Thursday, August 29, 2013

The 50 Fridays Marriage Challenge

by Jeff and Lora Helton
Howard Books

The 50 Fridays Marriage Challenge is a practical, once-a-week guide to get you and your spouse communicating on the most intimate level in order to succeed in the institution called marriage. Too often, marriages fall apart because of a lack of communication - not because of things that happen or cannot be controlled. We live in a modern, fast paced world where we have everything we need at our fingertips, and we no longer need others to satisfy our needs. We spend our lives going to work, bouncing from one activity to the next, constantly keeping an eye on our cell phones and devices, and connecting with others through social networks instead of face-to-face communication and quality time. It is too easy to drift apart even if we're sitting right next to each other, and simple things like talking and paying absolute attention to each other is virtually impossible with the trappings and distractions of our little worlds. 

So Jeff and Lora are providing a very simple solution to this modern dilemma: one question a week. That's it! Well that and some effort and enthusiasm on your part is wonderful too. Each short chapter begins with a question that you ask your spouse (you probably should rotate who answers first!) then follows a Bible verse or passage, a brief, encouraging message, and a quote that directly applies with the question for that week. It gives you the chance to sit and talk to your spouse about the things that are important: children, in-laws, fiances, hopes, dreams, jobs, and just about everything about your lives together. Two shall become one, and this is a wonderful jump-start for any marriage; one that is starting out, one you've been in for however many years (yes, even if you think your marriage is almost 100% perfect!), or even if you're thinking about getting married. Communication is the key, and it leads to resolution for all those little issues that cause friction, fights, and falling out. A recommended little guide for anyone with a wedding (or engagement ring) on their fingers. 

This book was provided by Howard Books for free in exchange for an honest review. 

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

The Merciful Scar

by Rebecca St. James & Nancy Rue
Thomas Nelson Publishers

Kirsten is a normal girl on the outside, but she is slowly dying on the inside. An accident in her family has broken how she sees herself, her family, and God; and the only way she feels anything at all is by carving tiny lines into her skin. Despite the physical pain that comes from such actions, the emotional pain she is suffering far outweighs a little blood she draws from time to time. Feeling guilt from the past and thinking she can do nothing to change her life, she tries in vain to ease the pain that is threatening to overwhelm and overtake her. 

Now at twenty-three years old, she still fights the demons of her past. Her boyfriend of several years provides somewhat of a crutch for her, but when she discovers he is seeing her best friend, her world comes crashing down around her. She does what she knows will ease the pain - a knife, a little line, a little blood, and a little guilt eased temporally. But this time the line isn't so little, and this time someone sees her. She lands in the psych ward because it is believed she tried to kill herself. 

Knowing she has gone too far this time, Kirsten takes her pastor's suggestion to go to a sheep ranch that has a treatment program for people like her. But no matter what she does or where she goes, she cannot escape from the pain and guilt of her past. Will she ever find the redeeming grace and forgiveness everyone talks about but seems to elude her? And will she ever be able to forgive herself for what she has done?

If you have ever done anything in your past that you can't forgive yourself for, you will certainly empathize with Kirsten and understand how she got to the point of cutting herself. While this book is directed more for the YA group, I think that readers of any age (not children, of course) will benefit from reading this novel. Cutting is not something that we know a lot about as a society, and unless it affects us in some way, it's one of the issues that gets swept under the rug. Forgiveness is a simple thing, freeing and liberating in nature. But forgiving yourself is the hardest thing to do sometimes, as Kirsten learns and experiences firsthand.  

This book was provided by Thomas Nelson Publishers for free in exchange for an honest review. 

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

The Outcast

by Jolina Petersheim
Tyndale House Publishers

Raised in an Old Order Mennonite community, Rachel and Leah have been inseparable since before they were born. As identical twins they do everything together. But their personalities are as opposite as night and day. Leah is meek, quiet and submissive; and Rachel is fiercely independent, stubborn and strong-willed. So when Leah marries a bishop and moves to Tennessee, it is Rachel she calls upon to help her when she becomes ill with her first pregnancy. 

