Friday, December 26, 2014

A Year in Review

Listed below are the top 10 books of 2014 that I have read. Some were published years before, some were published this year. In January I will start a new list of reviews of new authors, favorite authors, and classic authors. Hope you stick around. Share with others about Rebel Book Reviews. Take a chance on a new title or new author. Enjoy the list and why they impacted me more than others. If you wish to discover more about the book or author, click the title's link.

Happy New Year!

1. Infectious  

Elizabeth Forkey turns a zombie tale into a new imaging using Revelation as a guide and painting a realistic and horrifying scenario...takes a new direction on a subject written most famously by Jenkins and LaHaye

2. With Autumn's Return

Amanda Cabot gives exquisite detail to the settings and culture...taste the dust, feel the heat, and hear the bells and chimes of the late 1880's. An extraordinary book dealing with a doctor and lawyer of Cheyenne, Wyoming.

3. A Lady's Honor

Laurie Alice Eakes' exceptional descriptions landed me in the 1811 countryside...vivid imagery, historically accurate, and pure emotions make this book a top winner.

4. Opening Moves

Love books by Flynn, Ludlum, and Clancy? Steven James tops them all with action, authenticity, and grittiness. He portrays the reality of a criminal's mind and the complexity of the detective Patrick Bowers. It's clean. It's fun. It's action packed. It's mesmerizing.

5. Darlington Woods

"Something evil is drawing them here..."
Mike Dellosso blends symbolism, faith, and the darkness of humanity into a masterfully written tale that surpasses Ted Dekker and Frank Peretti.

6. Dynamo 

God takes the bad and makes it good. God equips the called.
Powerful...gripping...Eleanor Gustafson wrote a great Christian literary fiction. It's a story that stays with you long after the book is closed.

7. All For a Song 

Allison Pittman brings to readers a story that is so enjoyable and so heart endearing you'll read it again and again. The juxtaposition of two worlds and the norms of society add flourish to the 1920 setting.

8. The 20th Christmas

Andrea Rodgers brings to life a story written in the wake of Louisa May Alcott, Lucy Maud Montgomery, and Margaret Mitchell. With the lines: "Please God, please! I want nothing else in life! I'm begging you with every fiber of my being! Keep him safe and bring us together again!", the stage is set for a remarkable story.

9. Dark Biology

With a Robin Cook style plot and Tess Gerritsen type characters, Bonnie Doran presented a book that is a well blended story of faith, hope, betrayal, and pulse pounding action. Scarily realistic, this is an adrenaline producing thriller.

10. At Bluebonnet Lake

Amanda Cabot's beautiful, contemporary romance is a delight. From a budding romance to unconditional family love, this is a great Texan story.

Friday, December 12, 2014

20th Christmas by Andrea Rodgers

20th Christmas
Andrea Rodgers
(Ambassador International 2014)

There are hardly any books out there that can be written in passive storytelling, such as Louisa May Alcott, Lucy Maud Montgomery, and Margaret Mitchell, and still hold fast to the reader's attention. To write this way is to balance a precarious load in equal portions of narrative, backstory, and dialogue. Many fall short and I'm not able to read beyond the 3rd chapter.

Twice I sat this story aside. Not because I became bored or because of novice writing, but because I had to ponder what I read.

Experiencing death is one thing, but experiencing the endless unknown is another.

Writing this type of story is a major undertaking; reading this type of story is a major blessing.

No one is Job. No one can be found as perfect and upright as God saw Job. Things happen to strengthen our walk, our faith, and our love. God answers prayers and not always and most times never with "our" timeframe.

20th Christmas brings this to life. Arianna screams, "Please God, please! I want nothing else in life! I'm begging you with every fiber of my being! Keep him safe and bring us together again!"

Thus, the stage is set.

Heartache to happiness, Andrea Rodgers brought to life a remarkable story. 

Friday, November 21, 2014

At Bluebonnet Lake by Amanda Cabot

At Bluebonnet Lake
by Amanda Cabot
(Revell 2014)

Number one in the Texas Crossroads books, At Bluebonnet Lake is the first contemporary novel by Amanda Cabot that I've read.

I have always enjoyed her western historical novels and at first I was little unsure of the change of setting and time. But my hesitation was unwarranted.

