Friday, April 29, 2011

Michelle Griep's Undercurrent ~ Reviewed

By Michelle Griep
Published by Risen Books
ISBN-13: 978-1936835027


Professor Cassie Larson leads a life her undergrad students hope to attain, until she tumbles into the North Sea and is sucked down into a swirling vortex...and a different century.

Alarik, son of a Viking chieftain, is blamed for a murder he didn't commit-or did he? He can't remember. On the run, saving a half-drowned foreign woman wasn't in his plan.

Ragnar is a converted pagan shunned by many but determined to prove his Cousin Alarik's innocence. He didn't count on falling in love with Cassie or the deadly presence of evil that threatens his village in Alarik's absence.

Reviews: "Michelle Griep has done it again. Undercurrent is a gripping historical romance that fulfills every expectation. Easy to follow and laced with adventure, Griep captivates readers by taking them to 10th century Norway and immersing them in the dangers of the Viking world." --Jill Williamson, Christy Award-winning author of By Darkness Hid

"Thoroughly enjoyable! A thrill ride back in time to the days of the Vikings. Ms. Griep's historical research is evident as she weaves a plot that will both grip your heart and keep you on the edge of your seat. Unexpected twists, a passionate romance, battle between good and evil, and a brutal realism that is refreshing all combine to make Undercurrent a book whose story will stay with you well past the last page. Michelle Griep is an exciting new voice among Christian Romance and a welcome change to the standard fare." --MaryLu Tyndall - Christy nominee and best-selling author of the Legacy of the King's Pirates series

My thoughts:

Undercurrent rates up with the top 10 books I've ever read. I fell in love with the characters, quirky Cassie, heroic Ragnar, loyal Magnus, and host of others. It's the most creative time travel story, romantic and completely mesmerizing. Griep is such a descriptive writer, you easily suspend disbelief, diving head first into the story and traveling through time with Cassie. I didn't want it to end and can't wait for the sequel. Novel Journey and I give it our highest recommendation: a MUST read.

Reviewed by: Ane Mulligan,
Editor Novel Journey

Bonus Review:

Michelle pens a unique, historical time-travel story filled with suspense, and a splash of romance. I loved her well-timed humor and her main character Cassie. This author takes the reader back into the 10th century Norway, where life was simpler, no distractions or conveniences of the modern world Cassie came from but with all the hazards of everyday Viking existence.

Dr. Cassie Larson, a university professor, is taking her students on an educational cruise in order to give them an up-close and personal look into the world of the Viking era. Unexpected things happen on that ship as Cassie finds herself thrust into a whirlpool that spits her out into a time thousands of years earlier than she started out in. She’s propelled into an historical nightmare where she hopes sleep will come soon so she can wake up in the comforts of the 20th century.

I enjoyed this novels drama and the thrill ride it took me on through the Viking Era and the uproar they were having because Alarik, son of a Viking chieftain, is blamed for the murder of his brother, Einar. Alarik claims he’s innocent and his cousin, Ragnar believes the same and is out to prove it.

While fleeing his captives’ Alarik finds Cassie floating face down in a river and saves her life. He then lets her join him as he seeks to find proof of his innocence. Cassie tries to understand the language Alarik is speaking-drawing on research she had done on the native tongue of the Viking. She then asks him where he lives, he says, “Jorvik.”

Cassie’s mind is racing to figure out what time period she’s in and says, “Jorvik, that couldn’t be right. That city hasn’t existed for a thousand years, maybe he meant the Jorvik Viking Centre, sponsored by the York archeological Trust, and this must be some kind of back way in!”

I liked how Cassie thought and enjoyed (she enjoyed it?) the processes she went through to figure out her situation. It was fun to read about how she reacted to the men she traveled with like a modern day strong headed women. Alarik just shook his head at her and laughed at her stubbornness.

Cassie then meets Ragnar who also seeking proof of Alarik’s innocence. He listens to her and says to her, “the question is not how to leave, but how to find where you belong.”

She pondered this thought; for a Viking he sure was a deep thinker. Had she belonged anywhere? She’d been in such a hurry to climb the corporate ladder she didn't take the time for relationships or to make a house a home. Maybe God was giving her a second chance to find the home and love she couldn't find in the 20th Century.

This book reminded me of the movie Kate and Leopold with Meg Ryan and Hugh Jackson. Hugh enters a time portal and ends up in the 20th century. He tells Meg who he really is but Meg doesn’t believe him. He dressed and talked funny but she thought it was all an act. The Vikings just think Cassie is a headstrong, stubborn woman.

Although Viking life was simple and barbaric at times Cassie had much to learn from the men she is traveling with, especially Ragner who had a relationship with God she hadn’t seen before.

Michelle weaves a riveting story that will grip your heart as she takes you through some unexpected twists, a special romance, and huge battle between the wicked and the noble. She has a wide range of lively characters I enjoyed from the head strong Cassie, faithful Ragnar, valiant Alarik, and innocent, loving Magnus; just to name a few.

As I read this story I was also reminded of what is really important in life as Cassie was. When we strip away the toys and the creature comforts of the 20th century the most important thing any of us can have is love! Love of God, family and others. This is a fun read with memorable characters and a good message. I learned so much about the Vikings in this book.

I highly recommend it!
Reviewed by: Nora St.Laurent
The Book Club Network
Finding Hope Through Fiction

Bonus Review:

Looking for an escapist read? This one might be the complete ticket.

A unique, well-written time-travel that is full of heart-pounding action/adventure and romance. Add to that humor , both dark, and laugh out loud. Characters that you either want to pat on the head and put in your pocket, if only they’d fit, and ones you’d like to strangle populate this read. Finally, descriptive elements that will make your eyes water for various assorted reasons and a whip-snap plot-line that zings with intensity. Those who love a great story need to consider adding Undercurrent to their must read list. However, if you don’t like your fiction populated with an occasional bag of guts or peppered with a little bit of Jesus, you’ll maybe want to pass.

Reviewed by: Kelly Klepfer

Find out more about Michelle at Novel Journey.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

MaryLu Tyndall's Surrender the Night ~ Reviewed

Surrender the Night (Surrender to Destiny) [Paperback]
MaryLu Tyndall (Author)
Paperback: 320 pages
Publisher: Barbour Books (March 1, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 9781602601666

Review by Michelle Griep

When British soldiers invade Baltimore amid the war of 1812, Rose McGuire, alone on her family farm, is easy prey for a brutal lieutenant. In the midst of the attack, she’s saved by British 2nd Lieutenant Alexander Reed. Will she now have to heal, as well as hide, this wounded enemy soldier?

Alex hadn’t meant to kill his superior or get shot in the process. Now badly wounded, he’s at the mercy of this tomboy who obviously hates him. Can he trust her, or will she turn him over to the Americans?

Author M.L. Tyndall scores another win with this second book in the Surrender to Destiny series. Once again she leads the reader through a high-stakes historical adventure filled with plenty of intrigue, romance and Biblical truths.

My favorite character was Lt. Alexander Reed. Besides his drop-dead good looks—which are accentuated to the fullest in scenes where he chops wood shirtless and rides a horse bareback—he’s a man of deep convictions. And by the end of the story, becomes a man of stalwart faith.

This book is full of tidbits even a historical buff like me didn’t realize. Some may not remember that the British actually burned Washington DC, but what I didn’t know was why the British ended up leaving the following day. You’ll have to read Surrender the Night to find out via story format what really did happen.

Good thing this is a trilogy. I look forward to the continuing adventure and U.S. history lesson when M.L. Tyndall releases the next book in the Surrender to Destiny series.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Shelley Shepard Gray's The Caregiver ~ Reviewed

The Caregiver: Families of Honor, Book One [Paperback]
Shelley Shepard Gray
Paperback: 304 pages
Publisher: Avon Inspire; 1 edition (March 8, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 9780062020611


Two lives converge one stormy night on a train headed to Cleveland

Lucy is traveling by herself via train to Jacob's Crossing to help care for her cousin Mattie, recently diagnosed with breast cancer. Trying to overcome the sudden death of her husband, she's glad to get away and focus on someone else for a while.

The only other Amish people on the train are Calvin Weaver and his little sister, Katie. When their train breaks down outside of Cleveland, Calvin and Lucy band together to face the outside world. But Calvin also carries the weight of past hurts. When an altercation brings both their wounds to light, they question whether they can trust each other.

Once in Jacob's Crossing, Lucy is occupied with caring for Mattie, while Calvin does his best to run his family's farm. But they can't stop thinking about those special hours spent together. Will the bond they formed last? And will Lucy and Calvin be able to put away the pain in their pasts to recognize the happiness that is suddenly in their grasp?


The Caregiver is about a young Amish woman named Lucy. Having survived an abusive marriage and the death of her husband, she takes a trip to visit and help her cousin, Mattie, who is going through treatment for breast cancer. On her the train there, she meets Caleb Weaver, his sister, Katie, and his uncle John, who are all traveling home. Despite Lucy’s efforts to keep her feelings at bay, she finds herself drawn to Caleb, though she’s scared to trust a man again. And Caleb, finds himself thinking a lot about Lucy!

I really enjoy Shelley’s books. This one was no exception! I enjoyed watching Caleb’s caring way with Lucy, even from the beginning, as he could sense she was nervous in the presence of men. As he found out more about her past, he was even more kind and caring, considerate of her feelings. It was great to see Lucy’s character open up. I look forward to the next book in the series!

Reviewed by: Sarah Porter

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Colleen Coble's The Lightkeeper's Ball ~ Reviewed

The Lightkeeper's Ball, A Mercy Falls Novel
Colleen Coble
Christian Romance
Paperback, 296 pages
Publisher: Thomas Nelson, 2011
ISBN: 978-1-59554-268-7

Back Cover Description:

At the elegant Mercy Falls masquerade ball, Olivia's hidden identity will be revealed.

It is the dawn of a new century and Olivia Stewart is heiress to an empire. Her family numbers among the Four Hundred-those considered the wealthiest and most distinguished in America. Unfortunately their wealth has nearly disappeared, and now their security rests upon the Stewart daughters' marrying well.

Olivia's sister, Eleanor, was engaged to Harrison Bennett, one of the nation's wealthiest men, but has since died. Now the pressure is on Olivia to take her place, despite her suspicions about Eleanor's fiance. Using her family's long-forgotten English title, Olivia travels to Mercy Falls, California, as Lady Devonworth, hoping to learn more before committing to marriage. There she finds that Eleanor's death was no accident. And Harrison is not the man she thought he would be.

When Mercy Falls holds a charity ball masquerade to raise funds for the new lighthouse, secrets-and truths long hidden-will be revealed. But can Harrison really love Olivia when he finds her true identity? Can she live with the repercussions of failing her family, or will she finally realize that nothing-not money, family, or romance-will ever compare to God's unconditional love?


I believe that this book could fall under multiple classifications outside of 'Christian Romance'; while it certainly is that, it could also be under the genres of suspense and historical as well. The descriptions of clothing jewelry and various venues really made the period come alive making the story feel realistic. I thought that the inclusion of the early airplane and how many thought that flight was an impossible and foolish endeavor added character and interest to the story as well. I found this book enjoyable. The way that the timeless truths of God's love and acceptance being sought above all else-including what others and society expect and think of us-made this so much more than just another novel.

Reviewed by: Rachael Schnitker

Bonus Review:

The dazzling cover of this book made me stop and stare – then pick it up to see what was inside. I was so thankful for a review copy so I could discover the mysteries this book held! I’ve enjoyed several of Coleen’s books and was excited to have the opportunity to read her newest book.

The Lightkeeper’s Ball is the third book in A Mercy Falls series; I was worried I’d be lost because I didn’t read the first two. As I read I didn’t feel like I was lost at all, but it did make me want to read the first two books in this series called, The Lightkeeper’s Daughter and The Lightkeeper’s Bride.

Eleanor is dead! Drowned! (I was gripped by this books dramatic beginning) Olivia and her mother can’t believe their ears. Olivia doesn’t believe she drowned- Eleanor hated water how could she have drowned? Something’s fishy about all this and Olivia was going to get to the bottom of it but how? She comes up with a plan to go to Mercy Falls using her official title “Lady Davenworth.” No one in Mercy Falls has met her so using this identity would allow investigating her sister’s death a lot easier.

Olivia – “Lady Davenworth” meets up with Harrison Eleanor’s fiancé in order to discover more clues to this mishap. Harrison is in the aviation business telling people that this is the transportation of the future. Harrison’s father and others think he’s crazy but his investors think he’s onto something. It even catches the attention of Olivia. I really enjoyed the aviation aspect to the story; it was fun. I liked reading about a time of innocence, when everything was fresh, new and exciting.

Colleen Coble pens a engaging, suspenseful murder mystery I couldn’t put down. Colleen’s characters grabbed my heart, attention and made me smile. I loved all the behind scenes preparation as the reader saw how Lady Davenworth orchestrated a grand Ball event as a fundraiser for a worthy cause. I felt like I was at the Ball when the event finally happened. It was exciting!

I highly recommend this book for book club or just for fun. I’m definitely going to check book one and two in this series!!

Reviewed by: Nora St.Laurent
The Book Club Network
Finding Hope Through Fiction

Bonus Review:

Colleen Coble returns readers to Mercy Falls in her third historical romance, The Lightkeeper's Ball, weaving suspense, family intrigue and the advent of the flying machine in an engaging and pleasing novel. I found this story to be more intriguing than the previous novel in this series. Colleen creates three dimensional characters that readers can connect to easily and invest in their journey so I particularly enjoyed Olivia, a women trying to break out of the mold forced on her by society. Her experience shines as she balances all the elements of an historical romance with her trademark suspense in a story that will keep you guessing to the end. The Lightkeeper's Ball will appeal to Colleen's faithful readers and new readers looking for a solid and interesting story.

Reviewed by: Rel Mollet

Monday, April 25, 2011

Janelle Mowery's When All My Dreams Come True ~ Reviewed

– Janelle Mowery
Paperback: 288 pages
Publisher: Harvest House Publishers (February 1, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0736928073


Bobbie McIntyre dreams of running a ranch of her own. Raised without a mother and having spent most of her time around men, she knows more about wrangling than acting like a lady. The friendship of her new employer awakens a desire to learn more about presenting her feminine side, but ranch life keeps getting in the way.

Ranch owner Jace Kincaid figures the Lord is testing his faith when a female wrangler shows up looking for work. Bobbie has an uncanny way of getting under his skin, though, and he’s surprised when she finds a home next to his heart. But when his cattle begin to go missing and his wranglers are in danger from some low-down cattle thief, can Jace trust God, even if it may mean giving up on his dreams?

An adventurous novel of faith, hope, and love in the Wild West.


When All My Dreams Come True is about a young woman named Bobbie McIntyre who dreams of owning her own ranch one day. She is sent by a former boss to Jace Kincaid’s ranch to work for him. Though hesitant to have a female working as a ranch hand, he signs her on, and she is able to prove herself. Meanwhile, Jace has been having problems with cattle rustling, and the situation gets worse as time progresses. In the meantime, Jace and Bobbie began to develop feelings for each other. But when Bobbie is suspected of being not only part of the cattle rustling, but of some recent bank robberies as well, it puts a damper on their relationship.

I just love books set in the late 1800’s in the West. The story grabbed me from the first page. My favorite part about this book is how Bobbie started out not really wanting anything to do with God. But Jace and his family opened up their hearts and homes to her, and showed God’s love through their actions and testimony. It’s a powerful reminder that others are watching us, and can see a difference in believer’s life as far as how they live their loves and trust and rely on God. In the end, Bobbie ends up accepting Christ as her Savior, and it always gets me excited when a character comes to that point in the story.

This was a wonderful book, and I highly recommend it!

Reviewed by: Sarah Porter

Friday, April 22, 2011

Giveaway for One Lucky Reader......

With much of the world going paperless, it seems even the most avid readers might be neglecting their local bookstores. With spring in full swing, Local Pages would like to offer Novel Reviews readers $25 toward any bookstore found on Local Pages. The leader in local coupons, discounts, and advertising, Local Pages has a ton of shopping deals available at your fingertips.

Simply go here and type in Book Store in the search field and your city. I had 11 to choose from. Then, in your comment, add the link and mention the book store where you'd use your gift certificate.

April 30th at 11:59 p.m. ends your chance to win. On May 2nd I will come back to this post and announce (in the comment field) the randomly chosen winner. This winner will need to contact me via the instructions I will leave.

Easy $25.00 to feed a book addiction....think about those must read lists. Before it's going. Going. Gone.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Shawna Williams's In All Things ~ Reviewed

In All Things
By Shawna Williams
Publisher: Desert Breeze
ASIN: B004A14PPQ (Kindle)

Back Cover: Jakob and Meri's story continues...

Meredith Louis's Hollywood career is at a point of transition. No longer under Majestic Studios control, Meri is free to broaden her appeal as an actress and finally earn the recognition she desires.

Meri and Jakob return to their hometown for the holidays where Meri hopes to reconcile with her parents after a decade of silence. But after a disastrous encounter, Meri is plunged into turmoil as old fears resurface in unexpected ways.

Jakob, already dealing with unresolved family issues of his own, is further burdened by his inability to help his wife. Can he learn to step aside and trust God's plan. Will Meri recognize what she already has?

In All Things is a story of faith and restoration, cemented in the belief, "...that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.


Shawna Williams’ novel, In All Things, depicts two imperfect people in pursuit of God and the desires of their heart. Meri desires movie stardom, and her husband, Jakob, wants to be an architect and provide for his family, all while raising twin boys. Can these parents stay on track to achieve their goals and yet make the sacrifices needed for their family’s greater good? Williams captures the movie business of the 1950s, when Hollywood studios seemed to own their stars. The nostalgia of that time period is intriguing and adds to the story’s enjoyment.

When Meri lands a five-year contract with a large movie studio, she’s thankful the studio helps Jakob get his degree and a few good jobs to launch his career. But, Meri eventually despises the studio’s control over her acting roles, and when her contract is nearing an end, she wants to call the shots in her career more than ever. After an actress confides to Meri that the success of getting the leading part and being the studio’s best is never enough, Meri, who has the same thoughts deep in her heart, but hasn’t wanted to admit it, questions whether her sacrifices have been worth it. Her life has been all about the success of winning an Oscar.

I read Christian fiction to experience the characters’ struggles and triumphs as they try to live out their beliefs. Often I’m encouraged and learn from the ways they apply God’s word to their lives. I enjoyed In All Things because of these likeable, blemished people in pursuit of a better life for themselves and their children through relationship with Jesus. She not only delivers a story with believable characters that pull at your heartstrings, she also brings passages of scripture to life. Her characters explore the possibility of letting God move in every aspect of life. I’m looking forward to this author’s next book, and you will too.

Reviewed by: Nora St.Laurent
The Book Club Network
Finding Hope Through Fiction

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Erin Healy's The Promises She Keeps ~ Reviewed

The Promises She Keeps
By Erin Healy
Published by Thomas Nelson
ISBN# 978-1595547514
352 Pages


Promise, a talented young singer with a terminal illness, is counting on fame to keep her memory alive after she dies. Porta is an aging sorceress and art collector in search of immortality.

When Promise inexplicably survives a series of freak accidents, Porta believes that she may hold the key to eternal life.

Enter Chase, an autistic artist who falls in love with Promise and fascinates her with his mysterious visions and drawings.

Soon, all are plunged into a confrontation over the mystery and the cost of something even greater than eternal life...eternal love


I was thrilled to receive a review copy of The Promises She Keeps because I’ve enjoyed Erin’s other books that were filled with action, adventure and heart.

The Promises She Keeps has a different pace and feel than Healy’s other books. The main character Promise desires to be famous. She’s close to cutting a recording deal and is racing against her enemy Cystic Fibrosis. Promise strives to make her mark in the world before this disease claims her life. She’s made becoming famous the focus of her life. It drives her every move and gives meaning to her existence.

Then enters Porta, the supporting character in the book and new in town. She’s a seventy something year old sorcerer in search of eternal life. She seeks it through spells and obtaining blood from the “one” that has the power she needs to stay alive forever. Porta’s convinced that Zack has found the “one” she’s been seeking all her life after he shows her an amazing photo he took. It’s a picture of a person in mid-air with no means of staying air borne or gently landing either. Zack assures her that the person in the photo survived. Zack doesn’t know why they did-he can’t explain it. The rocks at the bottom of the cliff would have seriously hurt or killed anyone, he’d thought maybe it was a dream but the picture proved it was real.

Then enter Chase and Chelsea, who are twins with a daily routine they never deviated from. Chase is Autistic and Chelsea is her brothers’ caretaker. Chelsea is shocked one day when Chase deviates from the normal routine and wonders what’s up. Chase skips the ice cream shop visit and goes inside a new art gallery in town. Chase is struck by the photo of a body in mid-flight and can’t stop staring at it. Chase has a strong desire to meet the person in the photo after Porta tells him the person lived. Chase has to find a way to meet this person. This would be a huge challenge for him but he knew his sister would never understand his desire. He just knew what had to be done.

Erin Healy wove a unique intricate web to create an intersection for these characters lives. I appreciate the imagination it took to come up with such a creative plot with all its twists and turns. I did like how Erin Healy brought awareness of those who are challenged with Cystic Fibrosis and those who are Autistic! They are beautiful people struggling inside their bodies and I like how she portrayed them. If you enjoy the Twilight Zone series you will love and appreciate this dramatic book!

Reviewed by: Nora St.Laurent
The Book Club Network
Finding Hope Through Fiction

Bonus Review:

Erin Healy has created a set of unique characters and a fascinating premise in The Promises She Keeps.

A self-made woman prophetically nearing the end of her life attempts to find immortality through a terminally ill young singer who has cheated death.

Add to this palette an autistic artist who sees people as trees in stark black and white, and somehow holds the key of truth for both women.

Healy spins this tale ably. I'm going to keep my eyes open for future novels.

Reviewed by: Kelly Klepfer

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Denise Hunter's A Cowboy's Touch ~ Reviewed

A Cowboy's Touch, A Big Sky Romance, Women of Faith Fiction
By: Denise Hunter
Christian Romance
Paperback, 311 pages
Publisher: Thomas Nelson, 2011
ISBN: 978-1-59554-801-6

Back Cover Description:

Abigail is just in Moose Creek, Montana for the summer to temporarily care for her great aunt. But a tender-hearted cowboy beckons her to stay.

Abigail Jones intends to spend just one summer in middle-of-nowhere Montana with her Aunt Lucy. Time away from her job is just what Abigail needs to reassess her life. The slow pace has her breathing deeply for the first time in years. And the majestic scenery encourages her to get reacquainted with herself... and God.

What she didn't count on was the handsome widowed cowboy who owns the ranch where her aunt lives. When the rancher loses his daughter's nanny, Abigail decides to lend a hand for the summer.

Wade Ryan can't help being attracted to Abigail. But he's given up everything to protect his daughter, and he's not about to risk it all on a pretty face.

Under Abigail's care, Wade's home and daughter thrive. And with Wade's touch, Abigail's heart feels at home at last, But Abigail knows this elusive rancher is hiding something. Will her owns secrets separate her from the cowboy who finally captured her heart?


This quaint, down to earth romance certainly captured my heart. Denise Hunter describes the essence of small town America and uses it as the setting for a story of love, restoration, and new beginnings. Abigail is a workaholic with hypertension issues, so when her magazine editor boss (who also happens to be her mother) and her doctor (who also happens to be her sister) force her to take a 3 month leave from work, she begrudgingly goes. Worried that she'll be bored to death with only her eccentric Aunt Lucy for company, she quickly discovers that there is much more to life, God, and Moose Creek, Montana than she ever would have imagined. Including, pink bicycles, country music, being nanny to Maddy.....and falling for her widowed cowboy father, Wade. But Wade has a lot of secret pain in his past...and so does Abby. Will they be able to get past that to discover God's plan for their lives? Find out by reading "A Cowboys Touch".

Reviewed by: Rachael Schnitker

Bonus Review:

Denise Hunter is my go-to girl when it comes to romantic and emotive love stories, when I want to be captured by a character's vulnerabilities and delight in their discovery of love and acceptance. A Cowboy's Touch is once again a reflection of Denise's talent in this genre, as she quickly establishes both Abigail and Wade as appealing and authentic characters, with quirks and weaknesses, striving to do the right thing by those they love. Their chemistry is palpable and their back stories add a touch of intrigue and depth to the romance element. My only quibble is the rather speedy resolution of a major issue towards the end of the story but even that failed to dampen my enthusiasm for this captivating love story. Rest assured I will be reading anything with Denise Hunter's name on the cover.

Reviewed by: Rel Mollet

Monday, April 18, 2011

Dan Walsh's The Deepest Waters ~ Reviewed

The Deepest Waters
By Dan Walsh
Published by Revell
300 Pages

Back Cover:

What began as a fairytale honeymoon in 1857 for John and Laura Foster aboard the steamship SS Vandervere becomes a nightmare when a hurricane causes their ship to sink into the murky depths of the Atlantic. Laura finds herself with the other women and children aboard a sailing ship while John and a hundred other men drift on the open sea on anything they could grab as the Vandervere went down. Suspecting her John is gone but still daring to hope for a miracle, Laura must face the possibility of life alone--and meeting her new in-laws without their son if she ever reaches New York.

REVIEW: I was thankful to receive a review copy of such a heart-wrenching story of faith, hope and unconditional love. Set in 1845 when men were gentlemen and women were ladies. It was a time when ocean liners were fun and luxurious to ride on. Newlyweds John and Laura Foster were embarking on their new life together aboard the SS Vandervere for the most romantic honeymoon voyage ever. All was wedded bliss until tragedy strikes the ocean liner! The SS Vandervere is damaged beyond repair! With only hours before the ship is swallowed up by the sea decisions have to be made.

Visions of the movie Titanic rushed through my mind as I read of this horrific scene. Unlike the Titanic the SS Vandervere had life boats, unfortunately not enough to save everyone on board. Quickly women and children are loaded onto the life boats and separated from the men they love.

My heart hurt for John, Laura and the other families separated from their loved ones. I was inspired by these characters faith, honesty and love for one another. This was a captivating epic love story! It’s an honest story that touches your heart and soul!

I enjoyed how Dan Walsh gave the reader the inside scoop of life on the SS Vandervere and how life was lived in 1857. I appreciate the picture of the ship in the forward to the book that named all the parts of the SS Vandervere. It was really helpful especially for someone like me who doesn't know anything about boats. It helped me imagine what was happening on the boat and where exactly on the ship events took place. This was a moving larger-than-life story. I was inspired as I read about these characters holding out for God’s best for them, whatever that may be. This novel would make a great movie. I enjoyed Dan Walsh’s other books the Unfinished Gift and the Homecoming, and The Deepest Waters was no exception. . I look forward to reading Dan’s next book which is a Christmas story.

Reviewed by: Nora St.Laurent

The Book Club Network
Finding Hope Through Fiction

Friday, April 15, 2011

James Scott Bell's Writing Fiction for All You're Worth ~ Reviewed

Writing Fiction for All You're Worth
By James Scott Bell
Available on Kindle and Nook

What would you look for in the "best writing book ever?" The best of the best? The crème de la crème? That is exactly what James Scott Bell brings to us in Writing Fiction for All You're Worth. I've never experienced a craft book that kept me turning pages like a novel. Part of that is due to Bell's style and humor. The rest is because his "fingers-meet-the-keys" advice works. It's understandable. It turns light bulbs on in your head. Each chapter is like a conversation with JSB. Much of the content drawn from his stellar blog, The Kill Zone, then expanded, James Scott Bell offers us, in this editors opinion, the gold medal winner of writing craft books in Writing Fiction for All You're Worth. Novel Journey and I give it our highest recommendation.

Reviewed by: Ane Mulligan
Editor, Novel Journey

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Lisa Wingate's Lakespur Cove ~ Reviewed

Lakespur Cove
By Lisa Wingate
Published by Bethany House
360 Pages

Back Cover:

Adventure is the last thing on Andrea Henderson's mind when she moves to Moses Lake. After surviving the worst year of her life, she's struggling to build a new life for herself and her son as a social worker. Perhaps in doing a job that makes a difference, she can find some sense of purpose and solace in her shattered faith. For new Moses Lake game warden Mart McClendon, finding a sense of purpose in life isn't an issue. He took the job to get out of southwest Texas and the constant reminders of a tragedy for which he can't forgive himself. But when a little girl is seen with the town recluse, Mart and Andrea are drawn together in the search for her identity. The little girl offers them both a new chance at redemption and hope--and may bring them closer than either ever planned.


I had so much fun reading Talk of the Town by Lisa that when an opportunity came to read her newest book I jumped at the chance at receiving a review copy. When I dove into Lakespur Cove I discovered a depth and richness in Lisa’s writing I hadn’t experience before. I was pleasantly surprised and amused by her complex characters and the community at Moses Lake. Moses Lake was as much a character in the book as the main characters Mart and Andrea were. I enjoyed them all.

Game Warden Mart meets Andrea for the first time in an official capacity when her teenage son ends up in trouble and faces the consequence of paying a fine or taking water safety classes. Neither has a good first impression of the other and don’t care to talk ever again.

On their second official meeting each gets to see each other in a different light. Andrea tells the Warden of a little girl she feels might be neglected. She encountered the girl while stuck with a flat tire on the side of the road in the woods. The towns’ people have reported the same to Mart he goes to investigate. Andrea insists she go with him. She is a social worker and is familiar with handling tough situations like this (or so she thought!)

At first glance this situation with the young girl seems like foul play but the Game Warden checks deeper to uncover some very interesting facts about Len and his past. The Reverend and people in the community pull together to help Len, who’s a high functioning mentally challenged man, follow the rules of society concerning this girl and taking care of wild animal life at his home. I love how Lisa puts this aspect in the story. It’s the way I’d hope people would respond, not pie in the sky but caring and transparent.

Lisa and Game Warden Mart move back to Moses Lake for completely different reasons. Both are pleasantly surprised at what they find there. Mart says, “There’s something about Moses Lake that changes people. It’s anybody’s guess as to why that is….the hills, and the draws, and the water, and the people piece together like an old quilt, wrapping around, comfortable and warm. Safe. You just know you’re in the right place. You feel it deep in your soul.”

I got that feeling reading this novel. Colleen Coble said, “After reading Larkspur Cover, I wanted to pack and move to Moses Lake, “ Me too!

This author has blossomed and grown in her writing and does great job of having the characters become family in your heart. Near the end of the novel unexpected, suspenseful events occur that will keep you on the end of your seat. I wasn’t quite sure how this would end. I liked that. I enjoyed the story, the characters and the unique situation. I liked learning about what a Game Warden does in his daily work routine. I had no idea! Larkspur Cove was a special adventure! I look forward to reading more of Lisa Wingate's books, you will too!

Reviewed By: Nora St.Laurent
The Book Club Network
Finding Hope Through Fiction

Bonus Review:

Lisa Wingate has changed things up a little in her latest novel, Larkspur Cove. Still charming, still engaging but with a more serious flavor than her series set in Daily, Texas, as she tells the story in the first person voices of Andrea and Mart in alternating chapters. Andrea is desperate to redefine her life as a solo parent following her husband's betrayal and subsequent divorce. Game warden, Mart McClendon, discovers his solitary life challenged by Andrea's appeal and compassion. Larkspur Cove is a tender and mature love story, played out against the backdrop of a colorful community and a young girl's tragic life. A thoroughly enjoyable and satisfying read.

Reviewed by: Rel Mollet

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Pamela Callow's Damaged ~ Reviewed

Damaged [Mass Market Paperback]
Pamela Callow
Mass Market Paperback: 464 pages
Publisher: Mira (June 1, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 9780778327509

Haunted by the death of her sister and wounded by her ex-fiancé's accusations, Kate Lange throws herself into her new career at a high-powered law firm.

When the grandmother of a lonely private school student seeks her counsel, Kate thinks it's just another custody case. But then the teen is brutally murdered. And it isn't only Kate who wonders if her legal advice led to the girl's death.

Put on notice by Randall Barrett, the firm's charismatic managing partner, Kate must fight for her career, for her reputation—and for redemption.

Unwilling to live with the damage she may have caused, Kate pursues the case on her own and unearths some chilling facts.

Facts that lead straight to the heart of a legal conspiracy.

Facts that lead Kate directly into the surgically skilled hands of the Body Butcher.


Life has taught Kate to be wary, only giving trust away when it is earned. She discovers that this could lead to her undoing professionally, and could very well mean the difference between life and death.

A brutal murder pulls Kate into a story that started out as an simple legal situation that left Kate with her hands tied. The story grows in complexity, and becomes so consuming that Kate ends up in a pulse-pounding cat and mouse game that is intended to end with her death.

Not for the squeamish. Those fascinated by either medical or legal procedurals should be able to find much to like in this twisted tale of how hideously things can go wrong when unethical folks set out to make big money.

Reviewed by: Kelly Klepfer

Monday, April 11, 2011

Jerry Jenkins's The Brotherhood ~ Reviewed

The Brotherhood (Precinct 11)
Jerry Jenkins
Format: Paperback
Number of Pages: 384
Vendor: Tyndale House
Publication Date: 2011
ISBN: 1414309228


A confident and determined new member of the Chicago PD, Boone seems to have a magic touch, from instinctive arrests which draw the eye of the top brass, to his beautiful wife and toddler son who bring so much joy to his life. Then unimaginable tragedy shatters his world, leaving him without hope, without faith and hanging on to a boatload of bitterness and pain. Returning to the beat is the only thing that keeps Boone alive but he comes to learns, from the unlikeliest of men, that God can change the hardest of hearts.


There is much to like in Jerry B Jenkins' first Precinct 11 novel, The Brotherhood. From complex characters and emotive plot lines to police procedures and the inner working of gangs, Jerry has penned an intriguing story. I particularly enjoyed Jack Keller, Boone's old school partner and mentor, a cynical cop without faith, who stands by Boone without faltering and Pastor Francisco Sosa, a man of God who lives his calling with integrity and compassion. However, I struggled with the pacing of the story which becomes weighted down by lengthy dialogue in many parts as Jerry utilizes it to impart his spiritual message. The slow pacing surprised me, probably due to the high expectations I had for a writer of Jerry's caliber and experience and due to the fact that I anticipated a lot more action from a police procedural. That being said, Jerry's talent really shines when it comes to generating a connection between his characters and the reader. I was invested heavily in how this story played out for Boone, Jack and gang leader, Pascual Candelario and I will certainly be back for more from Precinct 11.

Reviewed by: Rel Mollet

Friday, April 08, 2011

Ace Collins's Jefferson Burke and the Secret of the Lost Scroll

Jefferson Burke and the Secret of the Lost Scroll
By Ace Collins
Published By Zondervan
ISBN# 978-0310279549
336 Pages

Back Cover:

Jefferson Burke and the Secret of the Lost Scroll is a mystery as old as the Christian church wrapped in a modern-day thriller. Though an unwilling hero, Professor Jefferson Burke's intellectual curiosity pits him against the powerful Bruno Krueger in a race to find a 2000-year-old scroll that calls into question the divinity of Christ and could shake the foundation of Christian faith, upsetting the balance of power in the modern world. Their deadly quest spans the globe, involving officials from the Vatican, CIA and FBI agents, British royalty, a Hollywood actress, and modern terrorists. This classic battle of good vs. evil will hook believers and doubters alike. The uncertainties raised by the very existence of the elusive scroll will have every reader questioning the basis of their faith and wondering what would happen if certain fundamental truths suddenly were proven untrue. Artfully and thoughtfully told, this is the kind of action-packed adventure story that will keep loyal Ace Collins readers---and increasing legions of new fans---coming back for more.


I was thankful to receive a review copy of Ace Collins larger-than-life fiction novel. Jefferson Burke reminded me a little bit of three movies, National Treasure, Indiana Jones and Da Vinci Code! What a mix!

Jefferson Burke is a school professor in America that reminds me a little of Harrison Ford’s character is compelled to uncover the mysteries and clues to find the Holy Grail. Jefferson has the same passion and is asked to find lost scrolls that if published could change life as everyone knew it.

Burke explains, “Curiosity is not a fight so much as a curse. Curiosity steals focus. It challenges patience and upsets emotions and plans. He knew this better than most. It was curiosity that drove his life, and it had almost ruined it more times than he could count.”

Ace Collins has a brilliant imagination and sets this mysterious story up with an explosive beginning. An old man asks Burke for help in finding the lost scrolls. He explains the urgency of mission was to beat Krueger, a cruel, evil man at finding them first. Krueger wanted the scrolls to rule the world and blackmail the church! The old man said the scrolls where from Joseph, the husband of Mary, mother of Jesus. Krueger was convinced the scrolls were lost because the Christians were hiding the fact that Jesus was actually the son of Joseph, not the son of God!

Jefferson Burke couldn’t pass up an opportunity like this one. He was drawn quest he couldn’t explain it. Life for Burke is suddenly turned upside down as he races to find the first clue in finding the ancient scrolls.

The government gets involved and sends Agent Cho to help Burke in this search. Cho had been doing extensive research in how secret societies hid the book of Joseph. Reluctantly Burke agrees to join forces with Agent Cho to case down clues and artifacts that take them all around the Globe.

While searching for the lost scrolls Cho and Jefferson are exploring their souls and wondering what they will do when they find the scrolls. Would they tell the world that Joseph was really the father of Jesus? Could they give that message to the world? They had and obligation to report the truth didn’t they? If Krueger got the scrolls first, he would blackmail the church and if they refused his demands Krueger would simply print the scrolls for the entire world to see. He’d take great satisfaction in planting the seeds of doubt across the world.

If you liked Indiana Jones, National Treasure or Da Vinci Code movies you will enjoy this thrill ride filled with action, adventure and suspense.

Reviewed by: Nora St.Laurent
The Book Club Network
Finding Hope Through Fiction

Thursday, April 07, 2011

Robin Carroll's In the Shadow of Evil ~ Reviewed

In the Shadow of Evil [Paperback]
Robin Caroll
Paperback: 320 pages
Publisher: B&H Books (March 1, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0805449795


Just outside of Lake Charles, Louisiana, Detective Sergeant Maddox Bishop works in the Criminal Investigative Department, Homicide Division. When the dead body of a building inspector is found in a burnt "Homes of Hope" house, Maddox gets the case. The trail of evidence will lead him into exposing one of the biggest scams of modern day.

Layla Taylor is a contractor in Calcasieu parish, who loves God, her family, and what she does. When Detective Bishop's investigation leads him to her sister's drug-rehab retreat, every defense in her rises to the surface. To prove her sister's business isn't involved with anything illegal or immoral, she joins forces with the man who is against everything she believes in.


As I have come to expect from Robin Caroll, her latest romantic suspense combines tragedy, drama and intrigue with sparkling attraction and spiritual depth. Drawing on current events as she has so ably done in Deliver Us From Evil and Fear No Evil, Robin sets this story against a backdrop of economic ruin and natural destruction in hurricane ravaged Louisiana. Maddox Bishop and Layla Taylor are an interesting pair, from their career choices to the dysfunction induced by tragedy each of their families have experienced. In the Shadow of Evil is another feather in Robin's literary cap and is the perfect way to spend an evening by the bayou without leaving the comforts of home!

Reviewed by: Rel Mollet

Bonus Review:

I read Deliver Us From Evil and loved the action, adventure, humor and spiritual thread in it. I anxiously awaited the review copy of In the Shadow of Evil.

Layla is a female contractor following in her father’s foot steps after his untimely death. Layla has been nominated for a building award she’s worked hard to achieve. Tragedy strikes the House of Hope home she entered into the contest. The shadow of evil clouds her chances of winning the award when the house burns to the ground. Crazy thing about the fire is the body they discover among the ashes. The CSI team scrambles to disclose the body’s identity and glean for clues that will uncover the murderer!

Detective Maddox and his partner arrive at the burned house and see a body. Because of Maddox’s experience and the clues he discovers in the rubble, he suspects arson, and is convinced Layla set the fire. He’s certain he’ll find the proof he needs to expose a building rebound scam he knows is operating in this city. Layla’s case adds one more piece to the puzzle to help uncover unethical practices to creatively fulfill the supply shortage and reveal the mastermind behind the scheme.

Layla doesn’t like how slow the detectives are going to “prove her innocence”. She definitely feels they’ve stamped her guilty already. So, she sets out to play detective herself. Things start to heat up as she pokes around. Another house is set on fire and she’s the suspect again. Could she let go and let God work on her behalf?

This is an intriguing story set in the Louisiana, Bayou based on the real-life fallout of the U.S. economy plus devastation caused by multiple hurricanes along the southern coast. I enjoyed the tough, yet tender Layla and the emotionally wounded, chauvinistic Detective Maddox. I liked how this author showed God working in their lives for His glory and their good, when they let Him! I liked the believable characters and the spiritual struggle they went though on their way to giving and accepting forgiveness; of course I liked the drama, mystery and suspense as well. I’m looking forward to the next action adventure story from Robin Caroll.

Reviewed by: Nora St.Laurent
The Book Club Network
Finding Hope Through Fiction

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Catherine West's Yesterday's Tomorrow ~ Reviewed

Yesterday's Tomorrow
By Catherine West
Published by OakTara
ISBN 978-1-60290-278-7


Independent, career-driven journalist Kristin Taylor wants two things: to honor her father's memory by becoming an award-winning overseas correspondent and to keep tabs on her only brother, Teddy, who signed up for the war against their mother's wishes. Brilliant photographer Luke Maddox, silent and brooding, exudes mystery. Kristin is convinced he's hiding something.

Willing to risk it all for what they believe in, Kristin and Luke engage in their own tumultuous battle until, in an unexpected twist, they're forced to work together. Ambushed by love, they must decide whether or not to set aside their own private agendas for the hope of tomorrow that has captured their hearts.

A poignant love story set against the backdrop of war, Catherine West has captured the tumult and essence of Viet Nam in the pages of her book, Yesterday's Tomorrow. I could feel the overpowering humidity, hear the cacophony of voices and the burst of gunfire. Novel Journey and I recommend Yesterday's Tomorrow for a wonderful summer read.

Reviewed by: Ane Mulligan
Editor, Novel Journey

Bonus Review:

Gritty. Compelling. Moving. Catherine West's debut novel epitomises these words as she plunges the reader into a much derided war and a time in history many wish to forget. Vietnam in the late 60s and 70s comes alive in this story of an idealistic journalist and a jaded photographer, both struggling to make sense of a country torn apart, as much by political agendas as bullets and mines. Luke's despair and fatalistic courage made him an intriguing and complex character that I was drawn to and while it took more time for me to warm to Kristin, she won me over with her heart and bravery. Catherine captures the essence of a war zone and the tale reflects the desperation and brutality armed conflict engenders, juxtaposed with desire, love and hope as Luke and Kristin discover a love worth pursuing. The final chapters slowed down a little and I was anxious to get to the end as the outcome remained in the balance. Yesterday's Tomorrow is an honest and heartbreaking story that, thankfully, does not shy away from the realities of war or the choices made in harrowing situations. Catherine West is a talented author and one I will be watching. You should too!

Reviewed by: Rel Mollet

Bonus Review:

I loved the cover of this book. It helped to set the tone for what to expect inside! I was thankful for the review copy and the opportunity to read such a gripping, emotional book.

Catherine West pens an honest portrayal of how disturbing the Vietnam War was for everyone. What happened there, the challenges they faced and how the soldiers were treated so horribly when they came home.

Main character Kristin Taylor is young and was passionate about being the best reporter in Vietnam, which wouldn’t be easy in a male dominated field. She was compelled to complete the mission her father died trying to complete.

She partnered up with Luke Maddox, who was a photographer per her bosses’ request. This guy got under her skin. Who did he think he was bossing her around – They were equal partners last time she checked?

Kristin tells her partner, “Luke this war has gone on so long that nobody back home seems bothered by what’s going on over here…I don’t think they have a clue what it’s really like for the guys on the front lines. Neither do the people who think we should be here. The whole country is caught up in a political quagmire. If you support the war, you’re accepting the death of countless men in the name of freedom; if you protest against it you’re a peace-loving hippie in bed with the communists.”

Kristen found conditions rough and wanted to be safe. She learned to survive and had a sarcastic wit about her. Things were crazy, but she found herself drawn to her partner. That was the craziest thing of all- she fought it on many levels. Luke was an amazing photographer but could he be trusted? She was becoming tough and street wise, and wondered who she could rely on? She knew she definitely couldn’t depend on God!

Kristin asked her brother Teddy, “Where is God in all this madness?” “...Since coming to Vietnam, she’d seen nothing to convince her God even existed.”

“Kris…God didn’t make this war. We did…when I think about this war, I think about the guys on the front lines, I can’t help but think of Jesus. “No greater love has a man who lays down His life for his friends.” That’s what the guys out there are doing for us. Kris. None of this makes sense, I know, but it makes even less sense without Him!”

What’s normal after Vietnam? When her assignment was complete- how could she go back to the USA? Who could she relate to? Kristin wasn’t the only one trying to figure life out. Many were afflicted with Post War Syndrome and didn’t know it. Josh set up Vietnam Café’s where people could get together and talk with others that they could relate to. This helped ease the pain and helped they cope with flash backs etc.

Catherine helps the reader get a taste of how people suffered in Vietnam and out- it’s gritty and real! She also helped show that God works all things out for His glory and our good! Luke says to Kristin, “We may never know why things happened the way they did. But I don’t think that matters. What matters most is how we grow through the struggles we’re given. At least that’s what I’m trying to do.”

I think this explains about everything we go through in life! I enjoyed this unlikely love story in the middle of a chaotic war called Vietnam. I hadn’t realized all the political issues and how dangerous it was not only for a woman but for anyone that was trying to help fight the good fight.

Thanks Catherine for such an honest, brutal look at this war. This story was gripping and would make a great summer read! Not only will you learn about Vietnam and history but you’ll see the hand of God at work in all things, amazingly- even in the middle of war. I look forward to reading more by this author!

Reviewed by: Nora St.Laurent

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Shawna Williams's No Other ~ Reviewed

No Other
By Shawna Williams
Published By Desert Breeze Publishing
Kindle Edition only


In the aftermath of WWII all Jakob Wilheimer wants is to get over his pain, get on with life, and if at all possible, forgive those who've wronged his family -- including himself. But it's hard to do when there are constant reminders. One of them being his former schoolmate, now teacher, Meri Parker -- Miss Port Delamar Pearl, Mayor's daughter, Belle of the town -- Meri Parker.

After enduring the stigma and isolation associated with the internment camp, the awkwardness of going back to school should've been a cake walk. But Jakob didn't expect to find himself inexplicably drawn to Meri. Or to discover that the pain and loneliness of her life surpassed his own. She needed to be rescued from the wretched people seeking to control her life. And more than anything, he needed to be the one to save her.


I was thrilled to receive a review copy of an author I really wanted to read. No Other is a book set in the 1950’s. It was a simpler, innocent time of life in rural America. It reminded me of the T.V. show the Walton’s where families were big, close and cared for one another. Life after the war didn’t spring back to the way it was before it all began. I enjoyed reading about Jakob, Rachel and Joe as they all tried to make sense and come up with a new normal to their lives.

Jakob dropped out of school to care of his family while Joe went off to fight in the war. Jakob’s father was recovering from having a stroke so the family needed him to provide while Joe was away.

Jakob had Meri as his new teacher at school, and was the oldest kid in his class. It was awkward seeing Meri everyday as his teacher because they had gone to school together before the war. Things got easier once he volunteered to build the set for the play Meri was producing. He couldn’t believe how he felt when they worked together. Jakob wouldn’t develop feelings for her now. He wanted out of this town after graduation, which meant no attachments. He also knew it wouldn’t be appropriate for him to be dating his teacher who wasn’t a Christian and he was! Nine months that’s all he had remaining until graduation.

Meri was the Mayors daughter and an only child. She was fascinated to hear about Jakob’s family and wanted to be part of a family that loved you unconditionally. Her parents were all about appearances and what she could do for them. She felt like a puppet and not loved for who she was but for what she did. They even had her husband picked out. Didn’t ask her! They say it was the best but she didn’t love Roger. She wanted to marry for love not money! She was tired about worrying about appearances.

Williams says, “I wanted to write about how Christians don’t just struggle, sometimes we blow it, but God doesn’t abandon us. Even when our efforts to right things fail. He’s still in control. Him and No other.”

I enjoyed the time period and the budding romance between Jakob and Meri. It was fun and innocent. Shawna’s characters are likeable and real. My heart ached for Meri and how her parents treated her. I also felt for Jakob as he tried to do the right thing for everyone in his life.

How should Christians treat Christians that blow it and but get back up after the fall? The enemy would love for them to stop dreaming, have them in no way get up and have people never let them forget their sin. Shawna Williams shows a heart-felt, moving story where the reader can experience unconditional love and know what it looks like. She also showed God loves us no matter what we do.

God says He loved us while we were yet sinners, flawed, unlovable. He gave His son’s life for us unpolished and clean. Williams characters stayed with me and so did their struggle long after I finished reading the last page. I can’t wait to read the sequel, In All things!

Reviewed by: Nora St.Laurent
The Book Club Network
Finding Hope Through Fiction

Monday, April 04, 2011

Ann Shorey's The Dawn of a Dream ~ Reviewed

The Dawn of a Dream (At Home in Beldon Grove)
Ann Shorey
352 pages
Revell (April 1, 2011)
ISBN: 978-0800733346


Luellen O'Connell is stunned and confused when her husband of just one month tells her he is leaving--and that he has another wife. Deeply wounded by this betrayal, Luellen decides to follow the dream she had set aside of obtaining a teaching degree. But her wayward husband left something behind when he abandoned her. Can Luellen overcome the odds and achieve her dream? Can she hide her secret, or will it destroy her dreams forever?


Heroine Luellen O’Connell captured my heart instantly. This strong, determined, independent woman wasn’t interested in marriage. It was the last thing on her mind. In fact, marriage would only hinder her dreams of becoming a school teacher. But then she met the handsome and charmingly-deceptive Brendan O’Connell and suddenly, she’s head over heels in love—and hitched. But just as the honey-moon stage of their marriage is about to begin, Brendan breaks her heart and pulls a Hudini on her. Which would be hard enough for any woman to swallow, but add the social stigma divorce carried in the mid-1800’s and it’s easy to why this devastated Luellen. How can she ever raise her head again?

Picking up the shattered pieces of her life and pride, she musters the strength to carry on. But one scornful glance after another makes it abundantly clear: she’ll never be able to move beyond her past if she remains in Beldon Grove.

Gathering together every ounce of determination and courage she has, she heads to Allenwood Normal School to pursue her dreams. She soon finds herself on what feels to be an endless climb up a very steep hill. Can she stand strong when one obstacle after another thwarts her plans and drains her energy?

This novel is a well-written, multi-layered tale of a woman’s fight for dependence in pursuit of a dream. It has the capacity to touch the deepest recesses of the reader’s heart, while encouraging them to chase those dreams they’ve hidden within. Luellen has the perfect blend of feminine vulnerability, tenderness, and inner strength, creating a dynamic character that resonates deeply. Ann Shorey is a strong, vibrant writer and I look forward to reading her future novels.

Reviewed by: Jennifer Slattery

Bonus Review:

The third book in Ann Shorey's At Home in Beldon Grove series, The Dawn of a Dream, is my favourite of the trilogy. I enjoyed Luellen's tenacity in her efforts to become a teacher at a time when it was difficult to say the least, even without the additional pressures she faces following her husband's desertion. She is far from perfect and her decision making isn't always well considered. Such a character stands out in an historical novel, a genre where angelic, passive women are over represented! Luellen's brother Franklin and his friend, Ward Calder, both Army men, provide interesting insight in to the life of soldier during the time period and offer a contrast to the community of Beldon Grove and Luellen's student lifestyle. The Dawn of a Dream has all the elements historical romance readers enjoy with a uniqueness of character I thoroughly enjoyed.

Reviewed by: Rel Mollet

Friday, April 01, 2011

Mesu Andrews's Love Amid the Ashes ~ Reviewed

By Mesu Andrews
Published by Revell
ISBN# 978-0-8007-3407-7
407 Pages


Readers often think of Job sitting on the ash heap, his life in shambles. But how did he get there? What was Job's life like before tragedy struck? What did he think as his world came crashing down around him? And what was life like after God restored his wealth, health, and family?

Through painstaking research and a writer's creative mind, Mesu Andrews weaves an emotional and stirring account of this well-known story told through the eyes of the women who loved him. Drawing together the account of Job with those of Esau's tribe and Jacob's daughter Dinah, Love Amid the Ashes breathes life, romance, and passion into the classic biblical story of suffering and steadfast faith.


I was thankful to receive a review copy of a story many people quote from the bible and look to when they are suffering. The story of Job is a powerful one. Meus Andrews states in the author notes how she came up for the premise of her book Love Amid the Ashes! She says, “I hope you can see (through my extensive research) that biblical fiction is so much more than a fanciful imagining of how things might have been. It is truly my heart cry to know how biblical characters experienced the God I know today!”

Having read this gripping, heart wrenching book I can say Mesu has accomplished her goal. Not only did she show how biblical characters experienced God in their lives but she got up-close and very personal in showing the inner turmoil every character had endured watching Job suffer. No matter what came Job’s way he stood faithful to not curse God like his friends and family wanted him to but was a witness to the love he had for God no matter what happened in his life.

Love Amid the Ashes is not only about Job, and the impact he had on his community, family, friends and the world around him. But it’s also about Dinah, the only daughter of Jacob, who was violated by King Shechem. Her brothers avenged this act by killing the king and did some horrible things to the people that lived in the kingdom before they murdered them.

Dinah isn’t mentioned in the Old Testament much so the author had to dig deep to uncover facts she could use to make her story work. Through extensive research Mesu found a way for Dinah to cross paths with Job, a wise man and respected man in his community, who was highly favored by God, and who showed the love of God to everyone he came in contact with.

Soon after Dinah and Job’s paths cross calamity befalls Job. One messenger after the other reports horrific news to Job, first the report that his children are dead, then a report that all his live stock are slain and then to hear that his grandchildren are killed. Soon after that Job’s house burns down to the ground. Job is left homeless and penniless. His wife is used to living the good life and agonizes over their new situation even more so when Job gets deathly sick. She is willing to do almost anything to get money in the house and live the life she is accustomed to.

We read in scripture of how everything was taken away from Job and then later given back more than he had in the first place without all the drama associated with this horrendous situation. The author reveals the heartache and struggle of a man losing his children (the loves of his life), everything he owned and his status in his community.

This author not only shows Job’s terrible situation but on the flip side she discloses Job’s hope and faith in God. Mesu brings scripture alive as she gives the reader a peek into what life might have been for Job back then. This Mesu Andrews pens an amazing story of Job’s authenticity, his passion, love for God and family and how he suffered well. He stayed faithful even when his body was in horrific pain. This story brings this story to life in a real way. You’ll never think of the book of Job in the same way.

Reviewed by: Nora St.Laurent
The Book Club Network
Finding Hope Through Fiction