Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Top 13 reads of 2013

Wow! I can't believe it's the end of the year already! And it has been quite a year for Christian fiction in 2013, with lots of great reads hitting the market.
Here's the 13 books that I enjoyed the most:

Harvest of Gold  The Living Room 
Cover Art Cover Art Cover Art 
Cover Art Cover Art http://christianfictionaddiction.blogspot.ca/2013/10/a-taut-suspenseful-read-my-review-of.html http://christianfictionaddiction.blogspot.ca/2013/07/a-masterful-tale-that-made-me-laugh-and.html 
Wings of Glass  Dead Lawyers Tell No Tales Memory's Door Cover Art
And if I had to choose my top one? Practically impossible!
However, I will be surprised if this one doesn't win awards!
Cover Art
Happy 2013 everyone :)

Sunday, December 22, 2013

A smart, all-too-real thriller: My review of "Strait of Hormuz" by David Bunn

Cover Art

about the book....

"They're out there. The danger is real... and inbound."--Marc Royce

An under-the-radar phone call from the U.S. State Department puts Marc Royce once again on assignment--ferreting out rumors of a clandestine operation stretching from Asia to the Mideast. At stake is Iran's threat to blockade the narrow Strait of Hormuz, cutting off vital shipping routes and escalating global tensions beyond the breaking point.

Under the guise of investigating money laundering via high-end art purchases in Europe, Royce finds himself in Switzerland with only sketchy information, no backup, and without a single weapon other than his wits.

His appointment with a gallery owner in Geneva is a dead end--the man is on the floor with a bullet through his chest. But it turns out Royce does have backup. The Mossad has sent someone to keep an eye on this undercover op, which is of more than casual interest to the Israelis. And it's someone Royce knows...

A small team gathers around Royce--

a single objective against multiple enemies.

my review....

Marc Royce became one of my favourite characters with his debut in "Lion of Babylon", solidified this position in the excellent follow-up "Rare Earth", and now again holds firm in his stature with his excellent performance in "Straight of Hormuz". Royce is such a finely crafted character that he truly seems alive, a real hero that both men and women will enjoy reading about as he dashes across the pages putting his life on the line. I honestly found this book impossible to put down once I'd cracked the cover. From the first few pages to the final chapter, the intense, action-filled plot pulled me into the story and held me captive. The international intrigue and conspiracies woven into the story make for some solid entertainment, and the themes appear ripped from the headlines, capturing the tension in the Middle East that marks our world today. I enjoyed the manner in which Kitra especially seems to grow as a character in this story, finding a new confidence in herself as she steps into a new (and fun) role in the plot. The interactions between Marc and Kitra add just the right touch of romance to the story, and I turned the final pages satisfied with where we, the readers, are left in their relationship (though I admit I'm hoping for a return of these characters one day in the future!). As usual for Bunn, faith permeates the pages of the story, though it is done so subtly that people of many different faiths are likely to appreciate this book while being drawn to the truth of Jesus.

Davis Bunn has succeeded in becoming one of the few authors on my list whose books have achieved a "must have" status. If you are anything like me, then plan on getting "Straight of Hormuz". I highly recommend this book and 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 Bunn
Davis Bunn is the award-winning author of numerous national bestsellers with sales totaling more than seven million copies. His work has been published in sixteen languages, and his critical acclaim includes three Christy Awards for excellence in fiction. Formerly a business executive working in Europe, Africa, and the Middle East, Bunn is now a lecturer in creative writing and Writer in Residence at Regent's Park College, Oxford University. He and his wife, Isabella, divide their time between the English countryside and the coast of Florida.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

The best Ted Dekker book to arrive in years: My review of "Outlaw"


about the book....

The story of how I, Julian Carter, and my precious two-year old son, Stephen, left Atlanta Georgia and found ourselves on a white sailboat, tossed about like a cork on a raging sea off of Australia's northern tip in 1963, is harrowing.

But it pales in comparison to what happened deep in the jungle where I was taken as a slave by a savage tribe unknown to the world. Some places dwell in darkness so deep that even God seems to stay away.

There, my mind was torn in two by the gods of the earth. There, one life ended so another could begin.

Some will say I was a fool for making the choices I made. But they would have done the same. They, too, would have embraced death if they knew what I knew, and saw through my eyes.

My name is Julian and this is my story. But more, it is the story of my son who was born to change the world.

my review....