Her book was truly a delight. The characters Kate, Sally, and Greg were well defined and complex. Their growth was naturally occurring and the budding romance filtered in slowly and took hold.

The relationship between Kate and Greg was not a fast paced romance. It grew slowly and beautifully like the flowers of Texas. The love between Kate and her grandmother, Sally, showed the beauty of unconditional family love.

When it comes to Amanda Cabot, I have found that none of her books disappoint.

This contemporary romance is a winner and I'm sure anyone who loves beautiful romance would enjoy this one.

At Bluebonnet Lake is an Amanda Cabot 5-star.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

A Lady's Honor by Laurie Alice Eakes

A Lady's Honor
by Laurie Alice Eakes
(Zondervan 2014)

Of all of Laurie Alice Eakes' books that I have read, I have not found a book I did not like; and I am in still in search of a four-star book of hers.

A Lady's Honor delighted and intrigued me. Her exceptional descriptions landed me in the 1811 countryside. Her emotional dialogue left me breathless.

There were enough twists and revelations that kept the story pushing forward. Never a dull moment. Never a slow passage.

Laurie Alice Eakes never disappoints and always seem to go one step higher in her writing. She's an author to always have on your shelves. Vivid imagery, historically accurate, and pure emotions make this book a top winner.

This is a short review, but there's only three words to describe this A Lady's Honor: OUTSTANDING, WONDERFUL, and DELIGHTFUL!

Declutter Now! Study Guide by Lindon & Sherry Gareis

Declutter Now! Study Guide
by Lindon & Sherry Gareis
(Ambassador International 2014)

Declutter Now! is a definite must read that helps improve your physical and spiritual life. Now there's a study guide.

Best in a group study, but just as effective solo, Declutter Now! Study Guide is beyond compare and I've read study guides galore.

The "Getting Started" section is truly different, yet essential. I enjoyed the chapter break-downs. This is an eight week guide, eight chapters to digest.

The breakdown:
Key Question
Open in Prayer
Snapshot: (my favorite: "Many of us are so caught up in the "hamster wheel"...)
Talk Time: (usually 18-19 points to consider)
Ah-ha Moment
Action Plan
Memory Verses

Each chapter is detailed and contains thought provoking revelations. But the book doesn't stop with the chapters. 

There are Extras! This section gives fun ideas to improve the group experience.

My favorite part: The Clutter Quiz. Sadly, I'm still in the Declutter Club so I'm back to reading the guide again along with the book.

Declutter Now! Study Guide offers team guide and action plan plus a worksheet. I enjoy the Memory Verse cut outs. Great verse choices! And the recommended books is an impressive list. 

This is more than a study guide, it's an action plan. One that can be applied over and over.

A definite book to keep always and read when your life seems to become "cluttered" again.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Opening Moves by Steven James

Opening Moves by Steven James
(Signet Select [Penguin Books] 2012)

I searched and searched for a book in the line of Vince Flynn and Robert Ludlum. I wanted something with action but without the harsh language. I wanted something authentic, but not watered down. I wanted something that wasn't afraid to portray the reality of a criminal's mind. What I received with Steven James' Opening Moves well exceeded those expectations.

Steven James brings an unique style to the written world. Balancing two styles of point of view and at least three character point of views, the world he creates is astounding.

In Opening Moves, Steven James isn't afraid to delve into the mind of a serial killer of the like of Jeffery Dahmer. Never too gruesome, but written realistically, we watch as Patrick Bowers tries to solve the case which quickly becomes tangled with another and watch as his faith is slowly piqued.

When reading through Patrick's eyes, we are immersed in first person POV. The intimate nature of this writing brings the reader into understanding Patrick's mind and his brilliance. With the secondary characters, especially the killer, James steps back into third person point of view, and yet allowing for the reader to see through that character's eyes: his reasoning, his emotions.

This book is mesmerizing, receiving high praise from Michael Connelly, Suspense Magazine, and Publishers Weekly. It's gritty, loaded with surprising turns and moves, and above all an absolute clean read for anyone who love books by Flynn, Ludlum, and Clancy.

I suggest starting with Opening Moves, just as I did, and then continuing forward with The Pawn, The Rook, The Knight, The Bishop, The Queen, and The King.

Riveting...Suspenseful...action packed...
You'll love Patrick Bowers!

