Monday, November 30, 2009

Athol Dickson's The Lost Mission ~ Reviewed

Lost Mission: A Novel
Athol Dickson
Paperback: 368 pages
Publisher: Howard Books (September 15, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1416583475

Book Description:

What haunting legacy awaits deep beneath the barrios and wealthy enclaves of Southern California?

An idyllic Spanish mission collapses in the eighteenth century atop the supernatural evidence of a shocking crime. Twelve generations later the ground is opened up, the forgotten ruins are disturbed, and rich and poor alike confront the onslaught of resurging hell on earth. Caught up in the catastrophe are...

• A humble shopkeeper compelled to leave her tiny village deep in Mexico to preach in America
• A minister wracked with guilt for loving the wrong woman
• An unimaginably wealthy man, blinded to the consequences of his grand plans
• A devoted father and husband driven to a horrible discovery that changes everything

Will the evil that destroyed the Misión de Santa Dolores rise to overwhelm them? Or will they beat back the terrible desires that led to the mission's good Franciscan founder's standing in the midst of flames ignited by his enemies and friends alike more than two centuries ago?

From the high Sierra Madre mountains to the harsh Sonoran desert, from the privileged world of millionaire moguls to the impoverished immigrants who serve them, Athol Dickson once again weaves a gripping story of suspense that spans centuries and cultures to explore the abiding possibility of miracles.


I really wanted to read this novel. I've not read Athol Dickson before but had heard great things about him. When a review copy was offered to me, I jumped on it. But then the book came and I read the back cover. "Hmmm." I thought. "Well, I'll get to it eventually." And then I set the book down. The subject did not appeal. But then came the blog tour and I needed to be able to say something about the book. So I opened it.

Two strikes right away. One is the omniscient tone of the story. For some reason that's my least favorite point of view. Second was the abundance of names within the first few pages. I have trouble keeping track of too many characters and too soon into a book and I'm annoyed.

Then I got into the story and wow, this man can write. The praise and awards are well-deserved.

The story is two distinct yet similar stories unfolding in the same location, two centuries apart. Two characters choose to love the lost at the cost of their own moral compass, two characters choose love of laws and rules over loving people, and two characters struggle with caring deeply about the events unfolding and feeling helpless to do anything about those events.

Changing centuries threw me the first chapter but then it became more clever and clearer and the omniscient point of view added greatly to the seamless weaving of events. The characters were all important and as I read Dickson made sure that I knew enough about them that they became easy to remember and know. So much for my complaints. From there it's just a great, thought-provoking read. And challenging. I saw myself in each of the characters. Not necessarily a positive thing and it required me to face some of the issues in my life and how I might need to tweak my thinking a bit. Did I mention it's fascinating as well? An outbreak of some horrific disease/plague (assuming it was small pox) decimates as does fire. Dickson is an artist with words and characters. I've not read such fresh prose in quite awhile.

I'm recommending it to anyone. However, don't expect to be untouched by the story. It's not an easy one to read or digest. And it's not a mindless beach read either. Action lovers could struggle with the slower pace. Literary lovers should put it on their Christmas list.

Reviewed by: Kelly Klepfer

Friday, November 27, 2009

Susan Meissner's White Picket Fences ~ Reviewed

By: Susan Meissner
Published by: Waterbrook
358 Pages

Back Cover:

When the storybook-perfect Janvier family temporarily "adopts" their teenaged niece, Tally, they assume they'll be helping her. But when Tally befriends her cousin, Chase, she soon realizes that he badly needs encouragement, too. When the troubled teens interview two holocaust survivors for a sociology project, will they trigger the healing process that everybody needs?


Secrets! When is it ok to keep a secret? This is what Amanda; Tally’s aunt says about them, “My grandmother had her secrets. My father had his. You have yours. And I… What do they really accomplish anyway? I mean, think about it. What secret did anyone any good? Can you think of one?”

Tally does think of a good secret. Josef and Eliasz told of their secret operation to save babies from the horrific conditions of the ghetto. It had to be kept a secret so that lives could be saved. Tally knew that her Aunt was hinting around that she should tell her the reason her father was off on a sudden trip to Europe. Her father has asked her not to tell and she wasn’t sure why but she wanted to keep the secret.

Tally’s father Bart is a drifter. Tally has lived more places than she could count. Bart left her at her grandmother’s house so that he could head to Warsaw to uncover a family secret. He would come for Tally after he found what he was looking for. But something neither of them planned on happened at her grandmother’s house.

After that unfortunate event Tally goes to temporally stay with Aunt Amanda and Uncle Neil, with their two children Chase and Delcey. Tally observes this two parented family. This is the first time for her to stay with them. Delcey isn’t crazy about sharing her room or having anything to do with her. Chase is in the same grade and they team up to do a project for school. Chase included his best friend in the mix as well. The three of them head out to learn about the Holocaust and its survivors. Chase just so happens to know two men in a nursing home they can talk to.