Secrets long hidden are coming to light, and Rachel's arrival to her twin sister's home may not be the best thing for either of them. When Rachel turn up pregnant, Leah's husband, Tobias, is more than ready to put Rachel out of their home for her adultery. But while Rachel is not confessing who the father is, her childhood friend, Judah King, desperately wants to make her his wife even though she has a child. When the baby's life is at stake, will the partner in her sin come forward to save little Eli's life?

This novel is in a genre all it's own; Amish, suspense, and re-told classic all rolled into one! Naturally, the story line itself is of great interest to anyone who has read the scarlet letter (or researched it well enough to write school reports on it!) but while I have never read the original tale, this one was more than enough to satisfy my curiosity! I was completely blown away by the tension throughout this book, and the page turning action and conflicts had me at the edge of my seat. It is unique, poignant, and an unforgettable saga of love, betrayal, forgiveness and mercy.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Death Dangles a Participle

by E. E. Kennedy
Sheaf House Publishers

Dustin and J.T. Rousseau are as dumb and reckless as any boys their age can be. Wanting to impress their schoolmates and friends, their shenanigans are constantly getting them attention of the wrong kind - teachers, parents, and even the law on occasion. But their latest escapade promises to be the worst idea they've ever had in their short lives. A man is dead, and the evidence is pointing straight at the Rousseau brothers. While the story is being sorted out by the police department the boys are placed under house arrest while the murder is investigated.

Naturally, Amelia Prentice has to figure out what is going on. In her mind, there is no way her students are murderers. But the evidence is mounting, and her very own nephew, Vern, is starting to look guilty. As if all that wasn't enough, her best friend, Lily, isn't speaking to her. Amelia herself isn't feeling all that great, and has neither the time or energy to figure out what's wrong with her friend. Will she be able to solve the murder in time? Or is her "happily ever after" with her new husband Gil just an unreachable dream after all?

Kennedy takes us back to Adirondack, New York, back into the life of Amelia Prentice (now Dickenson) and takes us on another cozy mystery. As I've said before, this genre is not my thing. But Kennedy has won me over for keeps, and her writing is the only reason why. Even though I know Amelia is a fictitious character, I found myself wishing she was real because she would be such an amazing friend! She's got her quirks, to be sure, but that's what makes her so realistic and down to earth. I loved everything about this mystery, and I was pleasantly surprised with the ending. Even if you already like cozy mysteries, you will fall in love with this one.

This book was provided by Sheaf House for free in exchange for an honest review.

For Every Season

by Cindy Woodsmall
Waterbrook Press

Rhoda Byler, along with her friends and family that traveled with her to Maine are hard at work in the new Amish Community. A reckless decision on Rhoda's part leaves her relationship with Jacob on shaky ground, and she has no idea how to fix it. Samuel is just as much to blame for his part in the fiasco, but how can a man change his feelings for the sake of preserving the integrity of the budding community of Unity? 

Rhoda feels like the settlement is home already. Despite of the mounting tension and ill will between brothers, she feels that she truly has a chance for new beginnings. Not everyone understands her "gift" and the people of her old community feared the insight that has prevented many a catastrophe. Will she and her new community be able to fight against the odds and succeed to build a new life? And will her ability to see the future aid her in deciding which man truly belongs to her heart? 

The second book left me in such suspense, I actually have been counting down the days till the third one was released! While the topic matter can be a little iffy for some people, Woodsmall has woven a story that transcends what we have come to expect from this genre. She has given us food for thought along with a wonderful story that becomes part of the new normal no matter what you believe. She has created something different than any other Amish novels, and she explores the possibility of insight while giving us what we have come to expect; romance, adventure, of course, Amish life. Recommended even if you haven't read the first two yet, although if you haven't, you will want to catch up asap. 

Friday, August 23, 2013

Irrigardless of Murder

by E. E. Kennedy
Sheaf House Publishers

Amelia Prentice is 41 years old, single, and an English teacher. So when she stumbles on the body of a former student in the copy room, things are certainly bound to change. Problem is, she has absolutely no recollection of actually tripping on a body. All she remembers is a man leaving the room just as she arrived, and then - nothing. And for her trouble, she has a nasty bump on her head that isn't exactly proving her innocence.