Steven James has made it on my favorite author list and he's an author I highly recommend.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Infectious by Elizabeth Forkey

Infectious by Elizabeth Forkey

I was unsure at first to download a book by an indie author. Not many out there are that well-written or ignore what the market and target audience demands. Not this book.

Some publisher out there has missed out on a great post-rapture book.
Elizabeth Forkey takes a new direction on a subject written most famously by Jenkins and LaHaye. What Forkey has done that they did not was add a depth of character and surprising realism.

Through the eyes of a sixteen year old, we live in a world where the Alive are separated from the Dead. With only another year to go before the Alive can bask in His Glory knowing perfect peace and love, they must first endure a world that is pure evil.

With no laws, no government, and every form of evilness imagined (Forkey pulls no punches), Hell walks on earth.

The Dead believe the Alive are immune to the disease that is killing them and for the capture of one or their blood, pleasure can be bought.

In Infectious, Ivy suffers the heartache of loss and the ups and downs of teenage feelings, but always striving to hold Jesus close to her heart. Without Him she would be Dead...a zombie.

Elizabeth Forkey turns a zombie tale into a new imaging using Revelation as a guide and painting a realistic and horrifying what-if scenario.

I'm glad to say that Elizabeth Forkey's Infectious had captured me and would not let go.

Stunning...brilliant...she's an author to read.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Darlington Woods by Mike Dellosso

Darlington Woods by Mike Dellosso
(Realms 2010)

"Something evil is drawing them here..."

One small statement to draw me into a fantastical story about Rob and Juli.

I've read The Hunted and Scream by Mike Dellosso; and I was not disappointed in Darlington Woods. In fact, Darlington Woods seem by far the best I've read of Mr. Dellosso's books.

His story of Rob searching for his lost son and meeting more than he imagined contained the suspenseful page turning storyline of Stephen King. The combination of supernatural and natural captured the thriller essence of Dean Koontz. The imagery and faith aspect of the book is pure Mike Dellosso.

He blends symbolism, faith, and the darkness of humanity into a masterfully written tale that surpasses Ted Dekker and Frank Peretti. Bringing to life the horror of evilness and its determination to bind all of humanity plus the simple acceptance of faith and grace and its love for all humanity leaves the reader with a spiritual message that lasts long after the book is shelved.

A simple story with depth of character and symbolism, Mike Dellosso has written an amazing book about the power of God.

Want a good huddle-in-your-chair-thriller? Read Darlington Woods and remember...let your light shine!

Sunday, June 15, 2014

On the Pineapple Express by H.L. Wegley
(Harbourlight Books 2013)

H. L. Wegley has written an interesting novel using the social issue theme of human trafficking, especially the sex trafficking trade. Without delving deep into the depraved minds of those criminals, Wegley has highlighted the dangers of this horrendous crime and how it has reared its ugly head in today's times.

Although simplistic in style, the action and characters will grab at all ages of readers.

I did find this book to be geared towards the Young Adult (New Adult) crowd. I would have preferred to see a little more action, a little more grittiness (without compromising Christian morals, of course), and a little less kissing.

For any reader On the Pineapple Express not only brings to light what "Pineapple Express" means (a little new knowledge for me) but also the reality of the trafficking.

I would encourage this book to be read by all teenagers. Let them understand the dangers of the real world and "over-sharing" themselves on social media. They can become prime targets and there may not be a "Jennifer" or "Lee" to rescue them.

At the end of the book a great message is sent informing about these dangers and there is a list of how the reader can help and/or become involved in defeating this horror.

Good book, good read, and a most definite for teenagers and young adults. I look forward to reading Hide and Seek, which is book 1, and book 3: Moon Over Ma'alaea Bay.

Way to go, H.L. Wegley!
Dynamo by Eleanor Gustafson
(Whitaker House 2014)

God takes the bad and makes it good. God equips the called. Sentences to sum up the novel, Dynamo.

Powerful, gripping, and gritty...these are only a few words to try to describe the wonderful story brought to life by Eleanor Gustafson.

Jeth Cavanaugh may be raw and rough, but he knows horses. One decision to travel down a road led him on a journey for which he wasn't prepared.

Little by little Jeth come to know Jesus and His sacrifice for us all. Little by little his soul is revealed, mirrored by the beautiful stallion, Dynamo.