When Josef and Eliasz start sharing their story something is stirred in Chase and he can’t shake it. He starts to have nightmares and soon realizes that what he’s haunted by in his sleep is real. He searches for the missing pieces of his families past that will help him uncover some family secrets that have to be exposed. He could not be tortured by them anymore.

Susan once again pens a remarkable story I hadn’t expected. Her characters are believable, and talk about things you only think of, but don’t say. I truly liked how she discussed the horrific subject matter of the Holocaust, the survivors and the matter of family secrets. Which do you keep and which ones need telling no matter how painful you might think it will be to expose them. This is one very compelling story, of fighting for what is right, loving till it hurts and developing relationships that are loving and matter. I received a review copy of this book and I’m very glad I did.

Nora St.Laurent
Finding Hope Through Fiction

Bonus Review:

3.5/5 Stars

When I heard about this new novel from Susan Meissner, I was extremely excited because to me "The Shape of Mercy" is now a classic that all students who study the Crucible should also have to read. While "White Picket Fences" is a completely different type of book it is still incredible writing. For me, I would not necessarily call it a favorite, but overall as a whole (redundant I know, but making a point here) I enjoyed it. Looking at the cover of this book tells you the most of what you need to know. There is the white picket fence slats and then a spiders web weaving it's way right in. Perfectionism would make one want to get rid of the web and go back to perfection, but the artistic persona would believe that the web was part of the whole picture that made it a different kind of perfect. Really, this cover could not be more appropriate for the message within the story.

Several characters share their point of view and take the slot as the main protagonist going throughout the book. There is Amanda, the mother who realizes everything is fading from her grasp and her way of dealing seems to be to sit and watch it go. Then there is Tallulah, or Tally, the cousin that has had a roller coaster life, or at least it would seem that way to an outsider. Learning the obstacles and neat realities of her life is an adventure and really not all bad. Lastly of main people, there is Chase, the son who deals with a memory that he cannot see the entirety of and possibility seems to push him further and further to the edge.

There were times while reading that I was just ready for something to happen. While there are some action events in this novel that is not the type of novel that it is. This book is more about the inner part of a person and how things change and affect it. It is incredible the way that Susan writes and she can really get to you as a reader and challenge your own emotions and the way that you see things in your own life. So many people try to live the life of perfection and it is interesting how they react when things do not quite pan out that way. The questions and changes to the lives of the characters is not what one would expect after reading the book blurb or hearing a summary. There are psychological elements here and they are barely touched upon in the writing, but present non the less.

I personally, put this book on the keeper shelf, but recommend that when you read it to have some time available so that you can mull over just what it is that you should take from reading the novel.

Reviewed by: Margaret Chind

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Roseanna M. White's A Stray Drop of Blood ~ Reviewed

A Stray Drop of Blood

By Roseanna M. White

December 2009

WhiteFire Publishing


Review by Michelle Griep

Beautiful is a dangerous thing to be when one is unprotected.

For seven years, Abigail has been a slave in the Visibullis house. With a Hebrew mistress and a Roman master, she has always been more family than servant…until their son returns to Jerusalem after his years in Rome. Within a few months Jason has taken her to his bed and turned her world upside down. Maybe, given time, she can come to love him as he says he loves her. But how does she open her heart to the man who ruined her?

Israel’s unrest finds a home in her bosom, but their rebellion tears apart her world. Death descends with Barabbas’s sword, and Abigail is determined to be there when the criminal is punished. But when she ventures to the trial, Barabbas is not the one the crowd calls to crucify. Instead, it is the teacher her master and Jason had begun to follow, the man from Nazareth that some call the Son of God…

Born free, made a slave, married out of her bonds, Abigail never knows freedom until she feels the fire of a stray drop of blood from a Jewish carpenter. Disowned by Israel, despised by Rome, desired by all, she never knows love until she receives the smile of a stoic Roman noble.

A Stray Drop of Blood is a fast-paced story that keeps you guessing until the very end. The unexpected plot twists and action make for an entertaining read—not your average ‘I-know-how-this-is-going-to-end’ type of tale.

One thing that author Roseanna White really nails is influencing a readers’ emotions via characterization. When main character Jason Visibullis was introduced, I took an instant dislike to the man, which rapidly turned to disgust. However, later on, White managed to completely change my opinion of him, and he became one of my favorites.

I think this is an important book because of how well it describes the plight of women. Granted, this happens to be told from a slave’s point of view, but even contemporary women will relate to the way heroine Abigail is treated. Ultimately this is a story of hope and contentment.

If you’re a lover of Biblical era novels, then this is the book for you…or a great Christmas gift for someone you know that has a Bible times penchant.


I’ve just finished A Stray Drop of Blood, I’m speechless, teary eyed, filled with wonder and know I’ve caught a glimpse of a Biblical time period in a whole new way. Roseanna White has written a masterfully crafted story with characters I grew to love and some I loathed. The people in this story have been forever embedded in my heart and mind as they learned of Jesus and finally encounter him up-close and personal. It’s an enthralling read.

I’m so thankful to have received a review copy of this astounding tale which transported me to a time where Jesus walked his final days. This book is viewed through Abigail’s eyes and her experience of being born free, sold into slavery, and all she went through because of her beauty. Reading of people, who were hearing about Jesus for the first time and seeing their reactions, was compelling and heart wrenching at times.

It was remarkable to read how Rome was ahead of its time in technology and design. What fascinated me as I read this haunting and hopeful story was that what people struggled with then, we're still dealing with today. Times have changed dramatically with technology, but with matters of the heart, nothing is new under the sun.

Roseanna takes great care in walking you through the marketplace and homes to show you colorful details of the city and its people. I truly felt I was there. I loved imagining how people might have heard about Jesus at that time. They didn’t have instant messaging, email or CNN for that matter. Word got around slowly.

Abigail said, “I am only a woman, Andrew, and a slave. I do not pretend to have the answers. But nowhere in the Holy Scripture themselves have I read or heard of a king come to triumph over nations. I have heard only of a savior come to be defeated.”

Abigail’s story is one of faith, hope, and love, nothing short of an astounding miracle for this extraordinary Jewish girl. This is one author I’ll be keeping an eye on what she writes next, you will too.

Reviewed by: Nora St.Laurent
ACFW Book Club Assistant

Monday, November 23, 2009

Tim Kehoe's The Unusual Mind of Vincent Shadow ~ Reviewed

The Unusual Mind of Vincent Shadow
by Tim Kehoe
Published by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
ISBN-10: 0316056650


Vincent Shadow isn't particularly good at sports and is constantly being picked on by his classmates at Central Middle School. But it is Vincent's unusually creative mind that truly separates him from other kids his age.

Vincent's top secret attic lab is crammed with toy prototypes --from Liquid Superballs to Bullz-I Basketballs and Sonic Snorkelz--and he has a sketch book filled with drawings of toys he still wants to build. So when a chance encounter with an eccentric toy inventor offers him the opportunity to go from unknown weird kid to toy inventor extraordinaire, Vincent realizes that playtime is over: it's time to get serious about toys.


Vincent Shadow, a winsome, spunky eleven-year-old, has lost his Mom, his cohort in inventing toys. . Creating a new stepmom equal to Cinderella's, along with two annoying stepsisters, Kehoe delightfully adds a third stepsister, Stella. With Stella as his new stalwart encourager, Vincent wildly attempts to move from being the school's weird kid to winning the Annual Whizzer Toy Contest (and may I add that the emphasis there is on "wildly."

Except for getting exhausted from charging through his experiments with Vincent working night after night after night with no sleep, and except for constantly worrying how many children are going to read this book, attempt one of the experiments, and blow up his or her house, I found the book a perfect blend of appealing character, a captivating friendship, and a thrilling exploration of scientific ideas. Along with it being a fast-paced, fun romp, The Unusual Mind of Vincent Shadow will add wonder and excitement to any grade schooler's love of science.

Reviewed by Barbara Davidson

Friday, November 20, 2009

Denise Hunter's Seaside Letters ~ Reviewed

Seaside Letters
By Denise Hunter
Published by Thomas Nelson
ISBN# 978-1-59554-260-1
320 Pages

Back Cover:

Sabrina never intended to fall in love with Tucker McCabe, the man she serves coffee to every morning at a Nantucket café—especially since he’s unwittingly tied to a past she deeply regrets. But she’s fallen hard, though she’s kept her feelings a secret.

When Tucker learns Sabrina is the research assistant for a local mystery writer, he asks Sabrina to help him with a little sleuthing of his own…locating an elusive woman he’s fallen for online.

If Sabrina accepts the job, she’ll spend her evenings in close proximity to a man who can never be hers. If she turns him down, he’ll hire someone else—and that would be a disaster. Because if someone else sifts through all those letters and find out the truth, Tucker will discover her secret…

That the person he’s trying to find is her.


At first this book reminded me of the movie, You’ve Got Mail, with Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan. It’s similar because it talks about an online relationship but brings in so many more twists and turns—it’s great!

Denise Hunter has a note to her readers, it says, “I’m so thankful to have a God who seeks me out, one who persistently pursues me—despite my efforts to hide and build walls—and lavishes love on me like I’m his only child.” What a insight into this creative story.

Sabrina is a waitress and Tucker is a customer at her café. Sabrina knows Tucker really well under the identity of Harbormaster. Tucker knows Sabrina by her computer name Sweet Pea. Neither of them realizes that they know the others secret identity. The only live conversation they have is Tucker asking for breakfast and coffee and Sabrina bringing it to him.

Sabrina has been hurt deeply and wants to keep the relationship at a safe distance—online safe. An internet relationship is easy, she could be accepted at face value; her opinions mattered and she could talk to her friend anytime. All was right with the world until Tucker wanted to meet her face to face. It had been a year and he wanted to take their on-line relationship to the next level.