So whether out of a sense of justice or just her civilian duty to society, Amelia set out to find out who did it. In the meantime though, her personal life is getting a little bit complicated. Between her best friend getting dumped overboard, an acquaintance from high school trying to sell her house without permission, and a rekindling romance from 20 years ago, she is up to her neck with problems. Will she be able to solve the mystery of the body (and her life) in time?

While mysteries are not particularly my favorite genre, this one got my attention. Amelia is inadvertently drawn into solving the murder of her former student, and her hilarious adventures (admittedly misadventures in some cases!) are going to keep you turning pages. The relationships between the characters in this fabulous mystery by Kennedy make you feel as if could absolutely be your family, your friends and your life. Adirondack, New York will never be the same with Amelia's sleuthing "skills" on the loose, and you will view this genre in a whole new light whether you're a huge fan or on the fence like I was.

This book was provided by the publisher for free in exchange for an honest review.  

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Dark Road Home

by Elizabeth Ludwig
Bethany House Publishers

Eoghan Hamilton has been betrayed in the worst way possible  - by his own flesh and blood twin sister, Cara. The man she married is his sworn enemy and seeking to kill him, and nothing short of a miracle will convince Eoghan that Rourke Turner is a changed man and worthy of his sister. Alone in the world and steadfastly avoiding his sister despite their close proximity in New York, Eoghan has managed to keep his distance for 2 years. His budding friendship with one particular young woman named Ana threatens to destroy his anonymity, along with the hope he harbors that one day he can get Cara away from Rourke.

Having crossed the continent from Ireland to America to escape a murderous uncle, Ana knows all too well what it means to keep her distance from family. Changing  her name and traveling to a new country as a young orphan was difficult, but trying to stay alive after her location is discovered is even harder. Is her uncle truly a changed man, or is he seeking to finish what he started years ago in the fire that killed her family?

It was really nice to catch up with the characters from the first book in the series, Safe Harbor. There was definitely a lot of build up from the first book, but it can be read on it's own. Ever the mystery writer, Ludwig gives us everything we want in a historical romance with a mysterious air about it. The setting is a huge part of the story, but believe me when I say you will be reading their lines with an Irish brogue! I usually don't entertain such nonsense with my storybook characters, but the author made it so clear in her writing I just couldn't help it. Whether you believe in love or not, the time, place and unforgettable characters will make you a fan.

This book was provided by Bethany House Publishers for free in exchange for an honest review.

Dark Halo

by Shannon Dittemore
Thomas Nelson Publishers

Brielle is gifted with sight into the Celestial, and at times, it is be a burden she cannot bear. There is one halo, however, that offers her a reprieve from what she sees, despite that she can now see without the halo that first offered her a glimpse into that other world. An evil that no Terrestrial eyes can see threaten her little town of Stratus, Oregon, and every mortal's soul is at stake. Brielle cannot sleep at night for the nightmares that haunt her, and the Terrestrial veil is ripping apart with every day that passes. 

A trap puts Brielle face to face with her biggest challenge yet - the Prince of Darkness himself. Stuck in a desert with the creature she now believes is real, she is tempted almost beyond what she can bear. The Prince promises relief from the nightmares that plague her, and he promises a future with Jake. All she has to do is accept the halo and deny The One who gave her life. Will Brielle trade her soul for the chance to be normal again? Or is there more than just her life at stake in this deal? 

As always, Dittemore has delivered a spectacular novel that stays with you after you've finished the book. Despite being a work of fiction, the Bible tells us clearly that, "For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places." Ephesians 6:12. The author has captured the essence of this scripture with very fine writing - something all young people will love reading and exploring. Too often we focus on that which we can see, instead of the secret, hidden things of the soul. 

This book was provided by Thomas Nelson Publishers for free in exchange for an honest review.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Angel Eyes

by Shannon Dittemore
Thomas Nelson Publishers

Even after her mother's untimely death, Brielle was having a pretty decent life. Living with her dad in the little town of Stratus, Oregon, they share a quiet existence together. When discovered by a talent agent at the age of sixteen, Brielle's life changes dramatically - for the better. As the only daughter of a logger, life as a ballerina in the big city is too tempting an offer to turn away. Two years later she returns home, much changed by her experiences. Death stalks her every breathing moment, and with it a jaded and jarring disappointment in the human race.