The dialogue in Dynamo is real and at times gritty (never overstepping the boundary of Christian morality). The emotions are straightforward and yet complex.

The characters' involvement with each other contributes to their growth.

Indeed, Jeth is being "set up for something", but that something is great.

I cried when a beloved character died. I cheered when a character was saved. I moaned when trouble came.

All in all, Dynamo is a great Christian literary fiction. The growth and journey of the character made a strong impact upon this reader. It stayed with me long after I turned that last page and closed the book.

I encourage all readers of general and literary fiction to immerse themselves in this story and take the ride of their lives.

Superb, Eleanor Gustafson, superb!

Monday, May 12, 2014

Beloved by Robin Lee Hatcher

Beloved by Robin Lee Hatcher
(Zondervan 2013)
A flip-flop story that left me hungrily turning the next page to devour the words.
Diana Brennan was an orphan. She became seperated from her siblings as a family from the west chose to adopt her. At 17, she fell for Tyson Applegate. Before long, Tyson sets off for adventures around the world. Diana, left behind, waits for his return as her heart starts to grow cold.
Years later, believing Tyson died on the battlefield in Cuba, although his body was never found. Diana is set to have her husband legally declared dead and remarry.
Tyson puts a dampner on her plans when he appears at her engagement dinner and now she's made a deal: be the token wife of a political candidate in exchange for a divorce.
But best laid plans...
Twists and turns were peppered throughout the book. Two forceful personalities are on the battlefield.
Robin Lee Hatcher uses her words in a plain spoken fashion and tells of not just a romance but also a battle of wills and a battle of faith. She has an unique style that entranced me and encouraged me to pursue her other books.
Wonderful read, wonderful storyline, wonderful day spen ignoring all of my chores.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Allison Pittman's All for a Song

All for a Song by Allison Pittman
(Tyndale 2013)
It's not often that I find a book set in the early 1900's, especially the 1920's, that captures my attention.

Unless it's a classical writer from that time, I am given to be a more harsh reader. What is so special that you bring me into your story and keep me there? Does it contain historical facts, keep with the time, politics, and culture of that era? So many I have put aside; but not Allison Pittman's All for a Song.
It rocked me!
Her character Dorothy Lynn set everything to the side to follow her heart and her dream. Two worlds are front and center in this story: the country, rural, simple life tangoing with the glam, bustling, city life. Women were pushing their preconceived boundaries. Men were breaking away from the norm of society.
One thing this book brought to me was the new knowledge of Aimee Semple McPherson. I've found myself researching and learning more about the real life woman who anchored this novel in the 1920's.
There may not have been twists and turns in the story, but following the few short months before her wedding as Dorothy followed her dream was a fall into the tides of history.
This is one story that is a must read. So enjoyable and so heart endearing, Allison Pittman may soon be an author who will always grace my book shelves.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Bonnie Doran's Dark Biology

Dark Biology by Bonnie Doran
Harbourlight Books - 2013

Move over Robin Cook and Tess Gerritsen!
Bonnie Doran has written an extremely fast paced, adrenaline inducing thriller. With a Robin Cook style plot and Tess Gerritsen type characters, this book is a well blended story of faith, hope, betrayal, and pulse pounding action.

Two siblings, both competitive and in the CDC workfield, are the center characters. Hildi has a fledgling faith that grows stronger as a new flu pandemic sweeps across the nations while she's marooned on the space station. Much like Peter, she fights and submits to her faith. Chet, on the other hand, ridicules faith and unleashes a mild virus in retaliation against his father. His character bounces from remorse to self hatred when he realizes his deadly mistake as the virus claims lives. His character portrays a modern Judas Iscariot.

Throughout the book secondary and minor characters add to the fullness and depth of the novel. Minor plots create an undercurrent of thought as the reader becomes engrossed in the upheavals and challenges of a pastor, NASA, CDC, astronauts, and vaccinologists.

Scarily realistic, not only in possible scenarios, but also in the development of faith and love. Dark Biology by Bonnie Doran is highly recommended! A definite keeper!

Monday, March 31, 2014

With Autumn's Return by Amanda Cabot

Of the three books: Summer of Promise, Waiting for Spring, and With Autumn's Return, