Monday, April 30, 2012

A well-illustrated Bible for children: My review of God Helps Me Bible by Juliet David and Clare Caddy @KregelBooks



The God Helps Me Bible is a Bible for young children that features 25 Bible Stories that have been uniquely retold to capture how God helped the main character in the story. The Bible can either be read cover to cover, or it also has a handy table of Contents that will allow you to quickly find the popular story or character you want to read about. The book itself features a sturdy spiral binding that will survive much wear and tear.

I quite enjoyed the well-written stories captured in the God Helps Me Bible, and I absolutely loved the illustrations that bring each story to life. Almost all of my children's favourites are included, such as Noah and the Ark, the story of Moses, David and Goliath, or the story of Queen Esther. I appreciated how each story contained the reference to which Bible passage the story is taken from, and the stories are brief enough to capture the attention of the average toddler. My one disappointment is that the story of Jesus dying on the cross is missing, something my girls actually pointed out to me. As that is truly the most amazing way God helped us in saving our souls, I would have liked to have seen this story included. However, overall I am sure this is a Bible your children will enjoy, and I give it a solid recommendation and rating of 4 out of 5 stars.

Book has been provided courtesy of Candle Books and the Kregel blog review program for the purposes of this unbiased review.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Juliet David

Juliet David has written many children’s stories and Bible activity books. Her other interests include painting, music, and travel to Israel and other Bible lands. This experienced author lives in London with her family.

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Sunday, April 29, 2012

Giveaway & review: Win a free copy of Swipe by Evan Angler @ThomasNelson @booksneeze

Read on for my review of the first book in a promising new series from Evan Angler. After my review is a great guest post from the author.

Don't forget to enter my giveaway at the end of this post, to win your own FREE copy of this book to be mailed right to your home!






MY REVIEW

Fear has stalked Logan Langley for years, ever since his sister went to get The Mark when she turned 13 and never came back. The Mark is placed on everyone's wrist on their 13th birthday, celebrated as the pathway to freedom as it lets you buy things, get a job, live your life. But no one believes Logan when he insists he's being followed or is seeing faces in windows or that doors open and close on their own. As his own 13th birthday draws near and he anticipates getting the Mark, Logan's fears turn into reality as he discovers that he truly is being followed by those who call themselves the Dust. With the help of a newly-made friend name Erin, whose father is a high-level government agent, Logan attempts to find out who is after him, and comes face-to-face with the truth about the Mark.

Swipe is a fast-paced, gripping thriller that teens will simply devour. Despite the fact that I am way over the age range of the target audience, I highly enjoyed this book and the "what-ifs" that the author has created. What if you couldn't buy anything or own anything unless you had the Mark? What if a world war had decimated known society and changed the landscape of civilization? What if everything the government has told you may be a lie? Evan Angler has created highly-believable characters, ones you will be rooting for as they race around trying to figure out what is going on. Logan especially is a character many will identify with, someone still trying to figure out who he is and what his place in life is. And yet it's clear that he has courage and a desire for justice, traits to admire. Angler uses superb pacing to unveil the plot, chapter by chapter, leaving you racing for the end...and wishing that book 2 in the series was already available!

Swipe is a thrilling adventure, with a futuristic setting that seems eerily possible today. It is a tale of friendship, of loyalty, a battle of right versus wrong of the best kind, and it is an excellent beginning to what is sure to be a well-loved series. I highly recomend this book and give it 5 out of 5 stars.

Book has been provided courtesy of the publisher, Thomas Nelson, for the purposes of this unbiased review.





And now for a guest post from Evan...



Why Differ?
by Evan Angler


We live in a world where things can be easy. Tablet computers that fit in our pockets and make calls for us and tell us where we are. Globalized digital networks that connect us effortlessly, all the time. Modern medicine that works wonders. News that arrives the moment it happens. Food that stays fresh forever. 

This isn’t science fiction. This is reality. And in the American Union, all you need—for any of it—is the Mark.

So what’s wrong with that? The Pledge unifies us, does it not? Just as its Mark protects us? No one could argue that it hasn’t brought us together, that it hasn’t created peace . . . that our allegiance to the Chancellor hasn’t bound us and given common ground from which all our ideas and ideologies may grow. Together. Compatibly. 

After the years of slaughter, after the decades of political and environmental devastation that forced more and more of us to fight over less and less land, water, food . . . was this unity not a welcome change for all of us?

It isn’t even compulsory. No one has to Pledge. But who wouldn’t? In the years since its implementation, the Mark has rightfully become the capstone of a childhood well spent, the crowning achievement in a young man’s or woman’s life, the opened door to citizenship, adulthood, independence . . . 

Every schoolchild knows that in the wake of the Total War, this Mark has become the very symbol of our commitment to patriotism and peace. It is the constant reminder of our loftiest intentions. 

To be Markless is to reject these ideals. To be Markless is to be different.

So why would anyone choose to be different? In a world of absolutes, of black and white, of right and wrong, why would anyone choose “wrong”? 

My name is Evan Angler. I may have answers to these questions. But I can’t risk writing them. Not here. Not on the Internet, for anyone to see.

And you wouldn’t risk reading them.

But if you are determined . . . if you are determined to learn the truth, no matter the cost, then what I can tell you is this: I’ve put what I know onto paper. Old-fashioned, obsolete—paper. Where it can’t be copied and pasted with the stroke of a stylus, where it can’t be sent around the world at the press of a button, where it can’t be recorded and stored forever in a million irretrievable pieces across cyberspace and time for any watchful eye to see. Paper is intimate. It is between you and me. It is fragile. It can be destroyed. 

And when you find it, if you find it . . . once you’ve read it . . . I do encourage you to destroy it.

Swipe is the first volume in the chronicles of Logan Langly, Erin Arbitor, and the Dust. Their account is dangerous; the information within it is forbidden. 

I wrote their story for everyone. But if you are not yet thirteen, if you have not yet Pledged to the Chancellor in exchange for his Mark of citizenship, if you have not yet made that choice to conform to given definitions of what may be easy and what may be “right” . . . then I have written this story especially for you. 

For I’m not ashamed to tell you that I’m still afraid of the dark. And if you too have ever turned out the light only to feel that tinge of panic, that inkling that someone, somewhere, might possibly be watching . . . I’m here to tell you that they are.

At its heart, Swipe is a book about friendship against the odds. It’s a book about a group of boys and girls who stick together to stand up for one another and for what they believe in. 

But why would they choose to be different? Why would they choose “wrong”?

Are you ready to learn the truth?




GIVEAWAY



Courtesy of Thomas Nelson, I'm hosting a give-away for 1 copy of "Swipe" to readers from the U.S. and Canada! To enter do the following:

1. Become a follower of my blog (through Google Followers or Networked Blogs) then leave a comment confirming you became a follower. If you are already a follower, move on to step 2.

2. Leave a comment answering this question: "Do you ever think books will ever completely disappear, and everything become accessible only digitally, as portrayed in Swipe?"

++  Please include your email address so I can contact you to arrange to get the book in the mail to you.

That's all there is to it. Contest Ends May 12, 2012. Good luck!

Jeremy

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Saturday, April 28, 2012

A wonderful continuation of the series: My review of "He Who Lifts the Skies"


He Who Lifts the Skies


He Who Lifts the Skies continues the story of Shem and Annah begun in The Heavens before, but this time focuses more on their great-granddaughters Sharah and Keren. Since the end of the flood, the descendants of Noah have spread across the Earth, becoming too numerous to count. Down on the plains, in the Great City, Nimr-Rada has become like a king, and led people away from worshipping the Most High. When Nimr-Rada captures Sharah and Keren to use in his plans to challenge the Most High by erecting the tower of Babel, Sharah willingly embraces the role he has for her, but Keren refuses to bow to his whims. Her very life becomes threatened as she must choose between following Nimr-Rada or remaining true to the Most High.

Kacy Barnett-Gramckow has spun an exciting, absorbing read in this second installment of The Genesis Trilogy. The book again breathes new life into a tale recounted in the Bible, exploring possibilities of what might have been while attempting to remain true to Scripture. The result in a fascinating imagining of what led up to the building of the tower of Babel, with original characters whose actions will invoke your emotions. Keren is my favourite character, full of spunk and life, all too human in her errors and mistakes, but ultimately with a heart that is sensitive to the calling of the Most High. The book is written in splendid prose, with plenty of action to keep the story moving along, making this a difficult book to put down. I walk away from the book realizing how easy it is for people to turn away from God, even in the face of amazing miracles and awe-inspiring displays of his power. He Who Lifts the Skies is a highly recommended read, and I award it 5 out of 5 stars.

Disclosure of Material Connection:

I received this book free from Moody Publishers as part of their Blogger Review Program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

Learn more about the book at the product page at Moody Publishers.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Image of Kacy Barnett-Gramckow Kacy Barnett-Gramckow is the author of Moody Publisher's THE GENESIS TRILOGY: The Heavens Before, He Who Lifts the Skies, and A Crown in the Stars. Kacy also writes Christian Fantasy Fiction.

Kacy finds research almost as interesting as writing, and she brings a lively knowledge of history to bear on her settings and characters. She and her husband, Jerry, have been married for more than thirty years, and they live in Colorado.








Friday, April 27, 2012

Well worth the wait: My review of "Illusion" by Frank Peretti @Frankenbarb @Howard_Books

Illusion


Publisher: Howard Books (March 6, 2012)


ABOUT THE BOOK


Dane and Mandy, a popular magic act for forty years, are tragically separated by a car wreck that claims Mandy’s life—or so everyone thinks. Even as Dane mourns and tries to rebuild his life without her, Mandy, supposedly dead, awakes in the present as the nineteen-year-old she was in 1970. Distraught and disoriented in what to her is the future, she is confined to a mental ward until she discovers a magical ability to pass invisibly through time and space to escape. Alone in a strange world, she uses her mysterious powers to eke out a living, performing magic on the streets and in a quaint coffee shop.

Hoping to discover an exciting new talent, Dane ventures into the coffee shop and is transfixed by the magic he sees, illusions that even he, a seasoned professional, cannot explain. But more than anything, he is emotionally devastated by this teenager who has never met him, doesn’t know him, is certainly not in love with him, but is in every respect identical to the young beauty he first met and married some forty years earlier.

They begin a furtive relationship as mentor and protégée, but even as Dane tries to sort out who she really is and she tries to understand why she is drawn to him, they are watched by secretive interests who not only possess the answers to Mandy’s powers and misplacement in time but also the roguish ability to decide what will become of her.



MY REVIEW

7 years is a long time to wait for a new book from an author. But in the case of Frank Peretti, I'll wait as long as necessary to be able to read what he writes!


Illusion is a masterpiece, a carefully crafted novel that grabbed me from the first page and held me spell-bound to the dramatic conclusion. I can confidently say that this is my favourite Frank Peretti book to date, a book that I not only found entertaining, but one that will long stay with me as I ponder the symbolism embedded in its pages. The characters simply breathe with life and mystery, Dane as he wonders how to go on living without the love of his life of 40 years by his side, and young Mandy as she tries to reconcile the fact that one moment she was in the 1970’s, and the next she is in the present day dressed in a hospital gown, wondering if she’s going crazy. I loved that both Dane and Mandy are magicians, and Peretti brilliantly combines their love of magic with the mysterious powers that Mandy discovers she has, power to manipulate objects to her whim. The plot unfolds layer by layer, revealing a unique premise that the book is built upon, plot concepts that I won’t fully explore here for fear of revealing too much, but that I can state are well-executed and will have you speeding through the pages. While the book may seem light on spiritual aspects on the surface, as you ponder the book you will realize that the book is a profound exploration of our souls and the reality that the person God created us to be exists outside of time and the external trappings of who we seem to be. The profound love shared between Dane and Mandy is a perfect picture of the love God has for us, a love that survives trials and tragedies, a love that surpasses our understanding and is so much more than we could imagine.

Be prepared to be entertained and held captive by Peretti’s latest work, which is sure to please fans of old and will no doubt capture a new generation of fans who will be eagerly awaiting Peretti’s next book. I know I will.

I award this book 5 out of 5 stars and my highest recommendation.

Book has been provided courtesy of the publisher, Howard Books, for the purposes of this unbiased review.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Frank PerettiFrank E. Peretti is one of American Christianity's best-known authors. His novels have sold over 10 million copies, and he is widely credited with reinventing Christian fiction. He and his wife, Barbara, live in the Pacific Northwest. www.frankperetti.com.








BOOK TRAILER



Thursday, April 26, 2012

Heart-breaking but Triumphant: My review of Working It Out by @AbbyRike @FaithWords

This book should be a must read. For everyone.

Read on for my review of Abby Rike's amazing book "Working it Out".


Working It out


ABOUT THE BOOK

In 2006, Abby Rike lost the life she knew and loved when her husband and two young children were killed in a car accident. Devastated and numb, she shut down. For nearly three years she walked through life like a spectre, present in body only. As she descended, her weight ballooned.

Fortunately, Abby was not alone. She had loving parents, supportive friends, and a faith that continued to sustain her. Little by little she found the courage to return to life. Joining The Biggest Loser proved a catalyst for the physical and emotional changes she needed to make. Against all odds Abby gained strength, courage, wisdom, and continued her steadfast relationship with God. Instead of anger, she found herself slowly but steadily healing. She lost 100 pounds but gained hope.

Rike tells her story--from her joyous life before the accident to the unbearable pain that followed it and her eventual emergence as a woman reinvigorated by her faith in God. Today Rike's resilience and positivity are a testament to the power and importance of faith in the darkest hours.


MY REVIEW

The story of Abby Rike first caught my attention when I watched it unfold on the Biggest Loser television show. That was actually the first season that I watched the show, and Abby's story both broke my heart and inspired me. Her book was no different. I have to admit that by the end of chapter one I already had tears in my eyes, and by the end still more had been shed (and I think that my wife pretty much cried throughout the book!). Yet what I found to be a pleasant surprise about this book is that not only is Abby's story by itself an amazing journey to follow, but Abby is a phenomenal writer, someone who clearly has an excellent grasp of the English language and has the ability to provide an absolute page turner. Her recounting of her personal story is absolutely riveting - and you have to understand that I am not even someone who normally even enjoys autobiographies! If you are a reader like me, who normally prefers fiction, I urge you to try something different and get this book. Her story is not just one that breaks your heart, but is also one that is deeply inspiring as her faith in God lifts her out of her despair and sustains her in a manner that can only be described as miraculous. How can you read this book and not come away believing in God? 

Written with tremendous skill, Working it Out is a powerfully moving read that is sure to linger with you long after you turn the last page. I cannot recommend this book highly enough. 5 out of 5 stars.

Book has been provided courtesy of the publisher, Faithwords, for the purposes of this unbiased review.

Check out Abby's website:

Abby Rike, Abby's Story



Ready to buy?






Free ebook: Raising Kids with Character That Lasts by Susan Yates and John Yates

Free for today is a great parenting resource from the Yates. Get it now for your Kindle, Nook, Kobo etc.:


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Wednesday, April 25, 2012

GIVE-AWAY: A FREE physical copy of "Spirit Fighter" by @JerelLaw @ThomasNelson

Recently, I read and reviewed the fabulous book "Spirit Fighter" by Jerel Law. 

If you missed my review, catch it here



Now, I'm pleased to bring to you a guest post from Jerel Law, along with a GIVEAWAY of a physical copy of the book, courtesy of the author and publisher Thomas Nelson. 

Check out the post from Jerel Law, and be sure to enter the contest at the end of the post:

GUEST POST


“Dad, this is awesome!”

Those were the first words my lanky eight-year old son, Christopher, hit me with as he walked down the steps to the family room late one night (long after he should have been asleep). He had just finished reading the first draft of Spirit Fighter, my first book, so it wasn’t hard to look past a missed bedtime. The truth was, I was nervously awaiting his reaction to the novel. Kids are nothing if not brutally honest, after all. And while I didn’t want to admit it, the opinion of a third-grader was a pretty big deal to me. When he said those two beautiful words, I knew that I just might have something here.

But let me back up.

When I wrote Spirit Fighter in the fall of 2009, my intention was not just to write something I thought could be published…I wrote it specifically for my two oldest kids, Bailey and Christopher. At the time they were 10 and 8, and voracious readers. I couldn’t keep enough books in their hands – as soon as they finished one they would ask for another. As my son was racing through the Percy Jackson series, I began to wonder why there wasn’t a Christian series that he felt the same way about. That he couldn’t put down. The only ones I could think of were a little too mature for him, and I really didn’t think either he or my daughter would go for Amish fiction just yet. I had been writing off and on for ten years, mostly at night, since I am a pastor by day. I began to wonder if the seed of an idea could be here.

I love stories as much as my kids do. Stories of adventure that take the reader into a new world, stories that present timeless truths in new ways, that allow me to not only get lost within the pages, but to wrestle with things that are meaningful and true. Stories about life and death, and things that matter…those are the ones I am drawn to. And the ones I try to spend my time writing. Around that same time, I came across a passage from the Bible that really caught my attention. Genesis chapter six speaks in hushed tones about an ancient people who were the children of both angels and humans…the half-human, half-angel race known as the nephilim. There simply isn’t much there about them, which made it all the more interesting. Suddenly it began to seem as though my desire to put something inspired by the Scriptures into my kids’ hands, and the intrigue I found in this passage in Genesis, began to intertwine. I began asking a lot of “what if” questions.

What if nephilim existed not only in ancient times, but today? What if they were pretending to be normal people…maybe even in my neighborhood, or yours? And what if they had children? They would be one-quarter angel, and three-quarters human…would those children have some angelic powers?

These questions became the core idea for Spirit Fighter and the Jonah Stone: Son of Angels series. The story revolves around a brother and sister who discover that they are part-angel, and as a result begin to develop certain abilities only angels possess. When their nephilim mom is kidnapped, they find themselves right in the middle of the battle between Good and Evil.

I’m still blown away and humbled that Thomas Nelson has been so enthusiastic about Spirit Fighter. My hope and prayer is not only that kids say “it’s awesome!”, but that they find themselves somewhere in the pages of this book, and begin to ask their own “what if” questions. What if God has given me gifts to use? What if He really does love me? And what if He wants to use someone like me to change the world?

AND NOW FOR THE GIVE-AWAY....

I'm excited to be able to host a give-away for Spirit Fighter to readers from the U.S. and Canada! To enter do the following:

1. Become a follower of my blog (through Google Followers or Networked Blogs) then leave a comment confirming you became a follower. If you are already a follower, move on to step 2.

2. Leave a comment answering this question: "Do you believe it's possible that Nephilim exist in the world today, as portrayed in the book Spirit Fighter?"

++  Please include your email address so I can contact you to arrange to get the book in the mail to you.

That's all there is to it. Contest Ends May 4, 2012. Good luck!

Jeremy

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

I enjoyed this from start to finish: My review of "Need You Now" by Beth Wiseman

Enjoy a preview of Beth Wiseman's latest book, Need You Now, courtesy of First WildCard Tours. 

Don't forget to check out my review near the end!


Need You Now, Beth Wiseman


It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!



Today's Wild Card author is:


and the book:

Thomas Nelson; 1 edition (April 10, 2012)

***Special thanks to Rick Roberson, The B&B Media Group, for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


 When a personal crisis tested and strengthened her faith, award-winning journalist Beth Wiseman was advised by her agent to consider writing a Christian novel, particularly an Amish one. Encouraged by her agent’s urging, she began exploring the Amish lifestyle and soon developed a great appreciation for the more peaceful way of life. In 2008 Wiseman wrote her debut novel, Plain Perfect, featuring the Amish lifestyle within the context of a fictional love story. It was a bestseller, as have been all of the full-length novels and novellas she has written since.

While Need You Now is Wiseman’s first non-Amish novel, she is confident it will not be the last. She is already making plans to write a second contemporary novel in the near future. Like Need You Now, it will also be set in small-town Texas, a familiar background she thoroughly loves exploring and writing about.

Wiseman’s previous releases have held spots on the CBA (Christian Booksellers Association) and the ECPA (Evangelical Christian Publishers Association) bestseller lists. In 2010, she received the INSPY Award for Amish Fiction (chosen by blog reviewers). In 2011, she received the Carol Award and was the Inspirational Readers Choice winner for her book Plain Paradise. Her novel Seek Me with All Your Heart was the 2011 Women of Faith Book of the Year. In addition, Wiseman has been a Retailers Choice Finalist, a Booksellers Best Finalist and a National Readers Choice Finalist. Prior to becoming a novelist she received many honors for her work as a journalist, including a prestigious First Place News Writing Award from the Texas Press Association.

Today, she and her husband are empty nest parents of two grown sons, enjoying the country lifestyle and living happily with two dogs, two cats, two pot-bellied pigs, two chickens and a single pygmy goat in a small community in South Central Texas. Along with writing, she enjoys cooking, reading, traveling and watching good movies. Her favorite pastime, however, is spending time with friends and family.

Visit the author's website.


SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:


We all count on the support of those around us when times are tough, but what do we do when those we depend on the most are suddenly gone? How do we cope when life has pulled the rug out from under us and left us with nothing and no one to hold on to? To whom can we turn when it seems no one, not even God, is there? These are the questions best-selling author Beth Wiseman addresses in her first contemporary novel, Need You Now (Thomas Nelson).

After the safety of one of their children is threatened, Need You Now’s main character, Darlene Henderson, and her husband Brad choose to move their family from Houston to the dot-in-the-road town of Round Top, Texas; moving into the old fixer-upper farm left to Darlene by her grandparents. Adjusting to the change is more difficult than any of them imagined, especially for the middle child, 15-year-old Grace, who becomes a cutter, using a dangerous and particularly self-damaging way of coping with stress.

The move also begins to take a toll on the couple’s marriage when Darlene decides to take a job outside the home in an effort to make new friends in the community. As the domestic tension rises, both begin to wonder if the same shared faith that has carried them through difficult times in the past will be strong enough to help them now.

To make matters worse, Darlene begins receiving inappropriate attention from the widowed father of the autistic young girl she is assigned to work with at the school for special needs children where she is employed. Unfortunately, this new attention comes just when she is most vulnerable. If there has ever been a time in her life when she needed God, it is now. But will she allow arising feelings of unworthiness to keep her from seeking Him?

In her first novel not set in an Amish community, Wiseman spins her well-honed characters and setting into a thought-provoking message that not only makes the reader ponder his or her own relationship with God, but also sheds light on the little-known disorders of using self-injury as a way of seeking relief and high-functioning autism. Need You Now is the perfect read for anyone who has ever questioned life and God’s will.





Product Details:
List Price: $ 15.99
Paperback: 320 pages
Publisher: Thomas Nelson; 1 edition (April 10, 2012)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1595548874
ISBN-13: 978-1595548870

AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


Darlene’s chest tightened, and for a few seconds she couldn’t move. If ever there was a time to flee, it was now. She put a hand to her chest, held her breath, and eased backward, sliding one socked foot at a time across the wooden floor of her bed- room. She eyed the intruder, wondering why he wasn’t moving. Maybe he was dead.
Nearing the door, she stretched   her arm behind   her, searching for the knob. She turned it quickly, and at the click of the latch, her trespasser rushed toward her. In one movement, she jumped backward, across the threshold and into the den, slamming the door so hard the picture of the kids fell off the wall. She looked down at Chad, Ansley, and Grace staring up through broken glass, then hurried through the den to the kitchen. Her hand trembled as she unplugged her cell phone and pressed the button to call Brad. Please answer.
It was tax time, so every CPA at her husband’s office was working long hours, and for these last weeks before the April deadline, Brad was hard to reach. She knew she wouldn’t hear from him until after eight o’clock tonight.  And she couldn’t go back in her bedroom. What would she have to live without until then? She looked down. For starters, a shirt. She was later than usual getting dressed this morning and had just pulled on her jeans when she’d noticed she wasn’t alone.
She let out a heavy sigh and rubbed her forehead. Brad answered on the sixth ring.
“Bradley . . .” She only called him by his full name when she needed his full attention.
“What is it, babe?”
She took a deep breath. “There is a snake in our bedroom. A big, black snake.” She paused as she put a hand to her chest. “In our bedroom.”
“How big?”
She’d expected a larger reaction. Maybe her husband didn’t hear her. “Big! Very big. Huge, Brad.”
He chuckled. “Honey, remember that little snake that got in your greenhouse when we lived on Charter Road in Houston? You said that snake was big too.” He chuckled again, and Darlene wanted to smack him through the phone.  “It was a tiny little grass snake.”
“Brad, you’re going to have to trust me. This snake is huge, like five or six feet long.” A shiver ran down her spine. “Are you coming home or should I call 9-1-1?”
“What? You can’t call 9-1-1 about a snake.” His tone changed. “Darlene, don’t do that. Round Top is a small town, and we’ll be known as the city slickers who called in about a snake.”
“Then you need to come home and take care of this.” She lifted her chin and fought the tremble in her voice.
Deep breath on the other end of the line. “You know how crazy it is here.  I can’t leave right now. It’s probably just a chicken snake, and they’re not poisonous.”
“Well, there are no chickens in our bedroom, so it doesn’t have any business in there.”
“Chad can probably get it out when he gets home from school. Maybe with a shovel or something, but tell him to be careful. Even though they’re not venomous, it’d probably still hurt to get bit.”
Darlene sighed. “Our girls are going to freak if they come home to find a snake in the house.”
“Maybe—” Darlene turned toward a sound in the entryway. “I’ll call you back. There’s someone at the door, and I’m standing here in my bra. I’ll call you back. Love you.” She clicked the phone off, then yelled toward the door. “Just a minute!”
After finding a T-shirt in Ansley’s room, she pulled it over her head as she crossed back through the den toward the front door. This was the first visitor she’d had in the two months since they’d moved from Houston.  She peeked around the curtain before she opened the door, realizing that her old city habit would probably linger for a while. Out here in the country, there probably wasn’t much to worry about, but she was relieved to see it was a woman. A tall woman in a cowgirl hat. She pulled the door open.
“Your Longhorns are in my pasture.” The woman twisted her mouth to one side and folded her arms across her chest. “This is the second time they’ve busted the fence and wandered onto my property.”
Darlene thought this cowgirl could have walked straight off the set of any western movie. She was dressed in a long- sleeved denim shirt with her blue jeans tucked into brown boots. She was older than Darlene, possibly mid-forties, but she was gorgeous with huge brown eyes and blonde hair that hung in a ponytail to her waist.
“I’m so sorry.” Darlene shook her head. Brad should have never gotten those Longhorns.  Neither she nor Brad knew a thing about cows, but Brad had said a move to the country should include some Longhorns. Although it didn’t make a lick of sense to her. She pushed the door wide. “I’m Darlene.”
The woman shifted her weight, but didn’t offer a greeting in return. Instead, she stared at Darlene’s chest. Darlene waited for the woman to lock eyes with her, and when she didn’t, Darlene finally looked down. Her cheeks warmed as she sighed. “Oh, this is my daughter’s shirt.” Don’t Bug Me! was scrolled across the white T-shirt in red, and beneath the writing was a hideous picture of a giant roach.  Darlene couldn’t stand the shirt, but twelve-year-old Ansley loved it. “Do you want to come in?” She stepped back.
“No. I just wanted to let you know that I’m going to round up your Longhorns and head them back to your pasture. I’ll temporarily repair the fence.” The woman turned to leave, and it was then that Darlene saw a horse tethered to the fence that divided their property. She stifled a smile. This woman really was a cowgirl.
“Know anything about snakes?” Darlene eased onto the front porch, sidestepping a board she knew was loose. The porch was next on their list of things to repair on her grand- parents’ old homestead.
“What?” The woman turned around as she held a hand underneath the rim of her hat, blocking the afternoon sun.
“I have a snake in my bedroom.” Darlene shrugged. “Just wondering if you had any—any experience with something like that?” She padded down two porch steps in her socks. “I’m not sure I got your name?”
“Layla.” She gave a quick wave before she turned to leave again. Darlene sighed. Clearly the woman wasn’t interested in being friends. Or helping with the snake. Darlene watched her walk to her horse and put a foot in the stirrup. Then she paused and twisted her body to face Darlene. “What kind of snake?”
Hopeful, Darlene edged down another step. “A big, black one.”
Layla put her foot back on the ground and walked across the grass toward the porch. Darlene couldn’t believe how graceful the tall blonde was, how out of sync her beauty was in comparison to what she was wearing.
“Only thing you really have to worry about around here are copperheads.” She tipped back the rim of her hat. “Was it a copperhead?”
At five foot two, Darlene felt instantly inferior to this tall, gorgeous, horse-riding, snake-slaying blonde. She wasn’t about to say that she couldn’t tell one snake from the other. “I don’t think so.”
“All I’ve got is a .22 with me.” Layla pointed back to her horse, and Darlene saw a long gun in a holster. “But a .22 will blow a hole through your floor,” Layla added. A surreal feeling washed over Darlene. She thought about their previous home in a Houston subdivision, and a woman with a gun on a horse wasn’t a sight they would’ve seen.
“Do you have a pellet gun?” She stopped in front of Darlene on the steps. Darlene was pretty sure that was all they had— Chad’s BB gun.
“Yeah, I think so.”
Five minutes later, Darlene pushed open the door to her bedroom and watched Layla enter the scene of the invasion. The bed was piled with clean clothes, but at least it was made up. The vacuum was in the middle of the room instead of in the closet under the stairs. It wasn’t the way she wanted a stranger to see her bedroom, but it could have been worse.
Layla got down on her knees and looked under the bed. From the threshold, Darlene did a mental scan of what was under there. Boxes of photos, a flowery hatbox that had belonged to her grandmother, an old, red suitcase stuffed with baby keepsakes from when the kids were young—and a lot of dust. “There he is.” Layla leaned her chest to the floor and positioned Chad’s BB gun. Darlene braced herself, then squeezed her eyes closed as two pops echoed underneath the bed. A minute later, Layla drug the snake out with the tip of the gun. “Just a chicken snake.”
Darlene stepped out of the room, giving Layla plenty of room to haul the snake out. Big, black, ugly. And now dead. Blood dripped all the way to the front door.  Layla carried the snake to the fence and laid it across the timber, its yellow underside up.
“Belly up should bring rain.” Layla was quickly up on her horse. “Maybe tell your husband that I’m patching the fence up, but he really needs some new cross planks.”
“I will. And thank you so much for killing that snake. Do you and your husband want to come for dinner tonight? I’d like to do something for you.”
“I’m not married. And I can’t come to dinner tonight. Thanks, though.” She gave the horse a little kick in the flank, then eased through a gate that divided her acreage from Brad and Darlene’s. She closed it behind her from atop her horse and headed toward the large house on top of the sloping hillside. Coming from town, the spacious estate was fully visible from the road and her youngest daughter called it the “mansion on the hill.” The rest of the family took to calling it that too.
In comparison to their rundown farmhouse, Darlene sup- posed it was a mansion. Both homes were probably built in the late 1800s, but Layla’s was completely restored, at least on the outside, with fresh, yellow paint and white trim.  A split-rail, cedar fence also surrounded the yard, and toward the back of the property, a bright red barn lit up the hayfield not far from a good-sized pond. A massive iron gate—that stayed closed most of the time—welcomed  visitors down a long, winding drive- way. And there were lots of livestock—mostly Longhorns and horses. If the wind was blowing just right, sometimes Darlene could hear faint music coming from the house.
She was hoping maybe she could be friends with Layla, even though she wasn’t sure she had anything in common with her. Just the same, Darlene was going to pay her a visit. Maybe take her a basket of baked goodies, a thank-you for killing that snake.
Brad adjusted the phone against his ear and listened to Darlene’s details about her snake ordeal, then she ended the conversation the way she always did. “Who do you love?”
“You, baby.”
It was their thing. Nearly twenty years ago, at a bistro in Houston,  Brad wanted  to tell Darlene that  he loved her—for the first time—and he was a nervous wreck, wondering if she felt the same way. He’d kept fumbling around, and the words just wouldn’t come. Maybe she’d seen it in his eyes, but she’d reached over, touched his hand, and smiled. Then in a soft whisper, she’d asked, “Who do you love?” His answer had rolled off his tongue with ease. “You, baby.” Then she’d told him that she loved him too, and the who-do-you-love question stuck. Darlene asked him all the time. He knew it wasn’t because she was insecure; it was just a fond recollection for both of them. That night at the bistro, Brad had known he was going to marry Darlene.
He flipped his phone shut and maneuvered through the Houston traffic toward home.  He was glad that he wouldn’t have to deal with a snake when he got there, but he was amused at Darlene’s description of the tall, blonde cowgirl who shot it with Chad’s BB gun.
He had four tax returns to work on tonight after dinner. All these extra billable hours were bound to pay off. He needed the extra income if he was going to make all the renovations to the farm that he and Darlene had discussed. Brad wanted to give her the financial freedom to make their home everything she dreamed it could be. Cliff Hodges had been dangling the word partner in front of him for almost two years, and Brad was sure he was getting close to having his name on the door.
If they hadn’t been in such a rush to move from Houston, Brad was sure they could have held out and gotten more for their house. As it turned out, they’d barely broken even, and just getting the farmhouse in semi-livable shape had taken a chunk of their savings. Buying out Darlene’s brother for his share of the homestead had put a strain on their finances too, but it was worth it if Darlene was happy. She’d talked about restoring her grandparents’ farm for years. The original plan had been to fix the place up over time so they could use it as weekend getaway. But then they’d decided to make the move as soon as they could, even if the house wasn’t in tip top shape.
Forty-five minutes from his office, he’d cleared the bustle of the city, and the six lane freeway narrowed to two lanes on either side of a median filled with bluebonnets and Indian paintbrushes. Nothing like spring in Texas to calm his mind after crunching numbers all day long, but leaving the office so late to head west put the setting sun directly in his face. He flipped his visor down, glad that the exit for Highway 36 was only a few miles. Once he turned, he’d get a break from the blinding rays. Then he’d pass through the little towns of Sealy and Bellville before winding down one-lane roads to the peaceful countryside of Round Top. It was a long commute, almost an hour and a half each way, but it was worth it when he pulled into his driveway. Small-town living was better for all of them. Especially Chad.
Brad could still recall the night Chad came stumbling into the house—drunk.  His seventeen year old son had been running around with a rebellious group of friends in Houston. And sometimes Chad’s glassy eyes had suggested more than just alcohol abuse. He shook his head to clear the recollections, knowing he would continue to pray that his son would make better choices now that he had some distance from his old buddies.
Brad felt like a blessed man. He’d been married to his high school sweetheart for nearly twenty years, and he had three amazing children. He wanted to spend his life being the best husband and father he could be. There wasn’t a day that went by that he didn’t thank the Lord for the life he’d been given, and it was Brad’s job to take care of his family.
Darlene finished setting the table. She regretted that her mother couldn’t see her enjoying her grandmother’s dining room set. Darlene had been surprised to find the oak table and chairs still in the house when they’d moved in. The antiques had been dusty and in dire need of cleaning, but they were just as sturdy as ever. She could remember many meals with her parents and grandparents in this house, at this table.
She still missed her grandparents—and her parents.  Dad had been gone almost six years, and two years had passed since her mother’s death. Her parents had started their family late in life, both of them in their late thirties when she was born, and
Dale was born two years after Darlene. She was glad her brother hadn’t wanted the farm. It had been a struggle to buy him out, but no regrets. Someday, they too would have a “mansion on the hill,” like Layla’s. She cast her eyes downward, frowning at the worn out wooden floors. She’d be glad when they could afford to cover the original planking with new hardwood.
Thinking of Layla brought a smile to her face as she mashed steaming potatoes in a pot on the stove. She couldn’t help but wonder what the tall blonde was doing all alone on that estate. Darlene had never even been on a horse or owned a pair of cowgirl boots. Several of her friends back in Houston sported a pair of high-dollar, pointy-toed boots, but they didn’t particularly appeal to Darlene. Her friend, Gina, had told her it was un-Texan not to own a pair of boots.
She missed Gina. They’d been friends since their daughters had started Girl Scouts together, but after Gina’s divorce, they’d drifted apart.  Gina’s interests had changed from Girl Scout and PTO meetings to going out with new single friends.
She left the dining room and went back to the kitchen, glad that the aroma of dinner covered up the dingy old-house smell that lingered, despite her best efforts to conceal it with air fresheners.
“Mom! Mom!” Ansley burst into the kitchen with the kind of enthusiasm that could mean either celebration or disaster; with Ansley you never knew. At twelve, she was the youngest and the most dramatic in the family.
Darlene gave the potatoes a final stir before she turned to face her. “What is it, Ansley?”
“Guess what?” Ansley rocked back and forth from heel to toe, and Darlene could tell by the grin on her daughter’s face that the news was good. “I did it. Straight C's and above!”
Darlene brought her hands to her chest and held her breath for a moment, smiling. When Ansley was in grade school, early testing indicated she was going to struggle, and Darlene and Brad knew she was a bit slower than other kids her age.
Not so thrilling was what Brad had promised Ansley if she received a report card without any failing grades.  “Sweetie, that’s great. I’m so proud of you.” She hugged her daughter, knowing it was highly unlikely Ansley wouldn’t remember her father’s promise. Ansley eased out of the hug.
“I know they scare you, Mom, but having some chickens and roosters will be so much fun! We’ll be like real farmers, and every day after school, I’ll go get the eggs.” Ansley’s dark hair brushed against her straightened shoulders, and her big brown eyes twinkled. “Think how much money you’ll save on eggs!”
Darlene bit her bottom lip as she recalled the chickens her grandparents used to keep on this very same farm. And one very mean rooster. Eight dollars in savings per month was hardly going to be worth it, but a promise was a promise. She’d told Brad before they’d left Houston not to offer such a reward, but Darlene had put it out of her mind. At the time, it seemed a stretch for Ansley to hit the goal and make all C’s.
“Maybe just have laying chickens. You don’t need a rooster.”  Darlene walked to the refrigerator and pulled out a tub of butter.
“Mom . . .”
Darlene set the butter on the table and raised a brow in time to see Ansley rolling her eyes.
“Even I know we can’t have baby chicks without a rooster.” Ansley folded her arms across her chest.
Darlene grinned. “I know you know that, but how many chickens are you hoping to have?” She recalled that on some of her visits to her grandparents’ house, if the wind blew just right, she could smell the chicken coop from the front yard, even though the pens were well over fifty yards away, back next to the barn. When they’d first moved in, Brad had fixed up the old coops as an incentive for Ansley to pull her grades up. Sitting on the porch swing with Brad late in the evenings had become a regular thing, and smelly chickens would be an unwelcome distraction.
“Not too many,” Ansley said as she pulled a glass from the cabinet and filled it with water.
One was too many in Darlene’s opinion, but it was a well- deserved reward. Darlene gave a lot of the credit to the school here. Much to her children’s horror, there were only 240 students in grades kindergarten through twelve in the Round Top/ Carmine School District, but Darlene felt like they were getting a better education and more one-on-one attention.  Darlene had been on the verge of homeschooling Ansley before they left Houston, but Ansley threw such a fit that Darlene had dis- carded the idea.
Ansley chugged the water, then put the glass in the sink. “I can’t wait ’til Daddy gets home.”
Darlene smiled. Her youngest was always a breath of fresh air, full of energy, and the tomboy in the family.
She thought about the snake and realized Ansley probably wouldn’t have freaked out after all. She heard Brad’s car rolling up the gravel driveway, and moments later, the front screen door slammed and Ansley yelled, “Daddy! Guess what!”
An hour later, everyone was gathered at the dinner table, except Chad. After about ten minutes, he finally sauntered into the room, slid into his chair, and folded his hands for prayer.
“It’s your turn to offer the blessing, Chad.” Darlene bowed her head.
“Thank you, Lord, for the many blessings you’ve given us, for this food, the roof over our head, and Your love. And God . . .” Chad paused with a sigh. Darlene opened one eye and held her breath. More often than not, Chad’s prayers included appeals for something outside the realm of what should be requested at the dinner table. Like the time he’d asked for God to help his parents see their way to buying him a better car. Darlene closed her eye, let out her breath, and listened.
“Could you heal Mr.  Blackstone’s cancer and bring him back to school? He’s a good guy.” Darlene’s insides warmed, but then Chad continued.  “Our substitute stinks. Amen.”
“Chad!” Darlene sat taller, then cut her eyes at Brad, who shouldn’t be smiling.
“No, Mom. I mean, really. He stinks. He doesn’t smell good.” Chad scooped out a large spoonful of potatoes. “And he’s like a hundred or something.”
“Even more reason you shouldn’t speak badly about him. Respect your elders, remember?” Darlene passed the meatloaf to Chad, who was shoveling potatoes like he hadn’t eaten in a month of Sundays.
“Grace, how was your day?” Brad passed their older daughter a plate of rolls.
“It was okay.”
Grace rarely complained, but Darlene knew she wasn’t happy about the move from Houston.  Mostly because of the boy she’d left behind.
Ansley turned her head to Darlene, grunted, then frowned. “Mom, why are you wearing my shirt?”
Darlene looked down at the big roach. “Oh, I had to borrow it earlier. I sort of couldn’t go in my room for a while.”
Darlene told the full-length version of the snake story that she’d shortened for Brad on the phone.
“I’ve seen that woman,” Chad said. “And she’s hot.”
“She’s old like Mom, Chad! That’s gross.” Ansley squeezed her eyes shut for a moment, then shook her head.
Darlene took a bite of roll. At thirty-eight, when had she become old in her children’s eyes? “I believe Layla is several years older than me, Chad.”
Her son shrugged. “Whatever. She’s still—”
“Chad, that’s enough.” Brad looked in Chad’s direction, and Darlene was glad to see him step in since it seemed like she was the one who always disciplined the children. Brad, on the other hand—well, he promised chickens.
They were all quiet for a few moments before Chad spoke up again.
“Did you know Layla drives a tractor? I’ve seen her out in the pasture on the way to school.” He shook his head. “Seems weird for a woman.” He laughed as he looked to his left at Ansley. “Can you picture Mom out on a tractor plowing the fields?”
Ansley laughed. “No, I can’t.”
“Don’t underestimate your mom.  You never know what she might do.” Brad reached for another roll as he winked at Darlene.
Darlene smiled. She found herself thinking, yet again, that this was a good move for them. They all needed this fresh start. None of the kids had been particularly happy at first, but they were coming around.
“Can I be excused?” Grace put her napkin in her lap and scooted her chair back.
Darlene knew meatloaf wasn’t Grace’s favorite. “Whose night is it to help with dishes?”
Grace and Ansley both pointed at Chad.
“Okay,” Darlene said to Grace. “You can be excused.”
Darlene watched Grace leave the table. Her middle child was tiny like Darlene, and she was the only one in the family who inherited Darlene’s blonde hair and blue eyes. And her features were as perfect as a porcelain doll’s, complete with a flawless ivory complexion.  She looked like a little princess. Chad and Ansley had their father’s dark hair and eyes—and his height. Darlene loved her children  equally, proud  of them  all, but sometimes  it was hard not to favor Grace just a little bit, especially since they’d come so close to losing her as an infant. Grace had come into the world nine weeks’ premature, a surprise  to  everyone, including  Darlene’s  doctor,  since  Darlene had  delivered  Chad  at  full-term  with  no  complications  just two years earlier. Grace struggled those first few weeks with undeveloped lungs and severe jaundice, and twice they were told to prepare themselves for the worst. But their Grace was a fighter, and as her sixteenth birthday approached, Darlene silently thanked God for the millionth time for His grace.
There’d been issues and struggles with both Chad and Ansley from time to time—mostly with Chad. But Grace had never given them one bit of trouble.






MY REVIEW


I am utterly impressed by Beth Wiseman's first contribution to the contemporary Christian fiction arena! Need You Now features a plot that is fast-paced, plenty of action that drives the drama forward, and characters so realistically portrayed that they fairly step off the page. I enjoyed how the author gave us glimpses into what was going on from several different character's points of views, and I found the transitions between character's perspectives to be handled seamlessly. Wiseman deftly tackles the issue of teen-cutting in a realistic, heart-stirring manner, and I found Grace's struggle with this to be deeply moving. As a parent myself, I cannot imagine finding out that my daughter was engaging in such an activity, and I would no doubt experience the shock and helplessness that Brad and Darlene do. As someone who works with numerous such youths in my job, I can tell you that Wiseman has perfectly captured the struggles of teens and why they turn to such forms of release. It is also a nice change to read about a couple like Brad and Darlene who are already married, rather than the typical guy-meets-girl plot-line that many stories feature. 

Ultimately, this book is a celebration of God's ability to bring beauty out of the ashes resulting from our poor choices, as well as his perfect plan for marriages and the power of truth and forgiveness. I enjoyed this story from beginning to end, and give it a high recommendation of 4.5 out of 5 stars. 

(I deducted half a star for a few typo and name errors in the book, which drive me crazy, but in this case didn't detract from the excellent story).

Book was provided courtesy of the publisher, Thomas Nelson, along with First Wildcard & B&B Media.

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Monday, April 23, 2012

A deeply satisfying story: My review of Hazel Creek by Walt Larimore

Hazel Creek

Publisher: Howard Books; Original edition (March 13, 2012)


ABOUT THE BOOK


In the Hazel Creek Valley of the Great Smoky Mountains, Nathan and Callie Randolph, with their five unique daughters, wrestle to maintain their farm, forests, family, and faith against an unforgiving wilderness. An evil lumber company manager is seeking by every means possible to pilfer their land and clear-cut their virgin forest.

A cast of colorful characters, including a menacing stranger, gypsy siblings, a granny midwife, and a world-famous writer—even a flesh-and-blood Haint—collide in a gripping struggle of good and evil amid eruptions of violence and tragedy. Our heroine, fifteen-year-old Abbie Randolph, has to help save her family’s farm and raise her sisters while preserving her faith.

This important story, based on almost ten years of research and four years of living in the area, captures the speech, ways, and beliefs of these unique pioneers at a crucial and irreversible turning point in this Smoky Mountains community of the Southern Appalachians. With the march of the industrial age, especially commercial lumbering, the traditional life and ways of our southern highlanders in general, and the Randolphs in particular, were about to change forever.


MY REVIEW


Walt Larimore has written a book that will transport you back in time to an era and a place where people believed in right and wrong, marriages were forever, men treated women with respect, and family was all important. Reading this book made me ache for such a time, rather than today's society where families are splintered and nobody seems to believe in morals. Larimore has created absolutely beautiful characters, and I especially loved reading about Nathan, a man's man who loves his wife and children with tenderness, defends them from evil, stands up for what is right. The children are simply delightful, and I felt like cheering when young Corrie stood up to the bully of a teacher in front of the whole class! Their innocence and their adventuresome ways left me smiling more than once, and the characters are so true-to-life I felt an actual fondness for them, and grieved alongside them during their time of loss. The conclusion is perfect, a clash of good and evil that resolves in a wholly-satisfying way, and yet still hints at more drama to come in future books. I was truly sorry to see the story end and can't wait to find out what happens next!

Prepare to leave Hazel Creek feeling deeply satisfied, and inspired to act with courage and dignity like these characters of old. If you are looking for a highly enjoyable, historical novel, then Hazel Creek should be on your "must buy" list. I highly recommend this wonderful book and give it 4.5 out of 5 stars.

Book was provided courtesy of the publisher for the purposes of this unbiased review.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR


Walt LarimoreWalter L. Larimore has been called one of "America's best-known family physicians" and listed in “Distinguished Physicians of America,” “The Best Doctors in America,” and “Who’s Who in America.” Walt was awarded the 2004 Christianity Today Book Award for cowriting Going Public with Your Faith: Becoming a Spiritual Influence at Work. He has been a Gold Medallion Book Award finalist three times—for the Going Public book and small-group video series, as well as his book The Highly Healthy Child. He also authored the popular Bryson City Tales books and coauthored the TSI series with Paul McCusker. He lives in Monument, Colorado.




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Sunday, April 22, 2012

A unique and wonderful tale: My review of The Prophet by R. J. Larson



Publisher: Bethany House Publishers; Original edition (April 1, 2012)


ABOUT THE BOOK


Close your eyes, Ela of Parne. Close your eyes and you will see.


Ela Roeh of Parne doesn't understand why her beloved Creator, the Infinite, wants her to become His prophet. She's undignified, bad tempered, and only seventeen--not to mention that no prophet of Parne has ever been a girl. Worst of all, as the elders often warn, if she agrees to become the Infinite's prophet, Ela knows she will die young.


Istgard has turned their back on me. See the evil they do. 

Yet after experiencing His presence, she can't imagine living without Him. Determined to follow the Infinite's voice, Ela accepts the sacred vinewood branch and is sent to bring the Infinite's word to a nation torn apart by war. Here she meets Kien, a young Traceland ambassador determined to bring his own justice for his oppressed people. As they form an unlikely partnership, Ela must surrender to her destiny... and determine how to balance the leading of her heart with the leading of the Infinite. 

Will you accept the branch and speak my will? Will you be my prophet?


MY REVIEW

Prophet is a unique, wonderful tale that grabbed me from the first chapter and kept me spellbound throughout. It is unbelievably good, pulsing with supernatural imagery and descriptions that are captivating. Ela is one of my favourite characters to star in a book in 2012 so far, beautifully developed and a pleasure to read about. She is a character who captures the essence of how so many of us feel at some point in our lives when she states "I'm clumsy and insignificant. No one will listen to me....I'm not going to be of any use to You at all!". What follower of God has not, in some way, questioned how God could possibly use us? And yet God, here portrayed as "the Infinite" does use Ela as a powerful prophet, one who brings to mind comparisons to real-life Elijah and Elisha. This book satisfies on so many levels, as not only an entertaining story, but also a reminder that God searches our hearts and our minds in our daily lives just like he does through the words spoken by Ela in the story. We too will be held accountable for our actions, and have the choice to ignore God or serve God faithfully, with all of the joys and mysteries that accompany that service.

I heartily recommend this novel for all readers who love a good fantasy novel...and even for those who aren't convinced they do! The book moves at a fast pace with lots of action, moments of romance, and unexpected humour that had me smiling and laughing in turn (I loved the scenes with the horses, the destroyers....you'll see what I mean!). I'm left wanting more, and am thankful this is only the first installment in what is sure to be a fantastic series!

Book has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc. Available at your favourite bookseller from Bethany House, a division of Baker Publishing Group.



ABOUT THE AUTHOR

R. J. LarsonR. J. Larson is the author of numerous devotionals featured in publications such asWomen's Devotional Bible and Seasons of a Woman's Heart. She lives in Colorado Springs, Colorado, with her husband and their two sons. Prophet marks her debut in the fantasy genre. Visit http://rjlarsonbooks.com/for more information.








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