Denise grabbed my attention from the very beginning and did not disappoint. With every page the plot thickened. I had no idea how this thing could end. Denise is a master at weaving a complicated but simple story with very colorful characters, she makes you root for and have compassion for them. It’s a delightful, fun, soul searching, redeeming love story—you won’t soon forget.

Reviewed by: Nora St.Laurent
Finding Hope Through Fiction
Christian Fiction On-line Mag - Columnist

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Kirk Outerbridge's Eternity Falls ~ Reviewed

By Kirk Outerbridge
Published by Marcher Lord Press
ISBN# 978-0-9821049-7-2
370 Pages

Back Cover:

The stunning starlet Greta Darling, who looked 22 but was really 89, has suddenly died. Of natural causes. Desperate to assure their billions of clients that the Miracle Treatment really does work, company executives call in private investigator Rick Macey. Macey's job is to find out what really happened to Greta Darling-or, failing that, to simply come up with some other explanation for how she died. Macey is a war veteran with very special abilities, and his own reasons for taking this case.

What exactly is so wonderful about living forever? Who is really pulling the strings here? What do the religious clues at the crime scene mean? And who will be left standing...when eternity falls?

To read chapter one click HERE.


I loved the cover so much I wanted to read what was inside, so I signed up to received a review copy of this book. What a fun, wonderful, surprising wild action adventure, thrill ride reading this book was. I didn’t expect to find a story with heart, soul and something to think about in-between all the action. Wow!

Gen. Rick Macy with the Department of Civil Defense and Intelligence (CDI) office is the best, of the best in his field, That’s why he’s called in to this unusual case. Someone has died of natural causes but Sheila, the CEO of Miracle Treatment,thinks other wise. The victim Greta Darling had been taking Miracle Treatments to live forever. Death wasn’t a possibility. There had to be fowl play.

The character Macy reminds me of John McClaine, played by Bruce Willis in the Die Hard movies. The back drop of this book reminds me of a futuristic space drama. Macy one cop you don’t want to mess with but want on your side. Sheila will pay any price to get to the bottom of this murder. They both will pay more than then they realize.

This was an exciting cyber adventure you won’t want to miss. The author brings up some interesting issues this community and the CEO of Miracle Treatment have to deal with. It leads them to consider there is a God that wants a personal relationship with us. Here’s a sneak peek.

“Despite what the rest of the world does, our duty is to remain faithful as an example to others, don’t you think God could make everyone obey Him? So, why doesn’t He? I’ll tell you why, because God doesn’t want forced obedience. God wants love, and love involves a choice. Every human being needs to choose for himself”

The imagery in this book reminds me of the movie, I Robot with its crazy car chases, high tech. cyber fighting, and new fangled gadgets. Interesting communiation technology is explored in this book that, with an access code you could enter someone’s mind and talk to each other virtually, very cool! I’d read this book again!

Reviewed by: Nora St.Laurent
Finding Hope Through Fiction

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Tim Downs's The Ends of The Earth ~ Reviewed

Ends of the Earth (Bug Man Series)
Tim Downs
Pub. Date: September 2009
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Format: Paperback, 358pp
ISBN-13: 9781595543080


Nick must face the realities of lost opportunities and the passing of time as he struggles to protect a mother and her child from agro-terrorists in this latest novel from award-winning author Tim Downs.

Dr. Nick Polchak is called to a farm community in eastern North Carolina to investigate a murder. The victim is the owner of a failing organic farm who had developed a drug problem, and the police think his murder is drug-related.

Nick finds the remains of a bale of marijuana scattered in the tomato fields--but the South American marijuana seems to be strangely infested with a common North Carolina insect: the tobacco hornworm. To further confound the mystery, the bugs are infected with a fungus from Asia. Nick suspects the man wasn't killed because of the marijuana, but because of the insects it contained.

He then discovers that a vicious agricultural scheme is underway to cripple the U.S.'s corn and ethanol production. But just how far will these terrorists go in their quest?


I love Nick Polchak. And I love Tim Downs' writing.

Ends of the Earth mostly satisfied my need for more of the above. Mostly.

Nick was classic Nick; focused, clueless in the art of human interactions, sarcastic and brilliant. The story was full of freakishly icky things that hopefully are not likely to become reality. Fascinating plot points include: agroterrorism, dog heroism, bugs, organic farming, murder, bugs, forensic entomology, farming, and autism.

Add to that a love triangle unlike any I've ever encountered and you've got a great, entertaining and detailed read.

However, I struggled a bit with the triangle. I've read all the bug man series within the past couple of months so I have a pretty good feel for what's going on for Nick romantically. Or I thought I did anyway. But I didn't buy some of the dialogue between a couple of characters. There were a couple of conversations that bordered on annoying and unbelievable. I also struggled a bit with the interest in one particular woman. I didn't read sparks in the first story and didn't buy into the long-term emotional connection that seemed much stronger in Ends than it ever did in the original story. Also, there were times where Nick was too far offstage and I really missed his presence.

I feel picky for even stating my issues, but, if you are a fan of Downs/Polchak I want to warn you. The end is very open as well. As a matter of fact, Downs, wants the reader to pick the ending from two different possibilities on his website. I haven't done that yet but plan to. If you aren't a fan of Downs and you like forensic, fun science facts, sarcastic characters and descriptive writing, you really should become one. This series is great.

Reviewed by: Kelly Klepfer

Monday, November 16, 2009

Chi Libris Members' A Novel Idea ~ Reviewed

A Novel Idea
By the members of Chi Libris
Published by Tyndale
ISBN: 987-1-4143-2994-9


Have you always wanted to write the next Great American Novel, but don't know where to start? Do you have a story just asking to come out, but aren’t sure how you should set up the plot? Want to know what really defines Christian fiction?

Tyndale House Publishers is pleased to announce the release of A Novel Idea: Best Advice on Writing Inspirational Fiction, a compilation from a collection of Christian authors including Jerry Jenkins, Karen Kingsbury, Francine Rivers, Randy Alcorn, Robin Jones Gunn, Angela Hunt, and any other beloved authors, that answers many questions budding writers or seasoned pros may ask.

In this guide to fiction writing, you will find tips for writers block, how to market your writing, and personal stories from the authors who have been through it all before. This valuable guide also contains tips on plotting, dialogue, point of view, characterization, marketing, social networking, and more!


A Novel Idea is a writers conference in a book. Besides all the great chapters, there are sidebars, which are like the workshops at a conference. Things like the need for conflict, creating characters not constructing them, authentic dialogue, research, a character's "aha" moment, and a ton of others.

To top it all off, all proceeds will benefit MAI (Media Associates International), an international organization whose goal is to help fledgling writers and publishers produce

Christian literature that is culturally relevant.

I have a lot of book about writing, but I haven't seen one yet with such great advice by so many multi-published and best-selling authors. Novel Journey and I give this book a high recommendation.

Reviewed by Ane Mulligan

Editor, Novel Journey

Friday, November 13, 2009

Ronie Kendig's Dead Reckoning ~ Reviewed

Dead Reckoning
By Ronie Kendig
Published by Abingdon Press
ISBN 978-1-4267-0058-3


Trapped by a nuclear terrorist plot in Mumbai, underwater archeologist Shiloh Blake is consumed with passion for the water and inflamed at the injustices of life.

When her first large-scale dig traps her in the middle of an international nuclear arms clash, she flees for her life. When she spots a man trailing her, the questions are, "Who is he?" and "How is he always one step ahead?"

Reese Jaxon is a former navy seal and now serves his country as a spy. His life is entangled by the beguiling Shiloh Blake as he hunts down the sources to a nuclear dead drop in the Arabian Sea near Mumbai, India.

The only way to end this nightmare and prevent a nuclear meltdown is to join forces with Reese. Will Shiloh violate her vow to never become a spy?


Reading Dead Reckoning was like watching an action-adventure film. A spy-thriller, it grabs you by the imagination from page one and doesn't let go until the end. I don't like to give anything away on a novel, so suffice it to say the characters are well developed and complex. The plot is completely believable, and Kendig keeps the tension high throughout. I read it on a flight from Atlanta to Seattle, and she made a 5 ½ hour flight seem like a 90-minute one. I definitely recommend Dead Reckoning to anyone who loves spy thrillers. You won't be disappointed!

Reviewed by: Ane Mulligan
Editor, Novel Journey

Bonus Review:

Remind me never to end up as a character in a Ronie Kendig novel! Danger and intrigue lurk around every corner and just when you think safety is in sight, the hammer of heartache drops again, hurtling Shiloh Blake deeper into jeopardy. Then there is Reece Jaxon...okay, on second thoughts maybe I do want to be in her books, after all ;-)

Brilliantly executed in every way, Ronie Kendig has a winner on her hands with her debut novel, Dead Reckoning. The non stop action, fuelled by Shiloh's spirited personality and the indefatigable CIA agent Reece Jaxon's dedication to his mission, is breathtaking and enthralling. While the attraction between Shiloh and Reece is palpable, Ronie doesn't settle for a predictable romance, as Shiloh struggles with feelings for her dearest friend. Complex characters and relationships are plentiful. The setting of Mumbai, India increases the exotic appeal of this story but it is the relentless turmoil and the compelling writing that set this novel apart.

Readers who have been bemoaning the loss of Dee Henderson's writing, need complain no more! Ronie Kendig ups the stakes in Dead Reckoning, reminiscent of Jennifer Garner and Alias in novel form. Ronie's new military suspense series can't come soon enough - be looking for the first of her Discarded Heroes series, Nightshade, in July, 2010 from Barbour.

Reviewed by: Rel Mollet

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Kerry Nietz's A Star Curiously Singing ~ Reviewed

A Star Curiously Singing
Kerry Nietz
Paperback: 308 pages
Publisher: Marcher Lord Press (October 1, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0982104987


If he fixes the robot, will he break his world? In a future ruled by sharia law machines are managed by debuggers, who in turn are owned by masters. Sandfly is a level 12 debugger. He is sent into Earth orbit to repair a robot-a robot that went on an experimental flight into deep space... And tore itself apart. As Sandfly digs into the mystery aboard the space station, he discovers what the bot heard around that distant star. He discovers that the bot heard...singing. As Sandfly pieces together the clues, the masters spread the trap before his feet. Everyone is racing to the same conclusion, but only one side welcomes what the singing represents.


