Sunday, July 29, 2012

Enter my giveaway for Robert Whitlow's latest book "The Choice" and check out my review too! @whitlowwriter

The Choice


Sandy Lincoln seems to have the perfect life. She's a great student, is a popular cheerleader, has a boyfriend she cares deeply about, and enjoys the love of a stable family. But then the unthinkable happens - she gets pregnant. Suddenly, her dreams seem to be falling apart, and she is forced to choose between what her boyfriend wants her to do and what her heart is dictating. The decision she makes leads her to move in with her aunt in Atlanta, and the day of her move she encounters a strange woman who delivers a prophecy and a warning about the choice Sandy must make. Over 30 years later, a pregnant teen seeks out Sandy for support and advice. Sandy soon finds herself embroiled in a conflict with a school counselor who seems to be pressuring the teen to choose abortion, and an allegation is made that Sandy is pushing her own pro-life agenda on the teen. Sandy's decision to help the teen despite the costs ends up bringing Sandy face-to-face with her own past choices, and places Sandy's very life at risk. 

I found The Choice to be vintage Robert Whitlow, a compulsive read that was impossible to put down, both entertaining and thought-provoking at the same time. I absolutely devoured this book, as I was so caught up in Sandy's world, from the social stigma she encountered to the emotional growth she experiences, to the amazing forgiveness she finds in the arms of Jesus. Whitlow continues to excel at creating believable characters who are as real as a member of your own family. Sandy's story as a teen was as equally engaging as the second half of her story, when she chooses to help the pregnant teen in her role as a teacher, and finds herself facing an unexpected lawsuit. The story has twists that I didn't even anticipate, and ended up being so much more than I even thought. It would be impossible to read this story and not appreciate the incredibly complex choices that women face with unwanted pregnancies, the choices between abortion or keeping the baby or adopting it out. I loved how this story affirms the utter rightness of choosing to give a baby life, and yet it does so in such a natural manner that it does not at all come across as preachy. Numerous times while reading this book, I was thinking to myself, this should be a movie! Here's hoping!

I can say with utter certainty that fans of previous works from Robert Whitlow are going to absolutely love this book. And if you've never given him a try, here's your chance - you won't be disappointed! I award this book 5 out of 5 stars and my highest recommendation.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR


Image of Robert WhitlowRobert Whitlow grew up in north Georgia. He graduated magna cum laude from Furman University with a BA in history in 1976 and received his JD with honors from the University of Georgia School of Law in 1979. A practicing attorney, he is a partner in a Charlotte, NC law firm. He and his wife Kathy have four children and three grandchildren.
Robert began writing in 1996. His novels are set in the South and include both legal suspense and interesting characterization. It is his desire to write stories that reveal some of the ways God interacts with people in realistic scenerios.

This biography was provided by the author or their representative.






AND NOW FOR THE GIVEAWAY....



I am giving away 1 copy of "The Choice" to readers from the U.S. and Canada, courtesy of the publisher, Thomas Nelson, and publicist Ruthie Dean! 

You can get 1 entry into the giveaway for each task you perform:

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, just leave a comment that you already follow and I'll give you 1 entry for that.

2. "Like" my Facebook page, and let me know you did so in a comment. (The link is at the top of the webpage). Let me know if you've already liked it, and I'll give you an entry.

3. Post about the giveaway on your own blog or on twitter or facebook and leave me a comment. You get 1 entry for each method of spreading the word!

4. Leave a comment answering the following question: "Do you believe in prophecy?"

++ Please include your email address in your comment 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 August 15, 2012.

Good luck!








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or 

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Friday, July 27, 2012

A man's review of "Glamorous Illusions" by @LisaTBergren @David_C_Cook


Okay, I admit it.

Despite knowing that this book would probably contain heavy doses of romance, something that I as a male reader often find over the top (and slightly nauseating), I not only chose to read this book but was looking forward to it as well! And, I'm glad I took the chance, too! Read on for my review of "Glamorous Illusions":



Glamorous Illusions


ABOUT THE BOOK

It's the summer of 1913 and Cora Kensington's life on the family farm has taken a dark turn. Not only are the crops failing, but someone dear to Cora is failing as well.

In one fateful afternoon, a stranger comes to call, and Cora discovers a terrible secret about her past. A secret that will radically change her future.

Cora is invited to take the "Grand Tour" of Europe, a journey intended to finish a person's eduction, to solidify an understanding of ancient culture and contemporary refinement. As she travels from England to France, with kin she's never known, Cora encounters the blessings of a family name, as well as the curses. But when an unbidden love begins to form, she realizes the journey is only beginning..

The first book in the Grand Tour series will take readers on a journey of cultural refinement, but moreover, explores what truly informs a person's sense of identity







MY REVIEW

And the verdict is in....I really enjoyed this book! Cora Kensington is one of those characters who you immediately find yourself rooting for, grieving along with her as she seems to be losing her chance at the future she'd always imagined, and feeling her pain of betrayal at finding out that she is not who she always thought she was (I won't say more for fear of ruining the story for you). I loved the premise of the story, where the young adult characters set out on a Grand Tour of Europe to discover their independence and find out who they really are. In Cora's case, she not only finds herself in different cultures, she faces siblings who seem to despise her, along with the harsh judgment of society, and her own confusion about just what it means to be Cora Kensington. The book is full of twists and turns and scenes of excitement, and as such I found the pacing to be swift and entertaining.

Lisa T. Bergren continues to surprise me at her ability to churn out unique stories that grab at your heart, but also delve deep into issues of faith at well. At the heart of Glamorous Illusions is Cora's discovery that it is okay to be exactly who God made her to be, and it is only his approval that matters. I loved watching her find freedom from the past, and her realization that regardless of societal position or wealth or anything else, that we are all human and needing God's grace to redeem our lives.

And the romance? I found I could handle it after all! :)

So I'm left with no choice but to highly recommend this book and award it 4.5 out of 5 stars. I'm looking forward to the second installment in the series!



READY TO BUY?


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Thursday, July 26, 2012

A thought-provoking read: My review of The Company by Chuck Graham

The Company



ABOUT THE BOOK

A meteor strike plunges the world into darkness. A stranger to the village of Brigos Glen restores power and light, supplied by three businesses, known as “The Company,” located beyond the forbidden mountains. The stranger reveals a plan so the Brigons can maintain the power and share the light with outlying territories, which remain shrouded in darkness.

Now, seventy years later, The Company summons six Brigons, including the young engineer Sam Mitchell, to attend a conference in the mountains of the forbidden Outlands.

Responsible for compiling a report about Brigos Glen from his five companions, Sam learns how managers and villagers largely ignored the plan or compromised it to self-interest, forsaking their duty to share the light. They also took for granted The Company responsible for generating and transmitting the power.

In an ordeal fraught with failure, revelations, and judgment, Sam discovers the true identity behind The Company and learns the fate that may befall Brigos Glen . . . that is, unless he can stop it.



MY REVIEW


The Company is an interesting allegory that explores the concept of the Trinity (God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit) set in a “What If?” world where civilization as we know it has been wiped out by a meteor. The destruction to Earth isn’t the focus of the story, but rather what happens to a small-community of people who are the only people who seem to have survived the blast, and who are trapped in the darkness that follows the destruction until a stranger shows up offering them help in the form of electricity to power their lights and electronics.

Set in this imaginative fictional world, the author seeks to explore our own relationship with God. The book can be taken on many different levels, and may just be read for pure entertainment value allowing the reader to explore a futuristic scenario for humankind, but really shines as a commentary on the contemporary church and the impact of being divided in our beliefs and our understanding of who God is. Personally, I didn't find the focus of the allegory on providing the understanding of the Trinity to be as powerful as the way the author made me think about our purpose on Earth and how believers can be so misguided in their service to God. This is a book that I'd have to read more than once to mine its depths!

Interesting symbolism and imagery, combined with a well-crafted plot, make The Company into a thought-provoking read. I award this book 4 out of 5 stars.

Book has been provided courtesy of the publisher and Litfuse Blog Tour, for the purposes of this unbiased review.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR




Chuck Graham's legal career as an attorney in private practice spanned more than thirty-one years. He represented many local, national, and international clients, acquiring intricate knowledge about the often-overlapping structures of the corporate world. He also worked against those seeking to create racial division, including the Ku Klux Klan. He has served as a member of the state bar of Georgia since 1979 and an instructor to attorneys and judges through the Institute for Continuing Legal Education (ICLE). He received the Medallion of Appreciation from ICLE.


Chuck is also a speaker and the author of Take the Stand (Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1996) and the compilations, A Year of Encouragement (Xulon Press).

In 1997 he founded Ciloa (Christ Is Lord Of All), a ministry devoted to sharing God’s encouragement with the world and teaching those who follow Him how to encourage others. Today Chuck serves as executive director and principal author of A Note of Encouragement, a weekly e-zine reaching 175 countries.

He and Beverly, his wife of thirty-four years, have lived in Lawrenceville, a suburb of Atlanta, for fourteen years. God has blessed them with three children. In his free time, Chuck enjoys backpacking and hiking (especially on the Appalachian Trail), playing the guitar, dabbling in photography, and reading extensively about the Christian faith. 


Looking for more reviews?

Check-out other Litfuse members' reviews here: http://litfusegroup.com/blogtours/13517061/chuckgraham 

Ready to buy?

Follow this link: http://ow.ly/ceAOt  


Tuesday, July 24, 2012

A moving, emotional read: My review of "Reunion" by Lauraine Snelling @FaithWords





ABOUT THE BOOK


Keira Johnson, a 50-year-old mother of two grown sons, believes she lives a good Christian life without secrets-- until she discovers a life-jarring fact her late mother kept hidden all her life. Kiera was born out of wedlock, and the man she had always known as her father had adopted her as an infant.

Meanwhile, Keira's beloved 17-year-old niece, Kirsten, has just discovered an unwanted pregnancy. Her boyfriend, Jose, is bound for college and Kirsten does not know what to do. As the family comes together for a reunion, Keira and Kirsten struggle with their fractured pasts and jumbled present. Will truth and honesty be the catalysts that allow the entire family to find peace?

Inspired by events in Lauraine Snelling's own life, REUNION is the author's finest novel to date.


MY REVIEW

If you are in the mood for a moving, emotional read, then Reunion in the book for you! Lauraine Snelling deftly tackles some difficult issues in her latest book, issues like family secrets, an unexpected pregnancy, and feelings of betrayal, and she does so in a manner that keeps the pace of the story moving along. The characters are well-rounded and realistically portrayed, characters who have moments of selflessness worthy of admiration, but also moments where they are all too human and make mistakes. I especially liked the character of Kirsten, who handles her unwanted pregnancy exactly how many Christians do today, battling depression and a fierce desire to hide their secret, facing temptations to choose abortion, or treating the baby’s father with disrespect and even contempt. What I most love about all of the characters’ stories is the grace that shines in the moments of hardships, the way that they end up drawing around each other to offer love, though the road to getting there has a few bumps along with the way. My one critique of the story is that I felt the story was wrapped up a little too neatly and conveniently at the end, but I can’t deny that the conclusion is one that will leave readers closing the book with a smile on their face.

I strongly recommend this book, especially for readers who have enjoyed previous stories by Lauraine Snelling or other authors like Karen Kingsbury. Themes of forgiveness and grace make this a worthwhile read. I award this book 4 out of 5 stars.

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


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Lauraine Snelling has been writing since 1980, with a total of 56 books published, both fiction and non-fiction, historical and contemporary, for adults and young readers. Lauraine's books consistently appear on CBA bestseller lists and are frequently featured in the Crossings Book Club. Lauraine and her husband, Wayne, live in California and have two grown sons.







READY TO BUY?

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Sunday, July 22, 2012

Free ebook: "Accused" by Janice Cantore

Free for download today is a fairly new release from January 2012, "Accused".

Download the epub from Christianbook.com for your Kobo, Nook, Sony ereader:

Accused



OR


Go to Amazon.com for your Kindle



Saturday, July 21, 2012

I'm so glad I gave this debut author a try! My review of "The Anniversary Waltz" by Darrel Nelson


The Anniversary Waltz: A Novel




ABOUT THE BOOK


At their sixtieth anniversary party, Adam Carlson asks his wife, Elizabeth, for their customary waltz. After the dance they gather the family and share their story—a story of love and courage overcoming adversity and thriving in the face of overwhelming odds.

It’s the summer of 1946, and Adam has just returned from the war to his home in Reunion, Montana. At a town festival he meets Elizabeth Baxter, a young woman going steady with his former high school rival and now influential banker, Nathan Roberts.

When Adam and Elizabeth share a waltz in a deserted pavilion one evening, their feelings begin to grow and they embark on a journey, and a dance, that will last a lifetime.




MY REVIEW


The Anniversary Waltz is a satisfying debut from new and talented author Darrel Nelson. I never know what to expect with debut books, as some I love, and some seem to simply be a good effort. This is definitely one of the better debuts to come along! I absolutely loved the characters who star in its pages, especially Elizabeth with her spunk and wit and refusal to simply do as expected and marry for financial security, and Adam with his patriotic passion, his longing for his father's love, and his willingness to follow his heart into unexpected places. I went into the story hoping it would be good, and closed the pages knowing it was even better than hoped for. Nelson has provided a gripping tale of friendship and romance, and one where he has made the characters live and breathe. The plot doesn't just follow the expected routine romantic story line where guy meets girl and all ends well, but instead has a twist that makes the story so much more, a tale of true love and faith and commitment, where beauty is celebrated as being about the whole person and not just their appearance. You'll just have to read the book and find out what twist I'm hinting at - it's well worth the read.


If you enjoy reading a good historical love story that will appeal to both female and male readers alike, then this is the book for you. Give the author a try - I'm glad I did! 4.5 out of 5 stars. 

Book has been provided courtesy of the publisher, Realms (Charisma House Book Group), for the purposes of this unbiased review.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR


PictureDarrel Nelson is a teacher and writes novels, articles, plays, and music. He has bachelor’s degrees in English and education from the University of Lethbridge in Alberta, Canada.

Check out his webpage here: http://www.darrelnelson.com/

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Powerfully written: My review of The Last Sacrifice by @HankHanegraaff and @SigmundBrouwer1


The Last Sacrifice



The Last Sacrifice sees the return of Gallus Sergius Vitas, who had been sentenced to death by Emperor Nero and his most trusted adviser, Helius. While Nero waits in the arena stadium to watch a man he believes to be Vitas die at the hands of a gladiator, little does he know that Vitas has already been spirited away out of Rome after having been tossed onto a ship along with the Apostle John. Along with his freedom, Vitas has been given a scroll written in Hebrew and filled with symbolism he has been told to unravel to find the answers he's seeking. The scroll contains portions of the letter of Revelation, a letter that Helius is also seeking to understand, for it portends the death of Emperor Nero, information Helius will seek to keep from Nero at any cost. When Helius realizes that Vitas is still alive, he sets into motion a plot to kill Vitas in order to protect the power that Nero has shared with him, a power that he and Nero are bent on using to wipe out every last Christian in the empire.

I greatly enjoyed this follow-up to the story begun in The Last Disciple. Hanegraaf and Brouwer make a dynamic writing team, and the scenes crackle with action and tension and suspense. The book is written at an unstoppable pace, making it difficult to step away from it for any length of time. I love being able to watch Vitas on his journey, from moments of hopelessness to growing ever nearer to choosing to follow the Christos whose name seems to follow him no matter where he is. Some of the scenes involving Nero are so realistically written that I felt utter revulsion at reading about an Emperor who was so entirely twisted and perverted, especially the scene where he has a boy castrated and then seeks to marry him. How bizarre that the Roman world embraced this as normal! The scenes set in Jerusalem are very powerful ones, and serve as a cautionary tale of how far off course it is possible for God's seemingly devoted followers to go. Men of power, such as the temple priests, were seen serving God with devotion and yet easily willing to kill anyone in their way, in order to defend their position of power. Likewise, the scenes set in Rome, where men and woman did as they pleased, satisfying any desires of the flesh without any regard for how it impacted others, made me contemplate how very similar our own culture is today. 