Brielle learns there is a world she cannot see, at least not until she sees with Celestial eyes. She can only see with her Terrestrial eyes, and the world that is opened up to her brings her beyond the point of her disbelief and the Maker who controls it all. What will it take to make her see the Truth? Will it take her death before she finally believes?

First, I'm going to say that book was an attention grabber. Secondly, while I feel that it was indeed written primarily for young people, the truths contained in this novel are for everyone. Thirdly, Dittemore's correlation between the Biblical Elisha and her presumably in-the-present setting was intriguing, enthralling, and breathtakingly mysterious all rolled into one. Last but not least, the ending definitely leave you hanging and wanting more, but that's just something you'll have to discover for yourself.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Sisters of Mercy Flats

by Lori Copeland 
Harvest House Publishers

If nothing else, the one thing the McDougal sisters can do well is swindle a man faster than Robin Hood of old. Naturally, such going-ons can only go unpunished for so long. So when the McDougal sisters find themselves facing some serious jail time, there isn't much the fast talking trio can come up with to get out of this one. Luckily, their disguise save the day and three men see their plight in passing and come to the rescue. The problem isn't the fact that they're being rescued, the trouble lies in who one particular sister, Abigail, ends up with. Her sisters get fine, strong, capable and strapping young men. But she is stuck with a traveling shoe salesman who doesn't seem to have the slightest clue on how to keep them alive as they wander travel through Texas. 

Hershall Digman doesn't have the first idea on how to handle the rambunctious Abigail and has even less idea on what to do when she steals his horse and the packet of papers in his saddlebags. He has a mission to fulfill, and her taking off like her life depended on it is not helping matters at all. He is running out of time, resources, and patience; and now has sensitive papers to find, along with the girl who took off with them. He knows the simplest way to explain himself is tell her the truth about who he really is and agree to take her where she needs to go. But that is going to prove nearly impossible to accomplish with the minx sporting unusually green eyes and an even more unusual personality. Will they be able to solve their differences in time to get them both to their designated meeting places? 

This was definitely one of those laugh-out-loud romances that had me giggling with delight every other page. Okay, so some parts were more serious and danger filled, but a lot was just downright funny. I have meet some pretty feisty characters in the pages of novels...but Abigail sure did beat them all! She was in action faster than I could guess what she was going to do, and just had my head spinning. Her "rescuer" played the part of a bumbling idiot so well I almost believed he was completely in the dark about survival skills. These two will have you alternately laughing and holding your breath just wondering what they're going to get into next!

This book was provided by Harvest House Publishers for free in exchange for an honest review. 

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

The Return of Cassandra Todd

by Darrel Nelson
Realms Publishers

Turner Caldwell remembers all too well the living hell high school was for him. He also remembers one cheerleader, Cassandra, who didn't seem like the rest; sympathetic to his plight, but too afraid to reach out and help him. He thought he had put his past and bitterness behind him, but when she shows up unexpectedly with her 4-year-old son, Justin, Turner's life takes an completely unexpected turn.

When Cassandra's husband turns out to be someone from Turner's past, he is at loss for what to do with the two fugitives at his door. If he shelters them, they may very well be able to escape the men that are hunting them. If he turns them away, either mother or child might end up dead. Does he have the courage he needs to save two innocent lives from the clutches of a man who has no regard for anyone but himself?

This book literally had me sweating it out. I couldn't eat, I couldn't sleep, all because I simply had to know what was going to happen next. It was a hostage situation in the form of a novel, and I was the victim. Nelson paints a story so harrowing you will find yourself trying to plan the next step alongside Turner. There were some excellent supporting characters in this novel, along with unforgettable lessons about life, love and faith. Don't let the cover scare you of, men - I promise this is a good one!

This book was provided by the publisher for free in exchange for an honest review. 

Monday, August 12, 2013

Grace In The Maybe

by Katie Savage
Howard Books

In a book that shares the thoughts and viewpoints of one pastor's wife to the general masses, join the author as she explores the mystery of faith and what it means to each of us. She delves into the liturgical calendar with grace, writing about Advent, Christmas, Lent and Easter. She relates how being a Christian is more about faith in the unseen and actions towards the world at large than it is about "being nice". And how sometimes being a Christian isn't about how you present your flawlessness and walk to those in your life, but how much you need Him to guide your steps. 

