Friday, September 30, 2011
FORSAKING ALL OTHERS
Paperback: 400 pages
Publisher: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc. (October 1, 2011)
Camilla Fox is alive. The last thing she remembers is being lost in the snow after leaving her home to escape the Mormon faith she no longer calls her own. She’s been taken in by the 5th Infantry Regiment of the US Army and given over to the personal care of Captain Charles Brandon. As she regains her strength, memories of her two children she had to leave behind come flooding back, threatening to break her heart. Camilla is determined to reunite with her daughters. But when news of her father’s grave illness reaches her, she knows she must return to the family farm to reconcile with her father. As spring arrives, Camilla returns to Salt Lake City a changed woman, but nothing could prepare her for the changes to the city, to the Mormon church, and to the family she left behind.
Forsaking All Others is about a young woman named Camilla Fox. She has fled the Mormon faith, but in doing so, has left behind her husband, who has taken another wife, and her two daughters. In the midst of her flight, she is caught in a terrible snowstorm, but is rescued by US Army Colonel Charles Brandon. While recovering under the care of the United States Army, her faith grows in Jesus Christ, and her resolve to rescue her daughters from the false teachings of the Mormon church grow.
This was such a great book. I wish I had been able to read the prequel first, but it wasn’t awkward jumping in on book 2. I enjoyed seeing how Camilla’s eyes are opened to the truth, and how she was able to discern between the true teachings of the Bible, as opposed to false teachings. It reinforces how important a strong foundation in the scriptures is, even from childhood, because it is those teachings that brought her back to the truth. I hope a sequel is written to this book, as I would love to follow Camilla’s story!
Reviewed by: Sarah Porter
Thursday, September 29, 2011
By Sandra D. Bricker
Published by Abingdon Press
As a wedding planner, you'd think she would have the perfect wedding experience ...
Sherilyn Keys has left Chicago behind to marry Andrew Drummond IV, as Atlanta native with a family name that tops all the social registers
Landing the job as Tanglewood's wedding planner is a piece of cake for someone with a Type A personality; she's the perfect fit for a wedding hotel known for its attention to even the tiniest detail.
But when everything else is going along swimmingly, why are her own wedding plans drowning right before her eyes?
One way or the other Sherilyn is determined to make this wedding work—until the latest development threatens to call the whole thing off. Is it possible Sherilyn is allergic to her fiancé?
Always the Wedding Planner Never the Bride had me laughing all the way through. I loved the first book in this series, Always the Baker Never the Bride, but this one is even better. Bricker is the Queen of quirky characters and doesn't disappoint in Always the Wedding Planner. The story took some interesting twists and turns I didn't see coming, and left me thoroughly delighted at the end. Novel Rocket and I give it our highest recommendation. If you like to laugh, it's a must read.
Reviewed by: Ane Mulligan
Sr. Editor, Novel Rocket
Tuesday, September 27, 2011
Spring for Susannah [Paperback]
Number of Pages: 356
Vendor: Thomas Nelson
Publication Date: 2011
With no prospects for marriage and her parents recently deceased, Susannah Freemont agrees to go west to the Dakota territory to marry her minister's homesteading brother, Jesse. But Susannah is painfully shy, doesn't see herself as worthy of love from either a husband or from God, and lives in constant fear that Jesse is going to ship her back to Detroit.
In spite of her petite size and the fact that Susannah doesn't look like she could survive on the prairie, Jesse quickly discovers that his new wife is a greater blessing than he even hoped for. The years she spent as her father's veterinary assistant allow her to save Jesse's ox and twin calves and to help neighboring farmers with their animals.
But Susannah's feelings of unworthiness are deeply rooted, and she can't believe that Jesse's praise-or the tenderness and love he shows-could possibly last. The thawing of her heart seems almost as distant as Spring in the midst of the winter blanketing the Dakota prairie.
Springtime for Susannah is about a young woman named Susannah who agrees to travel to the Dakota Territory to marry the brother of her Pastor, whom she’s never met. Thinking herself an unlikely candidate to every marry any one, she has a hard time believing that her new husband, Jesse, has really come to care for her. Together they face many challenges, including blizzards, grasshoppers, and the possibility of having a baby.
This was a great book. I loved watching Susannah come out of her shell. The love Jesse showed to her despite her faults also led her back to a relationship with the Lord, which, in the end, helped her to get through some very difficult times. Jesse’s faith was challenged through out the story as well, but in the end he had to come back to His Lord for his comfort and strength. A great read for anyone who loves Christian historical fiction!
Reviewed by: Sarah Porter
Monday, September 26, 2011
By: Yvonne Harris
Published by: Bethany House
ISBN #: 978-0-7642-0805-4
Texas Ranger Jake Nelson patrols the U.S.-Mexico border, protecting the settlers from cattle rustlers, outlaws, and bandits. Sparks fly when Manuel Diego stirs up a revolt against the government, which leads to the murder of a newspaperman, who is the son of a U.S. senator, and the kidnapping of his sister, Elizabeth Madison, a journalist in the making.
With Elizabeth's photograph in hand--a dark-haired beauty with smiling eyes--Jake rides over the border to find her. After the Rangers defeat the marauders and rescue Elizabeth, Jake is surprised to learn she's not the spoiled daughter of a senator that he was expecting. In fact, he finds himself taken by her. And she by him.
But the Mexicans won't give up that easily, as Elizabeth becomes the target of an all-out hunt. Leaving Elizabeth back at Fort Williams, Jake and his men set off again, this time to go after Diego himself--to apprehend him and his renegades and bring them all to justice.
Meanwhile, Jake knows what's begun between him and Elizabeth is undeniable. Amid all the turmoil, Jake finally admits how much he loves her. She tells him the same. Until now, they've lived in different worlds, yet it is those differences that drew them together.
I was thrilled to receive a review copy of this western, adventure story busting with action right from the start! Unexpected danger erupts when the author whisks the reader inside a court room.
Elizabeth Evans is Senator Madison's daughter and sister of Lloyd Madison, newspaper business man. Elizabeth and Lloyd were inside County Courthouse, in El Paso Texas, when all heck broke loose. Elizabeth Evans then finds herself in the clutches of Manuel Diego, a man who rules Mexico underbelly.
Texas Ranger, Jake Nelson, hears of Senator Madison’s daugther kidnapping and sets out on a mission to find her. He’s determined to keep Elizabeth safe once he finds her and brings Manuel Diego to pay for his brutal crime. Jake learns early on the assumptions he had about Elizabeth being a spoiled, woman of privelege are wrong. He soon discovers she’s a strong courageous woman. She’s stubborn and determined to learn to ride a horse in order to make an easier escape. She’s determined but hiding in woods as they run from their enemy has it’s own issues. It was time to come up with a plan they both could live with.
Even though I did not read Yvonne’s first book - I enjoyed this book very much and it read as a stand alone. I liked Yvonne’s creativity and imagination. I also liked that I learned about that time period, gyspies and Texas Rangers. I liked this authors writing style well paced action and humor and how she started this story with a bang - literally. I liked the fact that this story wasn’t preachy or mushy with lovey stuff. Yvonne has a great mix of adventure, and suspense, interwoven with a tender love story of two people facing the hurts and pain of their past! Both find themselves thinking they might just give love a change again. I recommend this book to people who like Johnny Stewart type westerns with tender love stories, faithful cowboys and a believable spiritual thread!
Reviewed by: Nora St.Laurent
Saturday, September 24, 2011
A Vision of Lucy (A Rocky Creek Romance)
Paperback: 336 pages
Publisher: Thomas Nelson (June 28, 2011)
Trouble follows Lucy wherever she goes. So does a vision of second chances . . . and love.
Lucy Fairbanks dreams of working as a photographer at the Rocky Creek newspaper. Her deepest hope is that her father will see her as an artist, the way he thought of her deceased mother, whose paintings still hang on their walls.
But disaster follows Lucy on every photo assignment: a mess of petticoats and ribbons, an accidental shooting, even a fire.
When Lucy meets David Wolf-a rugged, reclusive man who lives on the outskirts of town-she thinks she can catch the attention of the town with his photograph. She doesn't count on her feelings stirring whenever she's near him.
Two things happen next that forever change the course of Lucy's life. But will these events draw her closer to God or push her further away? And how will David accept this new vision of Lucy?
Margaret Brownley's historical romance novels have a great balance of humor, love and intrigue and A Vision of Lucy continues that trend. Lucy and David are appealing characters for different reasons. Lucy, with her enthusiastic approach to life and desire to forge a career in photography and David, battling prejudice and desperate to exact some justice for past wrongs against him. While there is a bit of he-man behavior at the beginning of the book, this is a fun, sweet story with some more serious elements surrounding David's heritage and racial prejudice. Fans of Mary Connealy and Karen Witemeyer will certainly enjoy A Vision for Lucy and Margaret's other stories.
Friday, September 23, 2011
A Sound Among the Trees
By Susan Meissner
Published by WaterBrook Press
As a young bride, Susannah Page was rumored to be a Civil War spy for the North, a traitor to her Virginian roots. Her great-granddaughter Adelaide, the current matriarch of Holly Oak, doesn't believe that Susannah's ghost haunts the antebellum mansion looking for a pardon, but rather the house itself bears a grudge toward its tragic past.
When Marielle Bishop marries into the family, it isn't long before she is led to believe that the house she just settled into brings misfortune to the women who live there.
With Adelaide's richly peppered superstitions and deep family roots at stake, Marielle must assort out the truth about Susannah Page and Holly Oak—and make peace with the sacrifices she has made for love.
Masterfully drawn by great word artist Susan Meissner, A Sound Among the Trees is an intriguing and complex story, delving into relationships and traditions. I thoroughly enjoyed the journey as Marielle, while trying to unravel the mystery of Holly Oak, learned rumors can become tradition and believed as truth. Novel Journey and I give A Sound Among the Trees a high recommendation. An enchanting summer read.
Reviewed by: Ane Mulligan, editor
Wednesday, September 21, 2011
By Tia McCollors
Paperback: 336 pages
Publisher: Lift Every Voice; 1 edition (February 1, 2011)
Shelia Rushmore thought she'd be the last woman standing when it was time to fight for her man. Instead Ace, her boyfriend of two years, chose to reunite with his ex-wife, leaving Shelia emotionally devastated. It's a year later when Sheila is convinced that sneaking into their wedding ceremony will put closure on the gaping hole in her heart. But it's on the back pew of the church where a new relationship begins for Shelia. She can't explain the touch she received from God on that day, but she's determined to be a better woman-a woman of faith. Since high school, Shelia has been chasing her definition of the good life - it's left her with no home, no man, and no money. But now that's she's living life for God, things should get better, right? Shelia learns that living a faith-filled life isn't always easy.
With faith, tough love, and some tough decisions, Shelia realizes that the life she'd been praying for she could have for herself is actually attainable. Being wrapped in God's arms, she decided, was by far the safest place she'd ever been.
Shelia Rushmore starts the novel sneaking into her ex-boyfriend’s wedding. She picks up a date on her way out, then fights with her best friend and only means of transportation. From this point on, her life goes from bad to worse. She gives out her phone number like candy to every handsome man, then dodges them once their loser side shows through. Everything would be fine, if only she could keep her sugar-daddy off her back, her brother from robbing her blind, and her so-called best friend from throwing her out on the street. A job wouldn’t hurt, either.
And yet, despite her daily frustrations, and at times, seemingly hopeless predicament, Shelia feels peace, perhaps for the first time in her life. Clinging to a faith birthed in a wedding chapel, she begins to conform her life to Scriptural truths. Although she still longs for that knight in shining armor and the white-picket fence, she finds something even more valuable—authenticity and authentic community.
Author Tia McCollors has a fresh, funny, and engaging voice, making even ordinary events intriguing. When her main character came to faith at the beginning of the novel, I thought for sure the rest of the book would be an eye-glossing flop, but Shelia was such a quirky character and Tia’s writing was so unique, I thoroughly enjoyed the novel. Shelia’s struggles with learning to live a life consistent with her new faith were realistic and kept the novel fresh. Although there wasn’t a lot of plot depth to the novel, or a major character transformation, I appreciated the author’s portrayal of a new believer. Often novels present 0 to 60 characters (sinner to saint), but life transformation usually occurs more gradually.