Ted Dekker has long fascinated me with his ability to stretch the imagination of his readers and do something that no one else has really done before. I have not loved all of his latest books, but I really loved "Outlaw", finding it to be a story unlike any other I've read. The story bursts with life and vivid descriptions, likely because Dekker has set the story deep in the heart of a jungle like the one where Dekker himself was born and raised. As I glimpsed into the heart of the tribe, unknown to the world and holding fast to a set of beliefs so different than my own, I could only imagine what it would be like to be Julian and be thrust into such a foreign setting! I found the story to move along swiftly, as I was caught up in Julian's story, one where her very life is continually threatened. The characters are well-rendered and believable, and I loved the complex nature of both Julian and her son, as well as the various tribal members they encounter.

As I closed the pages of the story, I reflected that more than any other Dekker book, I was challenged to consider my belief in God and whether I am living a life where faith is put into action. Am I living out the deep truths presented in God's word? The power of Dekker's story is that it challenges all of us to take our thoughts captive to the truth of what Jesus has done on the cross, to look at the world through God's eyes and not our own fear-filled ones. It is a challenge to love and forgive, in God's power, when we surely can't on our own. I found the past couple of chapters of the story so moving that I was battling tears.

I highly recommend this imaginative and thought-provoking read, and award it 5 out of 5 stars. I can only hope that we may meet these characters again!
Book has been provided courtesy of Center Street, a division of Hachette Book Group Canada, for the purposes of this unbiased review.
++ Caution: I will say that I have talked to other readers who were disturbed by the sensual nature of one of the scenes in the book. I have gone back and re-read that scene and while it does push the boundaries, in the context of the culture and with Julian struggling just to survive the scene really does fit well with the story. However, let it be a caution to readers that they should consider the age of the audience that they are recommending this story to. I do not think that an adult audience would be offended by the scene as such. 

 about the author....
Dekker, Ted (1526019)
  TED DEKKER is a New York Times bestselling author of more than twenty novels with a total of more than 3 million books in print. He is known for thrillers that combine adrenaline-laced plots with incredible confrontations between good and evil. - See more at: http://www.hachettebookgroup.com/authors/ted-dekker/#about

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Prepare for tears! My review of "Orchard of Hope" by Ann H. Gabhart

Cover Art

about the book....

The smoldering embers of unrest are stirring--and even Jocie's sweet spirit can't put them out.

It's already been an eventful summer for Jocie Brooke. Little does she know, things have only just begun to heat up. Drought has gripped the quiet Kentucky town of Hollyhill and it seems as if everyone is waiting--for rain, for a fresh start, for the next step toward the future.

Into this tense haze of anticipation comes a new family, aiming to make a better life for themselves by planting an orchard on the outskirts of town. Fresh off the freedom train, Alex and Myra Hearndon are sensitive to what the color of their skin may mean in the segregated South. And even though Jocie quickly befriends the family, suspicion from both sides of the racial divide proves a formidable obstacle. Can Jocie help bridge the gap? Or will life in her quiet community fall apart at the seams?

Bestselling author Ann Gabhart invites you back to Hollyhill for a gripping tale of unexpected friendship, forgiveness, and the bright promise of a new beginning.

my review....

I greatly enjoyed the first book in the Heart of Hollyhill Series, "The Scent of Lilacs", and so it was with great anticipation that I picked up the next book, "Orchard of Hope". I was certainly not disappointed! As I've said in other reviews, I'm a sucker for books where the main character is a child or teen and their innocence is tested against the heartbreak that they find as they emerge into adulthood. Jocie is a wonderful character who breathes with life and a sense of justice that is refreshing to read about, and her journey is a beautifully written one. There is a whole cast of characters that I love in this second novel, including the ones from the black community who push Jocie out of her comfort zone and cause her to take a good look at the inequalities in society. I found the writing to be solid, though I will say that some of the chapters in the middle had a tad too much introspection for my liking, such that not all the chapters moved the story forward for me as much as others. However, overall I simply couldn't get enough of this story as I waited for the tragedy that you just know is just hovering over the horizon. And then it hits, and I was held spell-bound by the resulting heroism and deep acts of faith played out on the pages. I soon forgot I was just reading a fiction story, and I'll admit that I basically had tears dripping down my face for the final couple of chapters. The story is a powerful portrayal of evil running up against grace and the light of God's eternal love.

Gabhart has written a story that will deeply engage your emotions, and hold you captive as you live through the characters she so richly portrays on the pages of "Orchard of Hope". Pick up a copy of this book. You will be glad you did. 4.5 out of 5 stars.

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

 about the author....

Ann H. GabhartAnn H. Gabhart is the bestselling author of Angel Sister, Small Town Girl, and Words Spoken True, as well as several Shaker novels--The Outsider, The Believer, The Seeker, The Blessed, and The Gifted--and The Heart of Hollyhill series. She lives with her husband a mile from where she was born in rural Kentucky. Learn more at www.annhgabhart.com.