I found this book to be more of a personal memoir than anything else. Maybe that's what the author intended, maybe not. But it struck me that no matter how we try to write, a part of ourselves always comes out in the writing. Our true selves, our true thoughts and our true beliefs will shine through clearly whether it's fiction or an attempt to tell the world about our life. I found Katie (this is my first review where I've referred to the author by their first name) to be very charming in her delivery of her story. She doesn't preach, or act like she has it together. She is plain spoken and humble about her life and experiences, and she has something funny to say in every chapter. While I don't normally read books like this, (much less the kind of book that men will be loathe to read) I found her perspectives fresh and insightful no matter where you are in your walk with God.

This book was provided by Howard Books for free in exchange for an honest review. 

Burning Sky

by Lori Benton
WaterBrook Press

Willa Obenchain was abducted by the Mohawk Indians at the age of fourteen, and has re-invented herself as one of their People. They have given her the name of Burning Sky, and she has gained their trust and confidence that as a white woman, she has what it takes to be one of them. Driven to return to her "real family" after so long with her new one, she struggles with the cultural divide. Back in the place of her childhood, she finds her country has been ravished by war. In just the twelve years she was absent, the Revolutionary War has come and gone, and her childhood home is in horibble disrepair. 

Then a brother from the People arrives and puts everything she has re-gained into question. Her parents are missing and rumored to be running with the kind of crowd that if caught, will get them hanged. Two young men lay in wait for her heart, Richard Waring whom she admired many years in the past, and Neil MacGregor who is kind, gentle, and caring for the land and the many people in it. Will she be able to return with Tames-His-Horse back to the People? Or is her life as Burning Sky gone from her forever? 

This brilliant novel combines two of my childhood loves; the aftermath of the Revolutionary War, and Indians. As a child, I never understood the fear of Indians that is depicted in the history books and fictional accounts of the "savages". I have always been intrigued by them and their way of life. I determined that if I could live in the past, I would want to be abducted by them so I could see life as a trusted captive and even marry one of their brave warriors and be his squaw. With this novel, Benton has captured the essence and spirit of the times. The hurts and triumphs and dangers of living on the American Frontier despite all odds, and for all the people that did and would inhabit it. Benton writes with the simple passion of one telling a story close to her heart. Her imaginary is more than words on a page, it seeps into your sub-conscience and makes you feel that if you just close your eyes, you too can step into the past with Burning Sky and see her world through her perspective...

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Harvest of Gold

by Tessa Afshar
River North Publishers

Sarah and Darius have been married for almost a year, and things have not changed between them. She has fallen in love with Darius despite his faults and insistence that want nothing to do with the Jewish God. While there is mutual respect and tenderness between them, Darius cannot love her or believe in her God. Accustomed to hiding his emotions and true feelings behind a mask of indifference, Darius is unable to show Sarah the love she deserves. When a plot to kill King Artaxerxes is unearthed and Darius is called upon to hunt down the would-be assassin, everything they have worked for begins to crumble. Will they be able to resolve the differences they brought to a marriage they were forced into? And will Darius ever find the God his wife so desperately believes and clings to?

In the meantime, Nehemiah has been the highly esteemed personal cup bearer to King Artaxerxes for many years. After so long in the Persian court, he has grown soft and pampered as one of the king's servants. His heart is burdened and grieved, however, when he hears that the walls of Jerusalem have been torn down and the city ravished. Upon further investigation, he discovers that the inhabitants have long since fled, and those who remain are on the verge of breaking from the desolate living conditions. Will Nehemiah find the support he needs from those in high places to rebuild Jerusalem? Can the Lord's people be restored to their former glory? 

This was a stunning re-introduction to the lives and story of Darius and Sarah. The supporting characters were just as good as before, and of course, the intrigues of the Persian court are beyond what words can describe. Afshar does what every author of biblical fiction wants: to take the reader to a time and place where we can feel we are truly a part of the story, and to a life that we can only dream of. To walk in our imagination the places of the past where the people of the Bible called home. To breath the heartbeat of the story as if it was our own. All of this is accomplished, and more; for you will feel like you have come home.

This book was provided by the publisher for free in exchange for an honest review.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Priceless Stones

by James Revoir
CrossLink Publishers

Priceless Stones is a very unique, well written devotional of sorts. I was amazed to discover the many promises for kingdom living in the original Hebrew language of the Old Testament. There are 42 days in all, and each one begins with a word, word set, or phrase in Hebrew. The English-Hebrew and Hebrew-English Glossary were very useful at this point, with all the references you will need to enjoy the journey. A verse follows, with the appropriate context to match the promise the chapter is focusing on. Revoir writes a brief chapter on the topic, then provides a prayer, declaration and questions for self-reflection. I was astounded to realize how enriching it is to study the Bible in it's original language, and all the truth I gleaned daily was worth not rushing through the whole book. It was inspiring, refreshing, well written, and full of treasures whose worth cannot be described in mere words. Revoir has a heart for God's word that shows on every page. He communicates God's everlasting love and long-suffering grace that is for anyone who believes. This devotional is for Christians of every stage in their walk with the Lord.

This book was provided by the publisher for free in exchange for an honest review.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Memory's Door

by James L. Rubart
Thomas Nelson Publishers

The Warrior Riders are back, and they must choose who to free next. Reveling in their previous victory against the Evil One, Reese, Dana, Brandon and Marcus are up for an adventure none of them want to miss. But discerning who is friend and who is foe is going to be harder than any of them realize, and all of them struggle with their own unique problems.  

Reese is desperately fighting off the inner voices that taunt him with his loss of vision. Depression weighs him down like a wet blanket, and he seemingly has no hope for a bright future with his blindness. Dana is moving up in the world, but struggles to know if she is on the right path. Brandon's popularity is dropping, and with it, his confidence. And Marcus is still living with the guilt after the death of his son. Can these four of the Prophecy truly fight against the Evil One and win? Or is their fate forever going to be among the Lost? 

Rubart's novel really opens your eyes to how the devil blinds us to sin in order to tempt us with the promise of a more self-fulfilled life. Even the strongest believer can fall, and the devil makes it so easy to give in to the flesh and do what we feel is right. It is well written, and despite not having read the first one yet, I was still able to grasp the story line and characters without trouble whatsoever. This story will draw you in and examine the deepest recesses of your heart, and you will not come out of it the same. You will see the spiritual realm in a new light, with fresh eyes and a heaviness for those who are still blinded to the Truth. 

This book was provided by Thomas Nelson for free in exchange for an honest review. 

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

The Prayer Box

by Lisa Wingate
Tyndale House Publishers

Iola Anne Poole has led a rich, long, vibrant life. She has had hopes fulfilled, dreams that have come to life, as well as disappointments known to everyone of the human race. She lived in a large Victorian style house on Hatteras Island, and she has left behind a legacy most of us can only dream of. The complex but unassuming woman has lived a lifetime of faith, and she leaves her story behind on pieces of paper, carefully tucked away in beautiful boxes. 

Tandi Jo Reese finds herself commissioned with the task of cleaning out her landlady's home. She discovers eighty-one decorated boxes, one for every year since Iola was a young girl. Drawn to the scraps of paper, Tandi finds all the fears, hopes, thoughts, and dreams in the form of prayers from one woman that span over eight decades. Compelled to read Iola's story, Tandi temporarily puts aside her dangerous past with all the baggage, and discovers something that will change everything. Will she have the courage to live as Iola did? Or will Tandi succumb to the past?

This is exactly the different kind of story that Christian Fiction so desperately needs. You feel Tandi's pain of the past, and will find yourself completely absorbed in Iola's story. As bits of Iola's story were revealed through Tandi as she goes through the many boxes; I felt as if I was right there alongside her, making new discoveries and changing how I saw things as I read about Iola's life. It's the kind of book that makes you feel as if you are the main character, and you just can't wait to see what will happen next. An important book for everyone's must-read list, The Prayer Box is not to be missed. 

This book was provided by Tyndale Publishers for free in exchange for an honest review.

The Hero's Lot

by Patrick Carr
Bethany House Publishers

The story begins with the evil Sarin Valon fleeing the city of Erinon. The compulsion the church laid on Errol compels him to the Judica in the first place, and the church leaders are bent on using him to their advantage no matter what the cost. As punishment for allegedly working with herbwomen, which is considered nothing short of sorceresses, Errol is compelled once again by the church to find Valon in the enemy kingdom of Merakh. His friends Martin, Luis, and Cruk are sent off to find out Errol's importance and significance in the scheme of things by Archbenefice Canon to Errol's hometown of Callowford. 

As with everything, nothing goes as planned. There are many dangers on the path for anyone on a righteous quest, and Errol discovers that nothing is what is seems. He is able to cast lots and read the results, but it appears that Valon also has many readers at his disposal and is staying one step ahead of him no matter how much Errol tries to anticipate Valon's moves. As for Martin and his band, danger follows their every step as well. Secrets of the kingdom are exposed that change everything. Will they be able to find Errol in time to warn him of what is to come? Or is too late to save the realm that will have no future without the successful completion of the quests of both parties?

Errol is off to another epic adventure, and I couldn't help but empathize with the poor boy with everything that gets dumped on him. No matter what he does or how hard he tries to do the right thing, his choice in the matter is forever taken with the church's compulsion. This second book in the Staff and Sword series was the best middle book I've ever read. There was no long, boring, filler chapters; it was all fast paced excitement that I remember from the first book, with all-new continuations of the tale. A wonderful story, and it's getting an enthusiastic five stars from me!

This book was provided by Bethany House Publishers for free in exchange for an honest review.

Sunday, August 4, 2013


by Mike Dellosso
Realms Publishers

Jim and Amy Spencer are at the end of their rope. After 15 years of marriage, they finally conceive a child. But when that baby dies all hope is lost for the struggling couple. Amy walks around the house like a ghost, dreaming of what could have been and refusing to face reality. Jim is a supportive husband, cooking, cleaning, doing groceries, and whatever else he has to do to keep their family of two together. But nothing he says or does can bring back the child Amy so desperately wanted.

When a house fire results in a mysterious little girl called Louisa being displaced, Jim instantly agrees to take her into their home. He desperately hopes it will help Amy heal from the past and encourage her to look towards the future. But Amy does not trust the nine-year-old girl with haunting blue eyes, and she is uncomfortable with the special gift the girl possesses. But when Louisa comes in contact with the serial killer that's been stalking their small town of Virginia Hills, everything suddenly changes. Is it too late to save the family Louisa has come to love? And what is the fate of her own family that she simply cannot remember? 

All I can say is "wow". What  a ride this book was. Dellosso puts you right in the middle of the action from the very first page, and doesn't let go till the end. While I kept trying to guess what was going on, the characters were ever-changing and learning and becoming different people. The pieces of the puzzle fell into place with such a convincing plot you can almost be persuaded it is real. A fantastic setting with characters as large as life, Fearless is not to be missed.

This book was provided by the publisher for free in exchange for an honest review. 

Thursday, August 1, 2013

The Boy Named Lucifer

by Christi Kari
American Book Publishing

When a son is born to MaryAnn and Levi Tyre, he is christened Lucifer Beelzebub Tyre by his father. As a boy, innocent Lucifer didn't fully understand why he would get looks and dirty stares from others. So when Abba renames him "Jedediah" meaning "loved of God" Lucifer finally feels loved. Beaten and abused by his father, all he knows is anger and hate. But he clings to the Lord's promise to be with him always, even when his loving mother cannot protect him.

As he grows older, his home life does not improve, but escalates. Unable to truly defend himself because of poor nutrition and years of living in the closet, Jedediah is weak in body. But his mind is strong, and his love for God stronger still. When tragedy strikes and forever changes his life, Jedediah still has questions. Will God keep His promise of setting him free from the past of hurt and abuse? Or is Jedediah forever trapped by circumstances he will never be able to change?

While the premise for this story was very promising, I found myself distracted with the somewhat child-like narrative. It was worth it to read the story, I just felt that Kari was doing so well, then it was back to simplistic sentence structure and stilted paragraphs.

In the end, you can't help but feel sympathy for the little abused boy who becomes a man. Jedediah has so many reasons to become bitter and angry with life, but the choices he makes forever change his life and eternal destiny.

I won this book through First Reads by Goodreads, so a big thank you to Christi Kari for signing and sending me a copy of her book!