Reviewed by: Jennifer Slattery
Tuesday, September 20, 2011
Amish Values for Your Family: What We Can Learn from the Simple Life
Suzanne Woods Fisher
Paperback: 192 pages
Publisher: Revell (August 1, 2011)
For readers who long for strong families that know how to truly enjoy life together, there is much to learn from the Amish. Values like community, forgiveness, simple living, obedience, and more can be your family legacy--without selling your car, changing your wardrobe, or moving out to farm country.
In Amish Values for Your Family, bestselling author Suzanne Woods Fisher shows how you can adopt the wisdom of the Amish when it comes to family matters. In this inspiring and practical book readers will find charming true stories interlaced with solid, biblical advice about parenting, marriage, and all aspects of family life. As readers get an intimate glimpse into the everyday lives of real Amish families, they will learn to prioritize what's truly important, simplify decision-making, slow down as a family, safeguard time together, and let go when the time comes.
I'm not in love with Amish fiction, which seems to be on the top of the book pile of popularity. So, I've not read any of Suzanne Woods Fisher's novels.
But, I am fascinated by the Amish lifestyle. There is a part of me, buried deep within my soul, that wants to live simply and in a tight knit family-rich society. I read and watch documentaries about this simple way of life with a little bit of envy and a lot of wistful sighing. I know I've romanticized the Amish. There is a deep sense of mystery to them, and a steadfastness that is the polar opposite of modern society. Their lives are hard, and I'd miss things like my every other month pedicure if I set out to join up with a group of simple people. (And probably my husband, too, he would make for an impressive Amish man but don't think he shares my longing.)
All that said. If you feel the way I do about the simple life. If there is a longing in your soul to work hard and shun modern conveniences and distractions, you probably need to just go ahead and click on title then the "add to my cart" button. (Another English convenience I'd miss.)
Fisher covers dozens of aspects and attitudes of Amish life and recounts stories and examples from Amish folks. She then sifts through the simplicity of the Amish lifestyle to the core issue, names it and suggests what we English can add to our own lives and families to capture the sense of simple. With quotes and sweet stories, moments of convicting thoughts, and helpful suggestions, she makes it possible to choose to simplify where we can so that we can have a taste of the peace and fulfillment that seems to occur in a life lived simply.
If you took the time to read the review, you just probably need to get a copy.
Monday, September 19, 2011
By Susan May Warren
Published by Tyndale
Unknown to her tiny town of Deep Haven, Isadora Presley spends her nights as Miss Foolish Heart, the star host of a syndicated talk radio show. Millions tune in to hear her advice on dating and falling in love, unaware that she’s never really done either. Issy’s ratings soar when it seems she’s falling in love on-air with a caller. A caller she doesn’t realize lives right next door.
Caleb Knight served a tour of duty in Iraq and paid a steep price. The last thing he wants is pity, so he hides his disability and moves to Deep Haven to land his dream job as the high school football coach. When his beautiful neighbor catches his eye, in a moment of desperation he seeks advice from My Foolish Heart, the show that airs before his favorite sports broadcast.
Before he knows it, Caleb finds himself drawn to the host—and more confused than ever. Is his perfect love the woman on the radio . . . or the one next door?
Just finished reading two suspense stories by Susan Warren and couldn’t wait to read another book by Susan! Point of No Return and Mission out of Control were so good I couldn’t wait for the review copy of this book.
The story starts out with a bang! A serious car crash happens right in front of the main character’s house! Issy starts to panic. Memories of her deadly car crash start flooding her emotions and remind her why she hasn’t stepped out of her house in two years.
Susan has several lovable, colorful, and wounded characters in this story. One of them is Caleb Knight who’s just moved to town and is seeking the football coaching position. He happens to live next to Issy who’s trapped in her house. He’s been wounded in war and knows all too well about disappointments. But he’s a fighter. He says to her, “We all could be trapped in our past if it wasn’t for the perfect love of God – He’s the only one that can set us free- My injury made me work harder and think about my life and how I wanted to live. It made me see God spared me. And it made me reach beyond myself.”
Susan May Warren is a very talented and creative author that has the skill to write in many different genres so well. She has the ability to make your heart race in the suspense-mystery books she writes. Then she has you feel the pain, have compassion for the characters in My Foolish Heart and cheer for the cast as they let God heal their hearts, set them free and help them live beyond what they thought they were capable of. I really enjoyed My Foolish Heart, its characters, their situations and the strong believable spiritual thread. It was humorous, hopeful and an inspiring read. I’ll definitely be reading more of Susan’s books in the future!
Reviewed by: Nora St.Laurent
Friday, September 16, 2011
Forever After: A Hanover Falls Novel
Paperback: 416 pages
Publisher: Howard Books; Original edition (June 14, 2011)
A fire killed his best friend and his lifelong dream of being a firefighter. The same fire killed her husband and hopes for a family. Can new dreams replace old?
Lucas Vermontez was a proud firefighter like his father. Now, not only has he lost his father and his best friend, Zach, in the fire at the Grove Street homeless shelter, but the devoted rookie can no longer do the work he loves after being crippled in the tragic event. When friendship with his buddy’s beautiful widow turns into more, he wonders, what could he possibly offer Jenna? Jenna Morgan is trying to grieve her husband’s death like a proper widow, but the truth is, she never really loved Zach. His death feels more like a relief to her. But that relief is short-lived when she loses her home and the financial support of her in-laws. Now the secrets of her past threaten to destroy her future.
Can the two forget the painful past and discover new reasons to live and love?
I have always enjoyed Deborah Raney's books for their depth, authenticity and heartfelt message and her latest Hanover Falls novel, Forever After, has all those things in spades! Lucas and Jenna's love story is one of the most genuine and realistic I have read in a long time. Attraction, wariness, fear, excitement and conflict mark their interactions as they experience the ups and downs of love, discovering each others' strengths and weaknesses and making choices to stay the course. Jenna's meaningful but increasingly difficult relationship with her former in-laws and Luc's widowed mother's interest in another man provide great insight into families who have lost loved ones. Forever After is a rich and captivating story about overcoming grief and rediscovering love ~ don't miss it on what it has to offer.
Thursday, September 15, 2011
Paperback: 348 pages
Publisher: Risen Books (September 15, 2011)
THE JIHAD'S MESSIAH (JIHAD SERIES BOOK I) In a future when world power has shifted to the Middle East, and the Arab nations have signed a seven-year peace treaty with Israel, a radical Iraqi leader-known as Al-Mahdi, "the Awaited One"-rises to power promising to convert the world to Islam. Major General Farid Zadeh is Al-Mahdi's most loyal follower and the next in line to become the Full Army General of Iraq-until he is falsely accused of being an Israeli spy. Determined to vindicate himself, Farid flies to Jerusalem to spy on the Israeli military. But before he can return home with the intelligence, the peace treaty is broken and war breaks out between the Arabs and Israel. Now he must run for his life, as both armies consider him their enemy and want him dead. Help-and perhaps redemption-come from unlikely sources: a stunning Jewish woman and a Christian prisoner. When his faith and his loyalties are tested, Farid must decide which side to take.... His decision could alter the course of Man's final war. PRAISE FOR THE JIHAD'S MESSIAH "The Jihad's Messiah is a thrilling ride into a very probable future. No other apocalyptic novel brings the current events in the Middle East so close to the biblical prophecies about the last days. This book will both entertain enlighten you, leaving you hungry for more.
What can be said about “The Jihad’s Messiah” besides the Premise above? It is labeled as a Christian fiction book talking about the End of the World issues. It is set about 13 years into the future and is also controversial. How is that for enticement to get you wanting to read this book?
Alright, then how about these points for consideration…. “The Jihad’s Messiah” is exciting to read. It is filled with the author’s opinion on the Quran and Islam and the Anti Christ rising from its religion’s ashes. It is a story from first person accounts of Major General Farid Zadeh, a very devout Muslim, and his fall from grace to realization of how life is outside of his own bubble.
Nick Daniels, author of “The Jihad’s Messiah” and published by Risen Books, has written a thought provoking, edge of your seat thriller that could be compared to Joel Rosenberg’s End of the World trilogy dealing with similar subject matter. He talks about events as if they were in the past and why things are always as they seem including a new look at people from an unfiltered Islamic structure.
What makes it a Christian novel? The events in the story are mostly laid out in the Holy Bible dealing with end of time sequences and the “Rapture” of all those believing in Jesus as their Lord and Savior. Further, it shows how Christians differ from Islam and might interest you or anger you depending where you fall in the two spectrums.
I give this book 4 out of 5 stars. I challenge those that love Christian fiction or who are Christians to give “The Jihad’s Messiah” a read and see if your curiosity was worth a glimpse as it was for me.
Reviewed by: Bradley Evans
In a future when world power has shifted to the Middle East, and the Arab nations have signed a seven-year peace treaty with Israel, a radical Iraqi leader—known as Al-Mahdi, “the Awaited One”—rises to power promising to convert the world to Islam.
Major General Farid Zadeh is Al-Mahdi’s most loyal follower and the next in line to become the Full Army General of Iraq—until he is falsely accused of being an Israeli spy. Determined to vindicate himself, Farid flies to Jerusalem to spy on the Israeli military. But before he can return home with the intelligence, the peace treaty is broken and war breaks out between the Arabs and Israel.
Now he must run for his life, as both armies consider him their enemy and want him dead. Help—and perhaps redemption—come from unlikely sources: a stunning Jewish woman and a Christian prisoner. When his faith and his loyalties are tested, Farid must decide which side to take…. His decision could alter the course of Man’s final war.
Okay, moment of shocking honesty here…when I first started this book, I didn’t expect I’d like it. Nothing personal about the author, mind you. I was sure Nick Daniel’s writing would be fabulous and the story solid in plot and morals and all that. It’s the genre that kind of threw me. End times thriller? Yeah. Been there, done that. I read all the Left Behind series, so count me out.
Wow. Was I ever dead wrong.
Not only is the writing stunning, beautiful and so tight you can hardly breathe, but the action—fan-freaking-tastic. The Jihad’s Messiah has some crazy kind of magnetic action. I was totally sucked in. In fact, I had to duck a couple times and then do a double-take to make sure I wasn’t bleeding. Seriously. Nick Daniels takes an action/adventure scene and tosses the reader into the midst of the chaos.
What I found to be most interesting was getting inside the head of a Muslim character. Two, actually. The protag and antag are both devotees of Islam. Being an American Christian, this was a completely foreign and interesting point of view, sometimes alarming but all the time intriguing.
Now then, besides the spectacular writing and story, there’s something even better to rave about…the message. There’s a ton of Biblical truth in this tale. Not beat-the-reader-over-the-head kind of Bible thumping, but heart piercing, soul wrenching truths that are interwoven so deftly, I wouldn’t hesitate to hand this to a staunch skeptic.
The Jihad’s Messiah is the first in a three book series. When the next installment comes out, I’ll have a whole new attitude about cracking it open. In fact, I think I’ll be ordering pizza delivery for din din that night because there’s nothing going to stop me from reading it cover to cover in one sitting.
Reviewed by: Michelle Griep
Wednesday, September 14, 2011
Dan Harmer and Denise Harmer
Paperback: 284 pages
Publisher: Lamp Post Inc. (March 1, 2011)
Nestled along San Diego's coast, the former romantic getaway of the silver screen's most notorious lovers is now the sizzling hacienda of Bonnie Miller's culinary boot camp. "If you are what you eat, make it hot, spicy and irresistible," is her motto, and this queen of Southwestern cuisine enjoys quite a savory life; success, fame, and a reputation for the finest palate west of Barcelona. That is, until a pot-rattling bang causes Trace Domingo, a washed-up sports writer, to crash into her life. His arrival turns up the heat at the culinary boot camp as Bonnie discovers in life's recipe book, it is not the spices which add the most flavor, but how truly hungry you are.
Holy Guacamole is a sweet, spicy story with a crazy adventurous storyline. A famous television chef, with a few issues, runs a cooking boot camp. A wanna-be chef signs on as a student, and he's seriously crushing on her almost as much as he's wanting to conquer her infamous cooking skills. Blend in and whip up an extended cast of characters from the able but silent sidekick to the Rastafarian goat tamer. This souffle of crazy antics, a life and death run over the border, and a cup running over of bad guys ends up as a-holy-dropped-tamale-platter-with-extra-chiles type of a mess before the final dessert is served up.
This is an action packed story is a quick read. Character development gets a bit stereotypical or shallow at times as there are so many characters to flesh out. The dialogue is clever, almost a little too cutesy at times. The food and cooking references are fun. Definitely an escapist read not to be taken too seriously, but with some sweet sub-themes.
Tuesday, September 13, 2011
The Opposite of Art
By Athol Dickson
Published by Howard books
A poor woman in a shabby Los Angeles apartment receives an original oil painting by one of modern art’s great masters, easily worth half a million dollars. Although the artist has been dead for a quarter century, the painting appears to have been recently completed. When the world’s foremost authority on the artist’s work pronounces it authentic, three lives are destined to collide: the sketch artist and roustabout at a traveling Mexican circus who longs to paint the face of God, the daughter the sketch artist does not know he has, and the man who plans to kill them both.
Athol lets the reader experience his passion and love of art through the life of his main character, Sheridan Ridler, Artist extraordinaire. This author pens an honest, gritty story of an artist tormented by love and his quest to find the Glory he experienced and paint it, in vivid detail so others could experience it too.
Athol Dickson tackles serious issues in the middle of a compelling dramatic mystery using the art field as the back drop. I was thankful to receive a review copy of this profound and moving story. Athol’s a deep thinker and so is his character Ridler. I enjoyed the author’s passion for art which shown through on every page and his colorful array of characters. Somewhere in search of power, money, and love - All of them desired peace and meaning for their mixed up lives.
This author lets the reader experience Ridler’s younger years with pot parties, and free love. Everything was ok in the art world, according to Ridler. He was a genius and could paint anything he put his mind to. One thing he refused to paint was faces. Ridler says, “I don’t paint peoples faces, because the paintings are about me. What I’m trying to work out. What I want to understand. If I gave them faces, it would be about the models.”
Ridler felt art was an honest expression of the soul--it also reflected life through his eyes. One night tragedy strikes. Ridler experiences something that changes him and the way he paints forever. He never sees things or life the same. He wakes up and is compelled to paint what he's seen! Problem is it's a little foggy right now. He's not quite sure of everything he saw and experienced. Ridler embarks on a journey kind of like Dorothy of the Wizard of Oz when she wakes up in a strange and magical land in search of home. He's passionate in his hunt for God and desire to experience the glory. It's not as easy as following the yellow brick road. There’d be no rest for him until he found the image - gaze at it longer and hard to capture all it's splendor.
Ridler’s search takes him all around the globe, experiencing many types of religions in hopes of discovering the one true God. He's compelled to paint the glory he can't remember exactly.. He had to see it again- in order to paint it. But would he recognize this love, glory and innocence if he came upon it? That’s where his present meets his past life, life before the tragedy and the amazing experience. Why were people after him? All he ever wanted to do was paint what was on his heart! Was that a crime?
Athol takes the reader into the world of art, greed, murder and mystery when Ridler’s past meets his present! Athol does have some drug and alcohol references and sexual content that made me feel a little uncomfortable in the beginning of the story. There is no profanity--I would rate it PG 13. I knew the author wanted the reader to experience Ridler’s life, heart and mind along with his brilliant paintings in the early years.
This is the first novel I’ve read by Athol it won’t be the last. I liked Athol’s passion for art, his powerful imagination and how he gets into the heart and mind of his characters. If you enjoy art, mysteries and a wild ride across time and the globe you’ll enjoy The Opposite of Art!
Reviewed by: Nora St.Laurent
The Book Club Network
Finding Hope Through Fiction
Athol Dickson writes like no one else. He is a storyteller with impeccable timing and the ability to wend oddities and knowledge into the narrative of his books. His writing is compelling and at times beautiful, pregnant with meaning and symbolism and hidden truths about the human condition. Other times he paints less than flattering pictures that are as stark and as poignant as the beautiful scenes.
His characters are deep, though sometimes they are fleeting. Rich narrative introspection gives insight into a character’s drives and behaviors but still leaves the reader with plenty of unanswered questions to digest.
The Opposite of Art centerpiece is focused on a painter. A famous and tortured painter who trashes a relationship with the only person he’s ever loved. An accident leaves him presumed dead, and in a sense reborn. Gone is his selfish drive to feed his needs with women and drugs, it has been replaced with a yawning emptiness that leaves him exhausting himself trying to chase what he thinks might fill it. An epic spiritual journey spanning decades begins, and is told through stories and memories. Add to the palette, a young woman with father hunger, a man obsessed to possess what had belonged to the artist, and another seeking justice and peace.
Not a light read. Expect to need to put it down and ponder. Expect to be challenged. Though deeply spiritual, fans of traditional and tamer Christian Fiction may find some of the subject matter offensive. And those who want neatly buttoned up stories may find the ending frustrating. Also, this story is very literary, full of descriptions and lighter on action. If you like fast moving, action packed adventures, or a clear-cut Christian doctrine filled narrative you may want to dig a little deeper before purchasing.
Reviewed by: Kelly Klepfer
Monday, September 12, 2011
Diana Wallis Taylor
Paperback: 256 pages
Publisher: Revell (June 1, 2011)
Perhaps one of the most misunderstood and misrepresented characters of the New Testament is Martha. Often painted in the colors of reproach, Martha seems to be the poster child for how not to be a follower of Jesus.
From the mind of Diana Wallis Taylor comes this touching, well-researched portrayal of Martha of Bethany, sister of Mary and Lazarus. Through Taylor's lush descriptions and inspired combination of imagined and recorded dialogue, Martha's world--her trials, triumphs, and loves--vibrantly comes to life. Follow Martha as she is jilted by her betrothed, falls in love with a Roman soldier, grieves the death of her father, cares for her siblings, and serves her Lord with dignity and grace. Readers will never read the biblical story of Martha the same way again.
Diana Wallis Taylor's gentle retelling of the story of Martha is an engaging and thought provoking tale which I enjoyed from beginning to end. Extremely readable and faithful to the Biblical story where extrapolation was not required, Martha's story gives a possible glimpse of this woman's feelings as she and her family befriend Jesus and his disciples and welcome him into their home. Diana's Martha is a deeply responsible woman, wanting to ensure her family is cared for and respected in their community, which leads to Jesus' gentle rebuke of her choices. I loved that Diana kept the story fresh and transparent, avoiding unnecessary complexities, resulting in a moving and absorbing tale of Martha's journey to belief, acceptance and love.
Friday, September 09, 2011
By: Joan Wolf
Number of Pages: 400
Vendor: Thomas Nelson
An inspiring re-imagining of the tale of Esther, a young Jewish woman thrust from a life of obscurity into a life of power, wealth, intrigue . . . and tender love.
View the story of Esther in an entirely new way-with all the political intrigue and tension you remember, but told as a passionate and tender love story between a young man and woman. Misunderstood by many, King Xerxes was a powerful but lonely man. Esther's beauty caught the eye of the young king, but it was her spirit that captured his heart.
A Reluctant Queen is a novel based on the story of Queen Esther in the Bible. It begins with her simple life with Uncle Mordecai, followed by her agreement to become a candidate for Queen, and then continues with her journey as Queen. Throughout the story, she’s reconciling herself to her position as Queen, yet still remaining the same Esther she was raised to be. She struggles with hiding her true identity as a Jew from her husband whom she’s fallen in love with, against her better judgment. And while, for many years, she didn’t understand her Uncle’s insistence that she become Queen, towards the end of the story, she realizes that God’s hand has been guiding her all along.
I really enjoyed this book. Even though I believe the author took liberties with the story in the Bible, it was still enjoyable and brought the story to life. I enjoyed how Esther found the balance between being Queen and having authority, and still being the humble Jewish girl, willing to do what she could to help people. The aspect I loved about her is how well she treated her servants. They were her friends, and she treated them as such.
It’s a great book!
Reviewed by: Sarah Porter
Thursday, September 08, 2011
Paperback, 176 pages
Publisher: David C Cook
Release: June 2011
Jim Stovall has penned three delightful parables for anyone who wants to be inspired or give the gift of inspiration. In The Ultimate Gift, Jason Stevens learns to appreciate the value of his life, while in The Ultimate Life, he learns the value of love. Now, in the touching conclusion to the trilogy, Jason learns that life’s journey is all about traveling well—not about the destination.
In The Ultimate Journey, readers will discover the secrets of a successful life, including:
• Money helps pay for the trip, but should never be a destination …
• Friends make the journey worthwhile …
• Laughter lightens the load of any rough or rocky uphill road …
• Time may be allotted in small or large portions but the moment is what counts …
… and so much more.
Do you know how to make your life a success? The Ultimate Journey packs a powerful message for all ages.
Howard Red Stevens wanted to teach his grandson, Jason Stevens, about the stages of life so that he would not make as many mistakes when he was older. When Red died, everyone felt the loss of a man they loved very much. Jason fell in love with a woman named Emily. Emily had a little girl who was struggling with cancer and not expected to live. Jason married Emily and when they were on their honey moon, their driver, James, gave them Red's diary for them to read. I loved this book and I think that everyone should read it; especially newlywed couples. What I loved most about this book is that it tells you what all the good stages of life are going to be like and good things to know along the way.
Reviewed by: Pam Blondell, age 10
Wednesday, September 07, 2011
The Corruptible: A Ray Quinn Mystery
Paperback: 352 pages
Publisher: Multnomah Books (April 5, 2011)
How much money would it take for you to betray the truth?
Ex-homicide detective Ray Quinn never had glamorous thoughts of the life of a private investigator—but being cornered in a bathroom stall by the enraged philandering husband of a client? That’s something he could live without. Retired from homicide and living with a painful disability, Ray’s options are limited. Stick to the job, keep impetuous sidekick Crevis alive, and spend quiet evenings with trusted pal Jim Beam, that’s about the best he can hope for.
As a new client emerges, Ray finds himself in an impossibly large boardroom holding a check with enough zeros to finally lift him from his financial pit. The job seems easy enough: find Logan Ramsey, an ex-cop turned security officer who’s taken off with sensitive corporate information. But few things are easy in Ray’s world, regardless of the amount of zeros in the check.
In what should be an open-and-shut case, Ray stumbles across Logan Ramsey in a seedy motel room. Only Ray wasn’t the first to find him. Now Logan’s dead, the client’s information is nowhere to be found, and Ray’s employer is less than forthcoming with the details. Suddenly the line between the good guys and bad guys isn’t so clear. With a foot in both worlds and an illuminating look at an unhappy ending that could well be his own, which will Ray choose?
The Night Watchmen Detective Agency is in business. At the helm are the dynamic duo of Ray Quinn and Crevis.
Ray still struggles with his war wounds from his stint as a homicide detective. Crevis has a few challenges of his own. But they have the desire to overcome their struggles and catch the bad guys. A new job comes knocking and flashing some serious money. Simply find an ex-cop who took off with sensitive financial information. Simple, straightforward and those tempting big bucks.
But as Ray knows, there really is no such thing as simple. And while this cat and mouse drama goes on, Ray is finding out that his best friend Jim maybe isn’t a friend at all.
I love Mynheir’s writing. Tense, taut and action rich, but with a depth that builds terrific characters. The fact that Mynheir’s writing comes from hands-on experience adds another dimension. If it’s in one of his books, you can be pretty certain it’s authentic procedure (at least in one state). If you love cop books, mysteries and/or wounded heroes this is one that you’ll need to add to your library.
Tuesday, September 06, 2011
Book III: The River of Time Series
By Lisa T. Bergren
David C. Cook Publisher
Review by Michelle Griep
Gabriella and Evangelia Betarrini are just two normal American teenagers. Normal except for the fact that they time travel to fourteenth-century Italy, where they’ve lived in castles they’ve seen as crumbling ruins, become swept up in historic battles, and fallen in love with handsome knights willing to do anything to keep them alive.
They’ve returned to the present to save their father, just short of his tragic death, and now all four return to the place that holds the girls’ hearts, medieval Italy. But remaining there means facing great risk as the battle for territory wages on and the coming Black Plague looms. Can they convince their parents to stay and leave behind everything they’ve worked so hard to accomplish? And will the girls sacrifice their futures in an uncertain past? Or in facing death head-on, will they discover life as it was always meant to be?
Actually, I am so angry right now I could wield a sword every bit as skillfully as Gaby and lop off a few heads. I knew eventually the moment would come when I’d have to close the cover on the last book in the River of Time Series, but now that it’s here...Bubba is angry! I miss Gabby and Marcello, Lia and Luca, and Roldopho and Tomas.
It took every last molecule-sized drop of my will-power to keep from flipping to the last page in TORRENT to find out what happens at the end. Will Marcello and Gaby ultimately be together or not? Nope, not telling. You’ll have to exercise your own self-restraint and find out yourself. Just gotta say, though, it’s well worth the struggle.
This third book in the series throws a few curve balls that I didn’t seen coming. I love it when that happens! Personally, I would’ve liked to have seen a little more closure with Rodolfo at the end, but hey, I’m not complaining. Although—light bulb moment here—perhaps Lisa Bergren could be persuaded to write another trilogy with hunk of knight Lord Greco as the hero, telling his story, eh?
If you love time travels, this is the series for you. And age doesn’t matter. Bergren’s writing captures the interest of teenagers and middle-agers alike. I don’t recommend picking it up half-way through, though. Start at the beginning with Waterfall and enjoy the entire ride.
Sunday, September 04, 2011
Deliver Me from Evil (Freedom)
Publisher:New Hope Publishers
Deliver Me from Evil introduces readers to Mara, an eighteen-year-old girl who has been enslaved for nearly ten years, having been sold by her parents in Mexico and then smuggled across the border into San Diego where she was forced into sexual slavery. Readers will also meet 18-year-old, Bible-college-bound Jonathan and his 16-year-old sister, Leah, whose paths cross Mara's and who become involved in her dramatic rescue.
Interwoven between the stories of Mara, Jonathan, and Leah is the heartbreaking story of another young woman in captivity in the Golden Triangle of Thailand, whose past life mysteriously connects to the young people in San Diego.
Some novels entertain, some challenge, and some penetrate to the deepest recesses of your heart. In Delivery Me From Evil, Kathi Macias brings the issue of human trafficking to the forefront of our minds, removing the option of apathy. And yet, she does much more than weave a thought-provoking, and at times, gut-wrenching story. Throughout her novel, using various characters from different walks of life, she presents options for positive change.
We begin the story with Mara, an eighteen year old who should be planning for college and dreaming of her future but who, instead, spends each day fighting for survival. Her greatest defense is a hardened heart, if only she could keep the walls barring her emotions erected. Her heart bleeds for the abused children brought into the brothel, but her fight-or-flight instinct forces her to choke down her compassion. She’s learned the hard way--emotions are dangerous and human attachments lead to pain. Beaten, humiliated, abandoned, and betrayed, she’s given up hope for better, until, standing in the doorway of a seedy hotel, she meets the gaze of a man with eyes free of hatred and lustful hunger. Could kind men exist? Those who aren’t out to use and abuse her? Although the question draws her, her shattered heart fights against the hope it awakens.
Meanwhile, Jonathan, the young man who catches a glimpse of Mara while delivering a pizza, can’t shake the image of the terror-filled eyes staring out at him from a hotel room doorway. He tries to rationalize away what he saw, but God pricks his heart, bringing heart-wrenching clarity. As the reality of what he witnesses weighs down on him, the enormity of the problem becomes overwhelming. Sex trafficking in the United States? The thought is inconceivable, and yet, the truth is undeniable. But what can he, a high school senior, do? He’s faced with two choices: pretend this evil doesn’t exist or potentially risk his life to do something about it.
I loved this novel because not only does it educate through the story, but Kathi also provided numerous ways readers can get involved. As each character responds differently—from initiating meetings to sharing their testimony—readers understand that although the issue of human trafficking is monumental, there are ways to make a difference. The biggest of which may very well be awareness and education.
This was the first novel I’ve read by Kathi and I loved seeing her heart pour into the pages. Her choice of characters brought her message home. Through Jonathan and Mara—a youth about to embark on a very promising future and another youth robbed of her humanity—sex-trafficking victims are given a name and a face. In reading, it made me realize, but by the grace of God there goes my child or my sister. Which left me with one burning question—if Mara were my sister or daughter, to what lengths would I go to free her?
Reviewed by: Jennifer Slattery
Clash of the Titles
Friday, September 02, 2011
The Protector, Family of Honor Series #2
Shelley Shepard Gray
Number of Pages: 256
Vendor: Avon Inspire
When her mother passes away, Ella's forced to auction off her family's farm. Her father died years ago, and she could never manage the fifty acres on her own. But after she moves to town, she can't deny the pain she feels watching the new owner, Loyal Weaver, repairing her family's old farmhouse-everything Ella had once dreamed of doing.
What Ella doesn't know is that Loyal secretly hopes she will occupy this house again . . . as his wife. He begins inviting her over, to ask her opinion on changes he wants to make. As their friendship blooms, Ella starts to wonder about Loyal's intentions, especially when her best friend, Dorothy, hints that Loyal is not who he seems. There's no way the golden boy of their close-knit Amish community could be interested in Ella, long the wallflower, hidden away caring for her ailing parents.