The Last Sacrifice is a very worthy follow up to the first book in the series, and serves to advance the story of Vitas and his wife, as well as the story of the survivors in Jersulam, while leaving me craving the conclusion to this powerful series. I award this book 4.5 out of 5 stars. I'm certainly glad that the wait is almost over for book 3, The Last Temple, which I will be reviewing in August 2012.


Book has been provided by the publisher, Tyndale (courtesy of publicist Katie Dodillet), for the purposes of this unbiased review.


ABOUT THE AUTHORS



Hank Hanegraaff Hank Hanegraaff serves as president and chairman of the board of the North Carolina–based Christian Research Institute International. He is also host of the Bible Answer Man radio program, which is broadcast daily across the United States and Canada as well as around the world through the Internet at http://www.equip.org.

Widely considered to be one of the world's leading Christian apologists, Hanegraaff is deeply committed to equipping Christians to be so familiar with truth that when counterfeits loom on the horizon, they recognize them instantaneously.



Sigmund BrouwerWhether writing youth or adult fiction, Sigmund Brouwer is a best-selling author of more than 40 fast-paced novels. Some of his works encourage young reluctant readers into the world of books, and others provide adults with riveting tales. His youth series include Mars Diaries; Short Cuts Extreme Sports; Lightning on Ice; CyberQuest; The Winds of Light; Dr. Drabble: Genius Inventor; and The Accidental Detectives. His adult fiction titles include Out of the Shadows, Morning Star, Thunder Voice, Double Helix, and Blood Ties.




READY TO BUY? BOOK MAY BE PURCHASED FROM....







Also, keep an eye out for my GIVEAWAY of Book 3 of the series, coming on August 19, 2012!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Congratulations to the giveaway winner of "The Stars Shine Bright" by Sibella Giorello!


Congratulations to:

Brenda Stimely

Who won her very own copy of Sibella Giorello's latest book:


The Stars Shine Bright, Sibella Giorello


If you haven't checked out my review yet, make sure you head over to my previous post from July 2, 2012.

Stay tuned for an upcoming giveaway of Robert Whitlow's latest book :)


Tuesday, July 17, 2012

A unique addition to the Amish fiction genre: My review of "Falling to Pieces" by Vannetta Chapman


Falling to Pieces




When the elderly owner of Daisy's Quilt Shop passes away, her niece, Callie Harper, comes to town with the intention of quickly seeing to her aunt's things, selling the shop, and returning to her life in Texas. However, Amish neighbour Deborah Yoder has other ideas, and her determination to see the shop re-opened to enable her and her friends to sell their quilts for much needed income soon convinces Callie to try her hand at running the quilt shop. But when Callie and Deborah decide to try selling the quilts on ebay, they find themselves under the criticism of the editor of the local paper, and Callie ends up in a very public confrontation with the man. When he is later found dead, Callie suddenly finds herself the main suspect in a murder investigation. Deborah and Callie "must work together to attempt to solve the mystery and catch a killer".

Vanetta Chapman has written a unique addition to the Amish fiction genre, with quirky characters and a mystery full of twists of turns. I have no doubt that readers will soon find themselves enamored with Callie and Deborah and will be rooting both for their attempts to make the quilt shop successful and also to uncover the truth and solve the mystery. I found the book to be well-paced and to hold my attention throughout, and the plot is interesting enough to make it stand out from the crowded field of Amish books that are available today. I did have to suspend my belief a bit at the conclusion of the book, especially that Deborah's Amish husband would not put up any fuss to his wife playing bait to try and catch someone suspected of murder. However, that one plot element aside, I felt the story was well-written and had a satisfying conclusion. I look forward to seeing what these characters will be up to in the next installment of the Shipshewana Amish Mystery series! 4 out of 5 stars.

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


ABOUT THE AUTHOR


Vannetta Chapman has published more than 100 articles in Christian family magazines. She discovered her love for the Amish while researching her grandfather’s birthplace in Albion, Pennsylvania. Vannetta is a multi-award-winning member of Romance Writers of America. She was a teacher for 15 years and currently resides in the Texas Hill country. Her first two inspirational novels—A Simple Amish Christmas and Falling to Pieces—were Christian Book Distributors bestsellers.


Visit the author's website.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

So vivid I could taste the grit of volcanic ash in my teeth: My review of "Rare Earth" by @davisbunn


Rare Earth


ABOUT THE BOOK



Marc Royce stares out of the helicopter, a sense of foreboding rising with the volcanic cloud.  Below, the Rift Valley slashes across Africa like a scar. Decades of conflicts, droughts, and natural disasters have left their mark.

Dispatched to audit a relief organization, Royce is thrust into the squalor and chaos of Kenyan refugee camps. But his true mission focuses on the area's reserves of once-obscure minerals now indispensable to high-tech industries. These strategic elements--called rare earths--have inflamed tensions on the world's stage and stoked tribal rivalries. As Royce prepares to report back to Washington, he seizes on a bold and risky venture for restoring justice to this troubled land.

But this time, Royce may have gone too far.




MY REVIEW



Bunn has a special gift to combine pulse-accelerating action with beautifully crafted prose, and Rare Earth finds the author at his finest. It is an enticing read, one with descriptions so vivid that I could taste the grit of volcanic ash in my teeth. Marc Royce continues to be a fantastic character, a man of integrity who puts feet to his faith, a hero that our generation can embrace. His combat scenes are simply awesome, and they seemed so real they played like a movie across my mind! Marc's ability to instantly assess a situation and connect with the hearts of any culture make for first-rate drama, leaving me wishing that he was not just a man on the pages of a book, but a man at work in the world today fighting against the forces of evil. I absolutely loved how this book brings together vastly different cultures, from Marc and his allies arriving from the shores of America, to people hungering for justice on the plains of Africa, to the marginalized Christian Jews laboring in the kibbutz in Israel. The picture of them working together to achieve a common purpose, one in spirit and unity, is a beautiful foreshadowing of what heaven will hold for us. 


Bunn has again woven faith into a compelling tale, and I know that I will be reading this book again in the future. Although I myself have read Lion of Babylon, the first book to feature Marc Royce, I am confident that a reader could easily pick up Rare Earth and enjoy the story without having read the first (though if you haven't read Lion of Babylon, I encourage you to pick up a copy!). 


I highly recommend Rare Earth and encourage you to make this one of your "must read" books of the summer - you won't be disappointed! I award it 5 out of 5 stars.


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

Davis BunnDavis Bunn is an award-winning novelist whose audience spans reading genres from high drama and action thrillers to heartwarming relationship stories, in both contemporary and historical settings. He and his wife, Isabella, make their home in Florida for some of each year, and spend the rest near Oxford, England, where they each teach and write. Visit Davis' Web site at www.davisbunn.com







Rare Earth



Ready to buy?


Friday, July 13, 2012

Far more epic in scope than I'd anticipated: My review of "Kiss of Night" by Debbie Viguie

Kiss of Night: A Novel



ABOUT THE BOOK


Centuries ago, Raphael was a blasphemous knight who fought in the Crusades purely for his own mercenary benefit, and to satisfy his taste for killing. Now, condemned for his evil passions and hypocrisy, he wanders the earth a vampire, cursed with first-hand knowledge of the supernatural world he once denied existed. The powerful relic he still possesses from his days as a Crusader has been stolen by a rival vampire who has recruited an army of soulless underlings to aid him in spreading evil. At the time he learns this, Raphael has been hunting this vampire for nearly a century, and it seems the final battle is destined to take place in Prague.

For help in this quest, Raphael must enlist the aid of two humans, David and Susan, who suddenly find themselves immersed in a world they never imagined, entangled with supernatural forces they can’t control. Susan, in particular, finds herself conflicted as she struggles with her inexplicable attraction to Raphael. In the end, both Susan and Raphael will be called upon to exercise courage and faith, and in the process, the question What would happen if a vampire truly accepted God? is answered.


MY REVIEW

Well, I'm not sure how I missed the release of this book last fall, but I'm sure glad I got my hands on it now!

I have never gotten swept up into the vampire book craze, and have never seen a single Twilight film, but I have to say that after reading Kiss of Night I wonder if I've been missing out! This book is certainly on the edgier side of Christian fiction with vampires lusting for blood and fights to the death between vampires and humans. But I have to say that I was absolutely captivated by the story line and the breakneck pace of the book, which largely takes place in the present but also has brief snapshots into Raphael's past. The book has a fascinating premise underlying it, posing the question of whether it would be possible to be a vampire and to also embrace a belief in God. The manner in which the author lays this out makes this an entirely plausible scenario, and also raises an intriguing concept about vampires being cursed because the human had been so wicked that there was no way that in a span of their lifetime they would have been able to be redeemed. Instead, they are cursed to become vampires and basically become immortal (except for a few ways that they can be killed), giving the vampire centuries to come to grips with their evil nature and realize their need for redemption. I loved watching Susan and David discover that vampires existed, and the forbidden love that unfolds between Susan and Raphael is sure to please those craving some romance in the midst of the suspense and the supernatural elements.

By the end of the book, I realized that I had entered a series that was far more epic in scope than I'd anticipated, with the unfolding of the beginning of a classic good versus evil battle unto the end. I came to the end wondering how I'm going to be able to wait for the second installment! The writing is action-packed, the characters are intriguing, and the plot is exciting and superbly crafted. In short, this is a great read, and worthy of 4.5 out of 5 stars.

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

ABOUT THE AUTHOR


Debbie Viguié is the New York Times Bestselling author of over a dozen novels including the Wicked series and the new Crusade series co-authored with Nancy Holder.  Much of Debbie’s writing has a dark edge to it, including her retold fairy tales, her latest being Violet Eyes, a retelling of The Princess and the Pea.  In addition to her epic dark fantasy work Debbie also writes thrillers including The Psalm 23 Mysteries and the Kiss trilogy.  When Debbie isn’t busy writing she enjoys spending time with her husband, Scott, visiting theme parks.  They live in Florida with their cat, Shrödinger.





READY TO BUY?


Thursday, July 12, 2012

Offers much to please lovers of Amish fiction: My review of A promise for Miriam

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:

Harvest House Publishers (July 1, 2012)

***Special thanks to Ginger Chen, Marketing Assistant, Harvest House Publishers for sending me a review copy.***

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:


Vannetta Chapman has published more than 100 articles in Christian family magazines. She discovered her love for the Amish while researching her grandfather’s birthplace in Albion, Pennsylvania. Vannetta is a multi-award-winning member of Romance Writers of America. She was a teacher for 15 years and currently resides in the Texas Hill country. Her first two inspirational novels—A Simple Amish Christmas and Falling to Pieces—were Christian Book Distributors bestsellers.


Visit the author's website.

SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:





Amish schoolteacher Miriam King loves her students. At 26, she hasn’t yet met anyone who can convince her to give up the Plain school at Pebble Creek. Then newcomer Gabriel Yoder steps into her life, bringing his daughter, an air of mystery, and challenges Miriam has never faced before.








Product Details:
List Price: $13.99
Paperback: 352 pages
Publisher: Harvest House Publishers (July 1, 2012)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0736946128
ISBN-13: 978-0736946124



AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:


Pebble Creek, southwestern Wisconsin
Three years later
Miriam King glanced over the schoolroom with satisfaction.
Lessons chalked on the board.
Pencils sharpened and in the cup.
Tablets, erasers, and chalk sat on each desk.
Even the woodstove was cooperating this morning. Thank the Lord for Efram Hochstetler, who stopped by early Mondays on his way to work and started the fire. If not for him, the inside of the windows would be covered with ice when she stepped in the room.
Now, where was Esther?
As if Miriam’s thoughts could produce the girl, the back door to the schoolhouse opened and Esther burst through, bringing with her a flurry of snowflakes and a gust of the cold December wind. Her blonde hair was tucked neatly into her kapp, and the winter morning had colored her cheeks a bright red.
Esther wore a light-gray dress with a dark apron covering it. At five and a half feet and weighing no more than a hundred and twenty pounds, Miriam often had the unsettling feeling of looking into a mirror—a mirror into the past—when she looked at the young woman who taught with her at the one-room schoolhouse.
In truth, the teachers had often been mistaken for family. They were similar in temperament as well as appearance. Other than their hair, Esther could have been Miriam’s younger sister. Esther’s was the color of ripe wheat, while Miriam’s was black as coal.
Why did that so often surprise both Plain people and Englischers? If Miriam’s black hair wasn’t completely covered by her kapp, she received the oddest stares.
“Am I late?” Esther’s shoes echoed against the wooden floor as she hurried toward the front of the room. Pulling off her coat, scarf, and gloves, she dropped them on her desk.
“No, but nearly.”
“I told Joseph we had no time to check on his cattle, but he insisted.”
“Worried about the gate again?”
Ya. I told him they wouldn’t work it loose, but he said—”
“Cows are stupid.” They uttered the words at the same time, both mimicking Joseph’s serious voice, and then broke into laughter. The laughter eased the tension from Esther’s near tardiness and set the morning back on an even keel.
“Joseph has all the makings of a fine husband and a gut provider,” Miriam said. “Once you’re married, you’ll be glad he’s so careful about the animals.”
Ya, but when we’re married I won’t be having to leave in time to make it to school.” Esther’s cheeks reddened a bit more as she seemed to realize how the words must sound.
Why did everyone think Miriam was embarrassed that she still remained unmarried? Did it never occur to them that it was her own choice to be single?
“Efram had the room nice and warm before I even arrived,” she said gently. “And I put out your tablets.”
Wunderbaar. I’ll write my lessons on the board, and we’ll be ready.” As Esther reached to pull chalk from her desk drawer, Miriam noticed that she froze and then stood up straighter. When she reached up and touched her kapp as if to make sure she was presentable, Miriam realized someone else was in the room.
She turned to see who had surprised the younger teacher. It was still a few minutes before classes were due to start, and few of their students arrived early.
Standing in the doorway to the schoolroom was an Amish man. Pebble Creek was a small community, technically a part of the village of Cashton. Old-timers and Plain folk alike still referred to the area where the creek went through by its historic name.
Miriam was quite sure she’d never seen the man standing in her classroom before. He was extremely tall, and she had the absurd notion he’d taken his hat off to fit through their entryway. Even standing beneath the door arch, waiting for them to speak, he seemed to barely fit. He was thin and sported a long beard, indicating he was married.
In addition to clutching his black hat, he wore a heavy winter coat, though not the type worn by most Wisconsin residents. The tops of his shoulders, his arms, and even parts of his beard were covered with snow. More important than how he looked standing in her classroom was the fact that he held the hand of a small girl.
Gudemariye,” Miriam said, stepping forward and moving past her desk.
The man still didn’t speak, but as she drew closer, he bent and said something to the girl.
When Miriam had halved the distance between them, he returned her greeting as his somber brown eyes assessed her.
The young girl next to him had dark-brown hair like her father. It had been combed neatly and pulled back into a braid, all tucked inside her kapp. What was striking about her wasn’t her hair or her traditional Plain clothing—it was her eyes. She had the most solemn, beautiful brown eyes Miriam had ever seen on a child.
They seemed to take in everything.
Miriam noticed she clutched her father’s hand tightly with one hand and held a lunch box with the other.
“I’m the teacher of the younger grades here, grades one through four. My name is Miriam King.” The girl’s eyes widened, and the father nodded again. “Esther Schrocks teaches grades five through eight.”
He looked to the girl to see if she understood, but neither replied.
“And your daughter is—”
“Grace is eight years old, just this summer.” Almost as an afterthought, he added, “I’m Gabriel Miller.”
“Pleased to meet you.” Miriam offered her best smile, which still did not seem to put the father at ease. She’d seen nervous parents before, and obviously this was one. “You must be new to our community.”
Ya. I purchased the place on Dawson Road.”
“Dawson Road? Do you mean the Kline farm?”
Ya.” Not quite rude, but curt and to the point.
Miriam tried to hide any concern she felt as images of Kline’s dilapidated spread popped into her mind. It was no business of hers where this family chose to live. “I know exactly where you mean. My parents live a few miles past that.”
“It’s a fair piece from here,” he noted.
“That it is. Esther and I live here at the schoolhouse during the week. The district built accommodations on the floor above, as is the custom in most of our schoolhouses here in Wisconsin. We both spend weekends at home with our families.”
“I don’t know I’ll be able to bring Grace in every day.” Gabriel Miller reached up and ran his finger under the collar of his shirt, which peeked through the gap at the top of his coat.
Miriam noticed then that it looked stiff and freshly laundered. Had he put on his Sunday best to bring his daughter to school on her first day? It said something about him if he had.
“A man has to put his farm first,” he added defensively.
“Some children live close enough that their parents can bring them in the winter, and, of course, most everyone walks when the weather permits.” Miriam paused to smile in greeting as a few students began arriving and walking around them. “Others ride together. Eli Stutzman lives past Dawson road, and he would be happy to give your dochder a ride to school.”
“It would be a help.” Mr. Miller still didn’t move, and Miriam waited, wondering what else the man needed to say.
She looked up and saw one of the older girls, Hannah, walking in the door. “Hannah, this is Grace Miller. She’s new at our school. Would you mind sitting with her and helping her this week?”
“Sure thing, Miriam.” Hannah squatted down to Grace’s level and said something to the girl Miriam couldn’t hear.
Whatever it was, Grace released her dat’s hand and took Hannah’s. She’d walked halfway down the aisle when she turned, rushed back to where they stood, and threw her arms around her father’s legs.
One squeeze and she was gone again.
Though it was fleeting, Miriam saw a look of anguish pass over the man’s face. What could be going through his mind? She’d seen many fathers leave their children for the first time over the last eight years, but something more was going on here.
“She’ll be fine, Mr. Miller. We’re a small school, and the children look after one another.”
“It’s that…” he twirled his hat in his hands once, twice, three times. “Before we moved here, Grace was…that is to say, we…well, her grossmammi homeschooled her.”
“I understand. How about if I write a note letting you know how Grace is doing? I’ll put it in her lunch box at the end of the day.”
Something like relief washed over his face.
Danki,” he mumbled. Then he rammed his hat on his head and hurried out the door.
Esther caught her attention from the front of the room and sent a questioning look toward the man’s retreating back, but Miriam shook her head. She’d explain later, at lunch perhaps. For now they had nearly forty children between them to teach. As usual, it would be a busy morning.

Gabe did stop to talk to Eli Stutzman. He wanted to make sure he trusted the man.
It helped when three girls and a boy who were the last to climb out of the long buggy stopped to wish their father a good day. The littlest girl, probably the same age as his Gracie, wrapped her arms around her daddy’s neck, whispered something in his ear, and then tumbled down the steps into the chilly morning.
“That one is my youngest—Sadie. Always full of energy, but she’s a worrier. This morning it’s about a pup she left at home in the barn.” Covering the distance between them, the older man removed his glove and offered his right hand. “Name’s Eli Stutzman. I take it you’re new here, which must mean you bought the Kline place.”
“I am, and I did. Gabriel Miller.” Gabe stood still in the cold, wishing he could be done with this and back on his farm.
“Have children in the school?”
“One, a girl—about your youngest one’s age.”
Eli nodded, and then he seemed to choose his words carefully. “I suspect you’ll be busy putting your place in order. It will be no problem giving your dochder a ride back and forth each day.”
“I would appreciate it.”
Stutzman told him the approximate time he passed the Kline place, and Gabe promised he’d have Gracie ready at the end of the lane.
He turned to go and was headed to his own buggy when the man called out to him.
“The Kline place has been empty quite a while.”
Gabe didn’t answer. Instead, he glanced out at the surrounding fields, covered in snow and desolate looking on this Monday morning.
“If you need help, or find something that’s worse than what you expected, you holler. We help each other in Pebble Creek.”
Gabe ran his hand along the back of his neck but didn’t answer. Merely nodding, he moved on to his buggy.
He was accustomed to people offering help. Actually delivering on it? That was often another story, though he wouldn’t be judging the people here before he knew them.
Still, it was in his nature to do things on his own if at all possible.
Was his new home worse than he had expected?
Ya, it was much worse.
The barn was falling in on itself, and the house was not a lot better, but he knew carpentry. He could make them right. At least the woodstove worked. He’d been somewhat surprised to find no gas refrigerator, but he had found out who sold blocks of ice carved from the river. The icebox in the mudroom would do.
Gracie would be warm and fed. She’d have a safe place to sleep and to do the drawing she loved so much.
He didn’t think he’d be calling on Eli for help.
He’d see that Grace Ann made it to school and church—he’d promised her grossmammis as much. But other than that he wasn’t looking to make freinden in Pebble Creek. He wanted to be left alone. It was the reason he’d left their community in Indiana.
He could do without any help.
His parting words to his parents echoed back to him.
“I can do it on my own.”
As he drove the buggy toward home, Gabe looked out over high ridges and low valleys. Dairy farms dotted the snowcapped view. Running through it all was Pebble Creek, no doubt a prime place for trout fishing most of the year. He’d heard the call of wild turkeys and seen deer. It was a rich, blessed area.
Pebble Creek ran through the heart of Cashton, the closest town. It also touched the border of the school grounds and meandered through his own property. It bound them together.
As he approached home, Gabe’s mind was filled with thoughts of the day’s work ahead of him. He wondered where he’d find the energy to do it all, but somehow he would.
For Gracie he would.
His parents had offered to send his youngest brother along for the first year, but Andrew was needed on the family place. And, truthfully, Gabe preferred to be alone—just he and Grace.
“I can do it on my own.”
“Just because you can doesn’t mean you should,” his mother said. She had reminded him as he was packing their things that pride was his worst shortcoming, though the Lord knew he had many to choose from when it came to faults.
Was it pride that scraped against his heart each day? He couldn’t say.
He only knew he preferred solitude to company, especially since Hope died.
Hope.
That seemed ironic, even to him. She had been his hope, his life, his all, and now she was gone. Her death had happened so quickly—it reminded him of one of the Englisch freight trains barreling around the corner of some bend.
A big black iron thing he hadn’t seen coming. A monstrosity with the power to destroy his life.
Which wasn’t what the bishop had said, or his parents, or his brothers and sisters.
He slapped the reins and allowed his new horse, Chance, to move a bit faster over the snow-covered road. He’d left Indiana because he needed to be free of the looks of sympathy, the well-intentioned words, the interfering.
So he now had what he’d wished for—a new beginning with Grace.
If it meant days of backbreaking work, so much the better. Perhaps when he was exhausted, he would begin to sleep at night.






My Review

The latest offering from Vanetta Chapman offers much to please lovers of Amish fiction, celebrating the best of their culture and their faith by depicting the power of family and togetherness in the face of life's difficult storms. The first in a three-part series, A Promise for Miriam offers a solid beginning, by an author who excels at creating heart-warming characters. My favorite character in the story is actually Gabe's daughter Grace, who captured my heart from the opening scenes where she bursts in on her father draped over her mother, who had just died, and is severely reprimanded by her grandfather, an act that literally silences her voice for years. The story had numerous interesting plots and subplots, and the one of Grace finding her voice was a poignant one indeed. The relationship that develops between Gabe and Miriam is also sweet to behold, and their relationship is one that is filled with deep emotion. The subplot of a corporate developer blowing into town and wanting to infringe upon the peaceful life of the Amish is also one that captured my interest, and I look forward to seeing how this develops further in future installments in the series. I did find that the story had a couple of slower sections, but I left the tale feeling like it was time well-spent, and I strongly recommend this moving contemporary Amish story. 4 out of 5 stars.

Book has been provided courtesy of the publisher, Harvest House, and First Wildcard, for the purposes of this unbiased review.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

A dynamite debut: My review of "The Deposit Slip" by Todd M. Johnson @GrafMartin



Deposit Slip, The, Todd M. Johnson, 978-0-7642-0986-4



ABOUT THE BOOK


$10,000,000 Is Missing.

Erin Larson is running out of options. In the wake of her father's death, she found a slim piece of paper--a deposit slip--with an unbelievable amount on it. Only the bank claims they have no record of the money, and trying to hire a lawyer has brought only intimidation and threats. Erin's last chance is Jared Neaton.

How Far Will One Lawyer Go to Find the Money?
 
When Jared wearied of the shady ethics of his big law firm and started his own, he never expected the wheels to fly off so quickly. One big loss has pushed him to the brink, and it's all he can do to scrape by.

And How Far Will Someone Go to Stop Him?

He's not sure if Erin's case is worth the risk, but if the money is real, all his problems could vanish. When digging deeper unleashes something far more dangerous than just threats, both Jared and Erin must decide the cost they're willing to pay to discover the truth.



MY REVIEW


I absolutely loved this debut novel from Todd M. Johnson and can confidently say it’s my favourite debut novel of the year, so far!

Now, to be fair, I love legal thrillers, so that fact alone gives this book a significant advantage. However, not only is this book a legal thriller....it’s a well-written legal thriller! The writing is taut and the pacing spot-on, and it did not at all feel like I was reading a debut novel. The story captured my interest from the first chapter, and didn't let go as it delved into the fascinating case of the $10,000,000 deposit slip, the origin of the money, and the ongoing efforts taken to quash any attempts to uncover the truth. Jared is a nicely developed character, realistically portrayed and unique enough to hold my interest. I was greatly appreciative of the fact that the author did not even try and touch the typical lawyer-turned-drinking-bum stereotype that so many legal thrillers seem to feature, but instead created a character in Jared that, while human and flawed, I still felt I could root for. I also enjoyed the story arc involving Jared's assistant, Jessie, and the subtle romance developing between them, as well as Jared's struggle to forgive his father for what happened in the past. All of the story lines tie up nicely in the satisfying conclusion, while leaving me wanting to know more about Jared and Jessie and what's in store for them.

I highly recommend this book for anyone who loves a good legal thriller...and anyone who just loves a good book. Well done Todd! I can't wait to see what the future holds for Jared! 5 out of 5 stars.

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. 



The Deposit Slip



ABOUT THE AUTHOR


 Todd M. Johnson has practiced as an attorney for over 30 years, specializing as a trial lawyer. A graduate of Princeton University and the University of Minnesota Law School, he also taught for two years as adjunct professor of International Law and served as a US diplomat in Hong Kong. This is his debut novel. He lives outside Minneapolis, Minnesota, with his wife and daughter. Visit his website at www.authortoddjohnson.com.