath to the country and sets up the Presidential cabinet. It's amazing how crucial it is to have people around the President who they can “trust” and work well with. I was surprised to realize how powerful the Chief of Staff’s job was. The political process was quite intriguing to read as this story unfolds.

Presidents lose their privacy and can’t do the things that they used to do soon after being elected. Kate say to President Benton, you can't go to the hospital in the ambulance, “You’d be in the way, no you but your position. Your security needs. They’d have to spend precious time and manpower making sure you were safe. You’d be an unintentional disruption.” Wow, welcome to the world of being the President!! I totally enjoyed how Laura Hayden showed the human side of the Presidency, along with the entire political process they live day in and day out. Hold on to your seat; you will be at the edge of your chair reading this one. I can’t wait for the third installment of this story.

Reviewed by: Nora St.Laurent

Sunday, March 01, 2009

ACFW March Book Releases

To get a head start on spring, we've got 16 new releases to choose from! And they all sound great! Check them out - and don't forget to visit my new Spotlight interview with author, artist, and agent extraordinaire Wendy Lawton. Wendy had a new children's book release in February.

1. A Hundred Years of Happiness, 2nd in the Summer Meadows Mysteries by Nicole Seitz from Thomas Nelson. A generous story of family, war, loss and longing . . . of the ways we hide from those we love, and the ways that love finds us anyway.

2. A Silent Terror by Lynette Eason from Steeple Hill Love Inspired Suspense. Someone wants Marianna Santino dead. Ethan O'Hara is willing to risk everything, including his heart, to keep her alive.

3. A Test of Faith, Mystery and the Minister's Wife #3 by Carol Cox from Guideposts. When everything falls apart, can faith hold them together?

4. Breach of Trust Call of Duty #1 by DiAnn Mills from Tyndale. Paige Rogers, former CIA agent, must choose between protecting the lives of loved ones or bringing a ruthless killer to justice.

5. Candy-Coated Secrets, 2nd in the Summer Meadows Mysteries by Cynthia Hickey from Barbour. Who would have thought escorting an elephant down Highway 64 could lead to murder?

6. Daisy Chain, Defiance, TX series, book one by Mary DeMuth from Zondervan. The abrupt disappearance of young Daisy Chance haunts the small town of Defiance, Texas. Fourteen-year-old Jed Pepper searches for answers in this gritty and compelling story of love and sorrow, revealing God’s hand of redemption in impossible situations.

7. Daniel's Den by Brandt Dodson from Harvest House Publishers. Daniel and Laura become the objects in a game of cat and mouse where they learn just how big the cat can be - and that it's no game.

8. Fatal Illusions by Adam Blumer from Kregel Publications. An obsessive woman, a serial killer, and a sudden winter storm turn a sabbatical in the North Woods into a nightmare that the Thayer family may not escape alive.

9. If Tomorrow Never Comes by Marlo Schalesky from Waterbrook-Multnomah Publishers/Random House. Kinna and Jimmy Henley never planned on infertility stealing their dreams, crushing their love. But it did. Now, their last hope lies with a mysterious woman rescued from the sea.

10. Love Finds You in Humble Texas by Anita Higman from Summerside Press. Two sisters fall in love with the same man.

11. Michal: A Novel, The Wives of King David series Book 1 by Jill Eileen Smith from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group. A princess falls in love with her father's worst enemy - will it cost her everything?

12. Poisoned Secrets by Margaret Daley from Steeple Hill Love Inspired Suspense. Maggie spent years searching for her birth mother, but when the past is revealed, the shocking disclosures could tear her life apart.

13.The Hand-Me-Down Family by Winnie Griggs from Steeple Hill Love Inspired Historicals. For the sake of three orphaned children, two scarred individuals - one physically, one emotionally - try to work together to forge a new family.

14. The List by Sherri Lewis from Urban Christian. Four women on a quest to find Godly men based on a list.

15. Wind of the Spirit, The American Patriot Series, Book 3 by J. M. Hochstetler from Sheaf House Publishers. As the patriot cause falters, can her love bridge the miles that separate them--and the savage bonds that threaten to tear him forever from her arms?

16. Yesterday's Embers, The Clayburn Novels by Deborah Raney from Howard Books/Simon & Schuster. Newlyweds Doug and Mickey must find a way to untangle their knot of hasty choices without breaking the hearts of five precious children or their own in the process.

Happy reading ~

Thanks, Jill. And stay tuned for upcoming reviews on several of these titles.