Wednesday, March 30, 2011

‘Love Amid the Ashes’ by Mesu Andrews – Book Review

Buzz this
I have always been fascinated with the story of Job in the Bible. When I learned that a new novel ‘Love Amid the Ashes’ looked at his story, I knew I wanted to add that one to my reading list!

Here is the synopsis of this wonderful debut novel:

An Epic Story of Love and Forgiveness, Suffering and Restoration. When her beloved grandfather Isaac dies, Dinah must follow his final command: travel to Job’s household to marry his son. After Job’s world comes crashing down, Dinah finds herself drawn to this great man brought low. What will she risk to fight for his survival?
Mesu Andrews weaves an emotional and stirring account of Job and Dinah. Love Amid the Ashes breathes life, romance, and passion into the classic biblical story of suffering and steadfast faith.

Here is the biography of this author:

Mesu Andrews is a speaker who has devoted herself to passionate and intense study of Scripture. Harnessing her deep understanding and love for God’s Word, Andrews brings the biblical world alive for her readers in this debut novel. She lives in Washington.

Here is the compelling book trailer for this equally compelling novel:

And here is Mrs. Andrews sharing what she would speak about at your church or event; I think it gives a wonderful glimpse into her heart for the Lord:

I found this to be an interesting perspective on the Book of Job. Job, as he comes across in the Bible, proves to be a man who loves God and does not blame God for his trials. He continues to love and serve Him.

It was also interesting to get a more fleshed-out view of Job’s wife, named Sitis here. Mrs. Andrews gave us an explanation of why she cursed God as she did (you will have to read the book to learn what that theory is).

Mrs. Andrews is a good writer. Here is a sample, which shows her readers how Job is held by at least one person as a great role model:

Her gaze was once again drawn to Job, who just a few nights ago had taught her the love and forgiveness of El Shaddai. Tonight he showed her the sovereignty of Yahweh and that a person’s response must always be trust and praise. She wasn’t sure that she could accept God’s will without question, but she would try to follow Job’s example. (p. 108)

Mrs. Andrews writes with a descriptive and creative writing style.  Here is her description of Job’s fleshly afflictions:

The torturous searing of his flesh was relentless, surreal. Caught in the hellish divide between consciousness and sweet oblivion, Job prayed for death. He was thrust in and out of miserable awareness like a dirty garment plunged into the river and scrubbed against a rock. First came Sitis’s scream, and then he was alone. His next recollections were tinged with the distorted perceptions of darkness, agony, and terror. (p. 180)

Obviously, Job’s story is familiar to most people. Despite that, Mrs. Andrews shares with her readers a story that brings her imagination and creativity to the fore. I wish her the best in her future novels – which will no doubt come!  

You can order this book here.

Available March 2011 at your favorite bookseller from Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group. This book was provided by Revell for review purposes.

Monday, March 28, 2011

‘The Mountains Bow Down’ by Sibella Giorello – Book Review

Buzz this

One of my favorite book genres is Christian suspense. The latest book I have read in that category is ‘The Clouds Roll Away’ by Sibella Giorello.

Here is the synopsis of this wonderful book:

Everything’s going to work out. Time away always makes things better…. That’s what FBI special agent Raleigh Harmon believes as she boards a cruise to Alaska. A land of mountains and gems and minerals, the Last Frontier is a dream destination for this forensic geologist who’s hoping to leave behind a hectic work schedule and an engagement drained of romance.
But when a passenger goes missing and winds up dead, Raleigh’s vacation suddenly gets lost at sea. The ship’s security chef tries to rule the death a suicide, but Raleigh’s forensics background points to a much darker conclusion: Somewhere onboard, a ruthless murderer walks free.
Engulfed by one of her toughest cases yet, Raleigh requests assistance from the RBI and receives her nemesis – handsome Special Agent Jack Stephanson. As the cruise ship sails through the Inside Passage, Raleigh has five days to solve a high-profile murder, provide consultation for a movie filming onboard, and figure out her increasingly complicated feelings for Jack – who might not be as arrogant as she originally thought.
And that’s only her work life. Family offers even more challenges. Joined on the cruise by her mother and aunt, Raleigh watches helplessly as disturbing rifts splinter her family.
Like the scenery that surrounds the cruise ship, Raleigh discovers a mystery so daunting that even the mountains bow down before it.

Here is the biography of this extremely talented author:

Sibella Giorello grew up in Alaska and majored in geology at Mount Holyoke College. After riding a motorcycle across the country, she began writing as a features writer for newspapers and magazines. Her stories won numerous awards, including two nominations for the Pulitzer Prize. Her novel The Stones Cry Out won a Christy Award. She lives in Washington State with her husband and family.

Here is an Oasis Audio excerpt of this novel, wonderfully interpreted by Cassandra Campbell:

I love Sibella’s way with words! The book is written from Raleigh’s perspective. Here she is describing her mother, who is on the Alaskan cruise with her, as well as explaining why she ended up as an FBI agent:

Nadine Shaw Harmon, authentic Southern belle, might be politely described as “a bit touched.” Her bouts of paranoia struck with the sudden fury of August thunderstorms, and the torrential aftermaths kept me from telling her the truth about my job. Before becoming an agent, I spent four years in the FBI’s forensic lab, and both my dad and I agreed she didn’t need to know everything. My forensic work was in mineralogy; we told her I was a geologist. The was true. True enough. But one day somebody decided to shoot my dad, cutting him down in cold blood. His murder had never been solved, and I decided the most productive way to fill this gaping hole in my heart was to join the hunt for bad guys. When I graduated from Quantico, fatherless, with no mother in attendance, my personal life became one long covert op. (p. 26)

Raleigh seemed to have a love/hate relationship with her colleague, Jack Stephanson. This passage shows their relationship, as well as Raleigh’s at-times tricky relationship with herself:
       “Harmon, what’s going on?”
       “Just stick to the story, okay?”
       “But your mom thinks---”
        I picked up the pace.
But he stopped.
When I turned, he was standing in the hallway, looking genuinely
“She doesn’t know,” he said. “Your mother. She doesn’t know you’re an FBI agent.”
Unable to speak, I headed for the elevators and kept my head down, sending more desperate prayers for forgiveness, wondering when God would get as tired of me as I was. (p. 67)

It is clear from Mrs. Giorello’s writing style that she has a background as a reporter; her attention to detail is keen. Here is an example; it also showed her sense of humor:

Possibly it was the best bread I’d ever tasted. The light golden crust melted on my tongue, followed by the bread interior that was light as a marshmallow yet as rich as butter. I wanted to hum as we walked down a long tunnel. The ship’s employees rushed past us in various stages of hurry. Some carried bags of rice the size of toddlers. Others pushed steel carts stacked with folded tablecloths and napkins – fresh from the laundry room, no doubt – while men in coveralls wheeled small Dumpsters, trailed putrid odors. (p. 150)            

I also loved her descriptions throughout the book of the beauty of Alaska. Here is one that was particularly touching to me:

The mile-wide tongue of blue-and-white ice stretched five miles back, reaching up to a mountain peak that pointed straight to God. I heard Jack gasp, then gasp again as the front of the glaciers snapped and a falling block of ice the size of an office building plunged straight down into the water. In the bright sun, the ocean glistened like jewels. (p. 186)

As she did in ‘The Clouds Roll Away,’ Sibella writes about God’s creation in a thought-provoking – and beautifully written - way:

Deep inside, I could sense the unfathomable certainty that life did not rise randomly. By its own laws of mathematics and physics, the natural world disqualified itself from statistical accident. Planetary splendor above and atomic structure below, a world operating with breathtaking genius and design, all of this implying necessarily a designer. Chaos came in the moment, from my paltry human perspective, and most important of all, when the monsters roared, when I flailed haplessly through swamps, forever asking outsized questions, somebody stood ready to provoke comfort. (pp. 226-227)

I really appreciated this novel for so many reasons, many of which I previously reviewed above. Mrs. Giorello writes with intelligence, humor, and suspense; she keeps her readers turning the pages. I certainly did not get many other things done after I started reading this captivating book!

A couple other side notes: 1) the book cover is simply stunning; that alone makes me want to make a trip up to our 50th state; 2) I love the name ‘Sibella Giorello;’ how could she have not been an author with that name?!

I had the pleasure of reading the second book in the Raleigh Harmon series, ‘The Clouds Roll Away’ also; you can read my review here. I haven’t read the first book in the series, ‘The Rivers Run Dry,’ but, based on my enjoyment of these last two novels, I’d like to. Maybe someday I’ll have the time to go back to it!

The fourth book in the Raleigh Harmon series, ‘The Stars Shine On,’ will be released in April, 2012. There is no question that I will be reading that one, and hope the year passes quickly!  

You can order this book here.

This book was published by Thomas Nelson Publishers and provided by Thomas Nelson and the LitFuse Publicity Group for review purposes. I am happy to be participating in the blog tour with these others bloggers.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

‘Bound by Guilt’ by C.J. Darlington – Book Review

Buzz this
One of the joys of reviewing books is being able to follow the journey of a new author. C.J. Darlington’s second novel, ‘Bound by Guilt,’ has just been released; I also had the pleasure to read her first novel, ‘Thicker Than Blood.’

Here is the synopsis of ‘Bound by Guilt’:

Roxi Gold is a throwaway, shuttled from one foster home to another for most of her life. She longs for a family and will do anything to fit in – even if it’s against the law. Soon she’s traveling the country stealing rare books from unsuspecting bookstores, until a first edition of The Great Gatsby catches up with her.
Police officer Abby Dawson has seen the worst of society, and not just at work. The job she once loved has become a chore, the world isn’t any safer, and there’s no joy in her life. One fateful night a man’s innocent blood changed both Roxi’s and Abby’s lives forever. One searches for justice; the other finds herself on the run. Will the power of forgiveness set them free, or will they both remain bound by guilt?

Here is the biography of this talented young author:

C.J. Darlington began writing the story that would become her first novel, Thicker Than Blood, when she was a fifteen-year-old homeschool student. Later it won the 2008 Jerry B. Jenkins Christians Writers Guild Operation First Novel contest. She has been in the antiquarian bookselling business for over twelve years, scouting for stores similar to the ones described in the Thicker Than Blood series before cofounding her own online bookstore. In 2006, C.J. started the Christian entertainment Web site with her sister, Tracy, and has been actively promoting Christian fiction through book reviews and author interviews. A home school graduate, she maker her home in Pennsylvania with her family and their menagerie of dogs and cats.

And here is the book trailer for this wonderfully well-written sophomore novel; it is a very compelling trailer!:

As was the case with ‘Thicker Than Blood,’ Miss Darlington writes with the skills of a veteran author. Her characters are fully fleshed out, and she interweaves multiple storylines with flourish! I had a great deal of empathy for many of the characters (although not all; the character of Irene requires a lot of grace…).

It was interesting to learn about the antiquarian book business in this novel (as is also covered in ‘Thicker Than Blood’). The reader learns a lot about the first edition of ‘The Great Gatsby,’ the classic from F. Scott Fitzgerald:

“I had to do a little research, but first editions of The Great Gatsby are extremely rare. And with the dust jacket….” He leaned forward. “We’re talking at least twenty-five grand, possibly thirty or forty.” (p. 294)

The subject of faith – and the lack thereof, as well – is discussed throughout the pages of this book. Here is Abby reflecting on her own beliefs:

Stopping for a moment, Abby lifted her eyes to the starry sky. Someone who created all this…why would He care what went on down here? She took a deep breath, turned in a complete circle, and took in the whole sky. Faith in God was something she’d abandoned a long time ago. God had probably given up on her by now too. (p. 253)

In contrast, there are many characters in this book that have deep faith in Christ, and they share His love and grace with everyone in their path.

In ‘A Note from the Author,’ CJ. shares her heart for lost teens:

Something else I didn’t make up is Roxi’s broken heart and her search for love. It saddens me that so many teens today find themselves in her situation. If you take away one thing from Bound by Guilt, may it be the challenge to look past outward appearances and reach out to a hurting teen in your life. Teenagers, even those with tattoos and nose rings, need people like you and me to love them for who they are. I hope we can be Jesus’ hands and feet and love this generation unconditionally. (p. 384)

I had the pleasure of reading and reviewing C.J.’s first novel, ‘Thicker Than Blood’ last year on my blog; it was one of the first book I reviewed (you can read the review here).  As I mentioned in that review, I loved that book, and I was looking forward to ‘Bound by Guilt’ to see where the relationship between Christie and her younger sister, May. Although May and Christie are both in this novel, their relationship is not fully explored. It is clear they have gotten to spend more time with each other and know each other better since the events of ‘Thicker Than Blood;’ their relationship was more peripheral to the main storylines in ‘Bound by Guilt.’

C.J. writes with so much skill. There is some suspense involved in these storylines, and she keeps me turning the pages to learn what happens next. I am not sure what the next book will be in the series, but I look forward to learning more about all of these characters. Ok – maybe not Irene (unless the Lord grabs her and regenerates her life, as He is very experience in doing!).

You can order this book here.

This book was published by Tyndale Fiction. The author generously provided a copy of this book for review purposes; I am pleased to be part of the ‘Bound by Guilt’ blog tour with these other bloggers.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

‘The Resurrection’ by Mike Duran – Book Review

Buzz this

It has been a while since the description of a book has gotten my attention as much as the latest book I have read, ‘The Resurrection’ by Mike Duran.

Here is the synopsis of this fascinating novel:

When the dead come back to life, someone must pay the price. When Ruby Case raises a boy from the dead, she creates an uproar in the quiet coastal town of Stonetree. Some brand her a witch; others, a godsend. But the controversy is just the beginning. For this resurrection has awakened more than just a dead boy…
 Reverend Ian Clark does not believe the miracle. Haunted by demons, both past and present, he is resigning from the ministry and has no interest in the city’s spiritual climate, much less its urban legends. But he is about to get a wake-up call…
Together, Ruby and Reverend Clark are thrust into a search for answers…and a collision with unspeakable darkness. For the forces unleashed by Ruby threaten to destroy them all. In the coming battle this unlikely duo is the town’s only hope. But can they overcome their own brokenness in time to stop the evil, or will they be the next victim?

Here is the biography of this author:

Mike Duran is a freelance writer whose short stories, essays, and commentaries have appeared in Relief Journal, Relevant Online, Novel Journey, Rue Morgue magazine and other print and digital outlets. Duran is an ordained minister and lives with his wife and four grown children in Southern California. You can learn more about him, his writing projects, creative interests, and confessions at his website

Here is the book trailer:

And here is Pastor Duran explaining the inception of the idea behind his debut novel:

Reverend Clark is an interesting person who does not seem to be a good fit for this new congregation of his:

In his late twenties, Ian Clark was an odd match for the aging, listless congregation. His braided choker, with its ivory beads and rustic diamond-shaped pendant, peeked from beneath his collar. Affectionately labeled “Surfer Dude” by the youth group, the man had an affinity for peculiar jewelry – an observation that rarely went unnoticed when the critics raged. With his wire-rimmed glasses, youthful gait, and intellectual energy, he exuded collegiate airs. Still a year after Reverend Lawrence’s abrupt resignation, Clark had yet to endear himself to the congregation. (p. 9)

The city of Stonetree had some spiritually questionable elements; Reverend Clark initially downplayed their impact:

Without a doubt the city attracted a diverse religious crowd. Crystal shops, aromatherapists, and avant-garde apothecaries sprinkled the downtown arts colony. People came great distances to purchase dragon’s blood resin or rare white sage from some dude in sandals, frock, or tie-dyed regalia. But every city had its religious fringe. Even Windayven, with its well-to-do, white collar establishments, had its share of hole-in-the-wall psychics. Clark had prepared himself for the “fruits and nuts” of the West Coast, so Stonetree’s occult underbelly was not a great surprise. Nevertheless, Mesoamerican death gods were a far cry from herbalists and astrologers. (p. 115)

I found the character of Professor Keen, who had been a seminary professor of Reverend Clark’s, to be fascinating. He is a perfect example of someone who follows the Lord, then steps over to the dark side. He was perfectly portrayed. His character showed how people of renown can have a strong (and negative) impact on people over whom they have influence. It is a perfect example how we need to heed the Bible’s admonition to ‘test the spirits’ (1 John 4:1-6).

This is a really thought-provoking book! It seems to me that the fight between good and evil in the spiritual realm is downplayed or ignored in our world – and in our churches – today. I appreciate how Pastor Duran reminds us that there is a world/realm beyond our own in the here and now. It’s not just heaven we need to be prepared for; we also need to be aware of what is happening in between the heavenly hosts and the powers of darkness.

This book also reminded me that I perhaps succumb to the dark things more than the Lord would like to see. There are good things and evil things – and some things that lean to one or the other of the extremes. I needed that reminder, and I thank Pastor Duran for writing such a tremendous book.

I read ‘This Present Darkness’ by Frank Peretti when it was originally released in 1986, and ‘Piercing the Darkness’ in 1989. Both are classics in the Christian Suspense genre. I would favorably compare ‘The Resurrection’ – which happens to be Pastor Duran’s debut novel – to those two books. That is high praise indeed!

I was excited to learn that there is another book coming from Pastor Duran’s computer – ‘The Telling.’ The first chapter is included at the end of this book. I look forward with great anticipation to the sophomore effort from this talented writer whose debut novel points its reader to the Savior whose power is mightier than those fighting for the deceiver of the brethren (Revelation 20:10).

You can order this book here.

This book was published by Realms and provided by them for review purposes. I am pleased to be participating in the CSFF Blog Tour for this book with these other bloggers.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Another Quality Item from CSN Stores!

Buzz this

One of my favorite new stores on the web is the CSN Stores. There are over 200 stores under its umbrella, and you can find items in numerous categories. I had the opportunity recently to order an item of my choice. I decided a massager was an item that would be a good addition to our home! So an order for the SPT Kneading Massager with Infrared was placed. 

It has been in our household for the last few weeks, and it has received plenty of use! I was especially grateful to have it this past Sunday, after I completed the Rock CF Rivers Half Marathon on Grosse Ile, a beautiful island in the Detroit River. I was a little sore (a little?!) after the event, and was grateful that my loving husband, Fred, plugged in the massager and eased the pain in my quads and my back!

I would highly recommend this product. It is lightweight yet durable. It is easy to use, and offers a good value for the dollar. Please check out CSN Stores the next time you need to order a gift for yourself or someone else!
Clicky Web Analytics