The only reality Sandfly knows is that of the dystopian future, in a world where Islamic moral law controls a technology driven society. A debugger of robots, Sandfly is enslaved body and mind to the will of his master, controlled by an implant in his brain, yet ironically possessing greater mental capacity than those who are free.

When Sandfly’s master sends him to a space station to fix a robot that self-destructed after a groundbreaking deep space flight, he immediately faces a mystery beyond his means to grasp. As he works to “debug” the fragmented robot, he begins to suspect the cause of its self destruction may change the nature of the universe as they know it.

Sandfly’s distinctive voice helps make an alien world feel real and provides a strong connection point to him as a character. As he struggles with faith, his role as a slave, and the mysteries he faces, his tale grows in interest and intensity and culminates with a satisfying ending that still leaves room to anticipate the coming sequel.

Reviewed by: Sarah Sawyer

Bonus Review:

Thanks go to the author for my review copy. He allowed me to go on science fiction adventure I normally wouldn’t have taken, but I’m glad I did. This story is written in first person, point of view, inside the main character Sandfly’s head. He is a debugger, which allows him access to the “stream”. The “stream” is a huge internet super highway. He needs access to information in order to do his job, which is to repair and re-program robots from the inside out.

A debugger was a slave to his master and on call 24/7. Sandfly calls himself this, “a tool with emotions.” The master controls him through an implant in his head. If Sandfly rebelled, had “bad” thoughts”-- “free thinking”, he would be zapped like a dog hitting an electrical fence, except it’s inside his head.

The master sends Sandfly to solve a mystery—something went wrong with a robot, its torn himself to pieces. But why? It’s his job to understand what happened and put the pieces back together if he can. He needed to find out what went wrong so he can determine if humans were in danger of the same fate.

The main character Sandfly, I thought was similar to that of Mr. Spock from the Star Trek T.V. Shows; with his serious manner, quick wit and dry sense of humor. I also got the feel that Sandfly was on a space ship the size of the Enterprise.

Sneak peak into one of the cool download capabilities of transferring huge files implant to implant. Sandfly sends the file for Hard Candy to view and experience.

“I made you an FI of everything I know..sending…” Hard Candy looks down, then shuts her eyes as the message hits her—triple encrypted and specially tuned for her frequency. I can see her emotions as she views it. The creases on her forehead deepen and her arms tighten. Her head shakes on more than one occasion. Finally her eyes open.

“That was intense,” she says, “Bright orange intense.”

Can you imagine communicating like that? Wow! I don’t read science fiction often, so it took me a few chapters to get in the grove of this story and understand what was going on, imagine the space ship and picture the interesting characters the author describes. So, don’t give up on this book in the beginning, it will take you to fascinating places.

Reviewed by: Nora St. Laurent
ACFW Book Club Coordinator

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Goyer and Yorkey's The Swiss Courier ~ Reviewed

By Tricia Goyer & Mike Yorkey
Published by: Revell
324 Pages

Back Cover:

She's risking her life to save a man she doesn't know. But who can she trusts along the way?

It is August 1944, and the Gestapo is mercilessly rounding up suspected enemies of the Third Reich following the assassination attempt on Adolf Hitler's life. Gabi Mueller is a young woman working for the newly formed American Office of Strategic Services (the forerunner to the CIA) in Basel, Switzerland. When she is asked to put herself in harm's way to safely "courier" a German scientist working on the atomic bomb project into Allied hands, the fate of the world hangs in the balance. This fast-paced, suspenseful novel will whisk you along the treacherous twists and turns of a fascinating- and deadly- time in history.


Because I’ve read other books by Tricia Goyer that inspired me and this time period-talking about the Gestapo, intrigued me, I signed up to receive a review copy of this book. Once again Tricia working with Mike Yorkey created unforgettable characters and brought history to life. Historical fiction gives you the best of two worlds, one, I learn about history and two, I was moved by the story of brave, heroic characters going up against the odds of their time period for the greater good.

I wondered how things escalated in 1944 with Hitler’s rule and when the atomic bomb was developed. It was amazing how many people risked their lives to see justice was done to fight against the Gestapo and its plans to dominate.

There’s a good blend of the colorful characters and the unbelievable events that made this book quite an enthralling read. I was so thankful for the list of character names and rank in the beginning of the book. I found myself referring to the list to make sure who was on whose side. It was fascinating how farmers, shopkeepers, soldiers all came together for the common good, risked their very life to fight the good fight and see that their agenda was achieved for man kind.

I liked how the authors tell you about Valkir (in the preface), the last attempt to kill Hitler that failed and how it escalated the development of the Atomic bomb. After that event is when this story picks up. Wow!! You’ll want to read this for sure and see history come alive.

Reviewed by: Nora St.Laurent
Finding Hope Through Fiction

Bonus Review:

Wow! This was a page-turner from the first chapter. The authors did a wonderful job of telling a believable story that had plenty of unpredictable plot. It is set during WWII in "neutral" Switzerland. It deals with trust and faith in a way that many authors haven't explored. It made me think about my faith and how much I am willing to risk for it. It also gave me a new appreciation for the people who risked and gave their lives for our freedom. I would recommend this book to anyone and give it two thumbs up.

Reviewed by: Leeann Garben

Monday, November 09, 2009

Camy Tang's Deadly Intent ~ Reviewed

Deadly Intent
By Camy Tang
Published by:Steeple Hill
212 Pages

Back Cover:

The Grant family’s exclusive Sonoma spa is a place for rest and relaxation—not murder! When Naomi Grant finds her client Jessica Ortiz bleeding to death in her massage room, everything falls apart. The salon’s reputation is at stake..and so is Naomi’s freedom when she discovers that she is one of the main suspects! Her only solace is found with the other suspect—Dr. Devon Knightley, the victim’s ex-husband. But Devon is hiding secrets of his own. When they come to light, where can Naomi turn..and whom can she trust?


I received a complementary copy of this book and I’m so glad I did.

Camy Tang does an incredible job of packing so much action, suspense, humor and drama in only 212 pages. Wow!! What a different writing style than the one I read in her debut novel Sushi for One, which is a chick’lit style light hearted story. I didn’t know what to expect when I started reading Deadly Intent. Part of me wondered how this chick’lit style writer would write a murder mystery. I was pleasantly surprised and I’m happy to report Camy pens a great who-done-it. I liked the fact that the author kept me guessing up until the very last page. Camy brings the book to a climatic ending that satisfies. Camy had me so hooked to her murder mystery I carried her book with me wherever I went grabbing a few minutes here and there to discover more clues so I could figure out who was behind all these attempted murders and killings.

At the same time Camy Tang touches on issues that cut to the heart of the matter. Because of all the drama and heartache her main character, Naomi, goes through, she starts to wonder about God. Did she really believe in Him and why was God allowing all these bad things to happen to her?

There is something honest and true about Naomi’s struggle—I found out why in the author notes. Camy admits that she had these very same struggles with God that Naomi had in the book, when she was in College. I truly enjoyed this book and the way Camy brought this suspenseful story to life. The characters and their struggles were believable. It was fun to have the setting of this book at a spa. I hope that Camy has the opportunity to write a full length action adventure story. I can only imagine what she could develop with more pages to expand her characters and the plot twists. Way to go Camy!!

Reviewed by: Nora St.Laurent
Finding Hope Through Fiction

Friday, November 06, 2009

Linda S. Clare's The Fence My Father Built ~ Reviewed

The Fence My Father Built
By Linda S. Clare
Published By: Abingdon Press
ISBN# 9781426700736
294 Pages

Back Cover:

When legally separated Muri Pond, a librarian, hauls her kids, teenager Nova and eleven year-old Truman, out to the tiny town of Murkee, Oregon, where her father, Joe Pond lived and died, she's confronted by a neighbor's harassment over water rights and Joe's legacy: a fence made from old oven doors.

The fence and accompanying house trailer horrify rebellious Nova, who runs away to the drug-infested streets of Seattle. Muri searches for her daughter and for something to believe in, all the while trying to save her inheritance from the conniving neighbor who calls her dad Chief Joseph. Along with Joe's sister, Aunt Lutie, and the Red Rock Tabernacle Ladies, Muri must rediscover the faith her alcoholic dad never abandoned in order to reclaim her own spiritual path.


Linda Clare pens a heart warming and sensitive story about a woman, Muri Pond, whose whole world has been turned upside down with her pending divorce. An Aunt she hardly knows seeks her out for help; help in keeping the property that belonged to her father—the father she never remembered meeting. She had hopes of meeting him someday but learns from her Aunt, her father is dead.

Muri brings her two teenage children to stay with her Aunt while she tries to understand the lawsuit against her father’s property for water rights. When they get to the Central Oregon high desert property; they soon discover that her Aunt lives in a trailer in the middle of nowhere, Muri wonders if she's done the right thing. There's no Super Wal-Mart, or any other modern convenience near by. Reality hits. What has she done?

Life, as Muri and her children have known it, is over. Fighting this legal battle might take longer than Muri thinks. Her oldest child, Nova, gives her mother a really bad time (the way only teenagers can) about taking them away from her friends and the world they left behind. Nova couldn't get out of this desert trap fast enough.

Muri discovers things about herself, her father and the beautiful nature around her that are surprising. In the author notes Linda reveals she’s had a similar journey in life where she was seeking to learn about her father and her Native American roots. I really enjoyed how Linda told this story though the eyes of Muri with all her struggles, feelings and wonder. I received a review copy of this book and I'm looking forward to reading more books by this author.

Reviewed by: Nora St.Laurent
Finding Hope Through Fiction

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Mary DeMuth's A Slow Burn ~ Reviewed

A Slow Burn (Defiance Texas Trilogy, Book 2)
Mary DeMuth
Paperback: 368 pages
Publisher: Zondervan; 1 edition (October 1, 2009)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0310278376

About the Book:

She touched Daisy’s shoulder. So cold. So hard. So unlike Daisy.

Yet so much like herself it made Emory shudder.

Burying her grief, Emory Chance is determined to find her daughter Daisy’s murderer—a man she saw in a flicker of a vision. But when the investigation hits every dead end, her despair escalates. As questions surrounding Daisy’s death continue to mount, Emory’s safety is shattered by the pursuit of a stranger, and she can’t shake the sickening fear that her own choices contributed to Daisy’s disappearance. Will she ever experience the peace her heart longs for?

The second book in the Defiance, Texas Trilogy, this suspenseful novel is about courageous love, the burden of regret, and bonds that never break. It is about the beauty and the pain of telling the truth. Most of all, it is about the power of forgiveness and what remains when shame no longer holds us captive.

If you would like to read the first chapter of A Slow Burn, go HERE.


Emory Chance was a tragic character in last year's Daisy Chain. In Slow Burn, the story of Emory's loss and failures, she becomes even more tragic. Though Jed Pepper was a character who made my heart ache, Emory was one who frustrated and challenged me.

Mary DeMuth creates characters who behave in awful and ugly ways yet as she reveals the deepest, ugliest parts and pieces of them, she manages to do so with grace so that I found myself filled with pity for Emory and hoping that she'd escape from her emotional prisons.

The subject matter covered includes abuse, negligence, drug abuse, immorality and sensitive readers should consider that this is not your traditional Christian fiction.

At the end of A Slow Burn there is still the mystery of what happened to Daisy and who did it? I am compelled to finish this trilogy as I feel the need for closure and I want to read Ousie's story. I'm hoping that the Pepper family finds much grace and healing and that Emory finds complete and total peace.

DeMuth writes in a literary voice that sometimes crackles with intensity and sometimes oozes molasses-slow emotion into the storyline. Folks who don't care for introspective and deep fiction and the slowness that results may not find the series to their liking. I think people struggling with issues of faith and failures might find some hope and healing within the story of these very broken people and the God who loves them.

Reviewed by: Kelly Klepfer

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Elizabeth Ludwig's I'll Be Home for Christmas (Christmas Homecoming Anthology) ~ Reviewed

I'll Be Home for Christmas
By Elizabeth Ludwig
Part of the Christmas Homecoming anthology
Published by Barbour Publishing
ISBN 978-1-60260-564-0


Winter Christmas Scheirer feels her greed led to her grandfather's death. When she comes across her grandfather's letters, Christmas will do anything to get them published—even if it means butting heads with Marcus Taggert, the guardian of Grandpa's estate. How far will Christmas go to right her wrongs?


This year's Christmas novels are delightful, and Elizabeth Ludwig gives a wonderful new twist to an old, old story in I'll Be Home for Christmas, part of Barbour's Christmas Homecoming anthology. Be sure to keep a hankie by your side while reading it. With characters that will steal your heart, you'll quickly feel part of the Scheirer family in this anthology. What's even better is you get four, count 'em—4, great stories in one. A perfect book to fill that Christmas list, Novel Reviews and I give it a high recommendation.

Reviewed by: Ane Mulligan,
Editor, Novel Journey

Sunday, November 01, 2009

ACFW November Book Releases

1. A SILENT PURSUIT, by Lynette Eason from Steeple Hill Love Inspired Suspense. Gina Santino has something someone desperately wants. Now, she's on the hunt to find it. Her deceased fiance's best friend, US Ranger, Ian Masterson is her only hope of staying alive while they race to be the first to discover the treasure her fiance left behind.

2. Chasing Shadows, by Terri Reed from Steeple Hill Love Inspired Suspense. An heiress turns to her former love, a cop, for help when she fears for her grandmother's life.

3. Close to Home, by Carolyn Aarsen from Steeple Hill Love Inspired. A reunion of old lovers brings up the shadows of past tragedy.

4. Fit To Be Tied, The Sisters of Bethlehem Springs, Book #2

, by Robin Lee Hatcher from Zondervan. Who says a woman can't do a man's job?

5. I'm So Sure, A Charmed Life, Book 2

, by Jenny B. Jones from Thomas Nelson. Its prom time and someone is trying to sabotage the queen contest. Can Bella solve the mystery in time AND keep it together as her life goes public on a wrestling reality show?

6. The Bartered Bride, by Erica Vetsch from Barbour Heartsong Presents. Tempests rage, in the board room, the ball room, and on treacherous Lake Superior as two hearts set sail on a collision course.

7. Together for the Holidays, Fostered by Love series-book 5

, by Margaret Daley from Love Inspired. Can the true meaning of Christmas bring two loners together?