The Protector is book 2 in the Families of Honor series. It revolves around a young Amish woman named Ella Hostetler. Ella is the type of person that never received a lot of attention, and didn’t draw attention to her self. After caring for her sick mother for some time, her mother passes, and she is forced to sell the family farm. Loyal Weaver, a popular, well-liked boy she’s grown up with but barely ever spoken to, buys her farm. Amidst the changes going on her life, Loyal begins to take an interest in Ella.
I was so excited to get this book! I love Shelly’s writing style! One of the parts I liked best about this book was watching Ella come out of her shell, and watching Loyal’s growing interest in her. While the book describes Ella as a “plain” girl, Loyal begins to see something different. He sees the beauty that’s always been there. And I loved watching her blossom under his attention. It’s the way it should be. It’s a great book and I can’t wait for book 3 to come out!
Reviewed by: Sarah Porter
Thursday, September 01, 2011
By Alison Strobel
Published by David C Cook
Back Cover: Can a brand-new marriage withstand the weight of generations-old baggage?
Newlyweds Amelia and Marcus Sheffield are recent college grads, trying to stay afloat in LA while searching for their dream jobs. Marcus hopes to become a mega-church pastor. Amelia has an esteemed music degree, and longs to play piano professionally. The Sheffields are clearly city people.
But when a small town church offers Marcus a job, the couple’s dedication to their dreams and each other is tested. After a risky compromise is made, Amelia falls into a dark emotional place, where she finds skeletons she’d fought hard to deny. In desperation, she calls out to God. But why can’t she find Him? While Amelia struggles, Marcus learns news that nearly crushes him. He must lean on his faith to withstand the pressure… or risk losing his wife forever.
I’m thankful to have received a review copy of Alison Strobel’s powerful new book! I applaud Alison for her intimate portrayal of the internal struggle most Christians deal with at one time or another! The battle waged in our minds is huge! The lies we believe about others, ourselves and God is crazy! God’s word says that the truth will set the captives free! Alison Strobel shows the countless emotional layers we could go through to get to the truth that will set us free! It’s not easy but well worth the work to get to the truth.
I loved how Alison’s characters became aware of the lies they believed about themselves. This awareness started the renewing of their minds as they walked out of their captivity and embraced what Christ said they were; not man!
Amelia and Marcus are newlyweds starting a life together fresh out of college. Both want to help the other fulfill their dreams! They map out a plan and send resume’s to parts of the USA where Marcus can get a job as a Pastor and Amelia can pursue her career as a pianist! Both were rooting for the big cities so they could make their dreams a reality! Wasn’t God going to give this to them? After all they made a commitment to Him? Isn’t that how this Christian thing worked?
It’s hard to trust God when we don’t understand why stuff happens to innocent people? Amelia and Marcus expected God to provide help whenever possible to fulfill their dreams! Their calling! Shouldn’t we expect that from God? Aren’t Christian couples guaranteed a happily ever after?
This couple soon finds out that life doesn’t guarantee anything. Marriage takes work and sacrifice! They both start living a life they never thought they would. This wasn’t their game plan! I liked Marcus and Amelia and their gut wrenching honesty with each other, themselves and God. These characters were so real to me. I cared about them and their complicated situation. I also liked how they got mad at God; each had their own way of expressing these feeling.
Amelia says to herself, “If God thought He could fool around with her heart that way, then she’d fight Him for it…It’s my life, she reminded God in her angry head. And if you’re going to work that way, then you can just back off!”
I liked how they got real with each other. Marcus says, “The bottom line is that you’ve stopped trusting God. You don’t trust Him to lead you. You don’t trust Him to have a plan for your life that you’d actually love. You seem to think your future success rests solely on your own efforts!”
Alison captures the essence of how doubt enters our mind, and how quickly we start to put up walls to protect our heart and not let God work in our lives. We think we know better. Ouch! I’ve been there! Marcus nails it, “God’s ways are not our ways, Amelia love. And neither is His timing. We can’t see what He’s orchestrating behind the scenes!”
The emotions they dealt with as they peeled back the layers of their lives was raw. It’s easy to believe God when everything’s going your way but what do you do when it stops and live throws you a curve ball? God sees the bigger picture and can work through us in any circumstance, if we let Him. I enjoyed this author’s look at some common things couples go through. This is definitely Alison’s best book so far! I highly recommend reading it more than once (there is so much good stuff in there) and passing it onto friends!
The Book Club Network
Finding Hope Through Fiction
Bonus Review :
This book intrigued me from the title to the last chapter. It's a very raw and real look into the lives of a newlywed couple just out of college still trying to figure a lot of things out-things like how to compromise to make their marriage work, where their dreams will take them, and who they are...as individuals and as a couple in Christ. But when things happen, like Marcus getting offered a job as senior pastor to a small church in "middle-of-nowhere" Nebraska (hahaha) fresh out of seminary; and Amelia becoming pianist for a new musical theatre group in LA, their ideas on Gods will seem to conflict and collide. Ultimately deeper issues of insecurities and mental disorders are revealed....can they make it through and still remain faithful to each other and to their faith in the Master Planner, God? Find out by reading, 'composing amelia'. I really enjoyed this entire book-it went to some dark and difficult places that few dare to venture in. I was very impressed with how realistically everything is portrayed; and how, Alison gets across that though it doesn't always feel like God is there that He truly cares about us..God is the only thing that matters in the end.
Reviewed by: Rachael Schnitker
Composing Amelia is a well-written novel that explores a lot of difficult issues. Prayer, childhood shaping, real “Christianity” vs. social, mental illness, marriage and faith, and each of these areas are handled with respect and an honesty that is refreshing. The trend of telling-it-like-it-often-is rather than the sanitized version of what it “should” be in Christian Fiction is an excellent trend. Why? Because stories should grab the heart, and a good story grabs the heart and hangs onto it. A story designed to tell the truth about life and the need we have to become better rather than victims is a good story indeed.
Good story that it is, Composing Amelia not without areas that could be controversial and challenging to those who prefer very sanitized stories. However, if you long for fiction that points to God and tells the truth about we complicated and challenging humans who need Him, get a copy.
Reviewed by: Kelly Klepfer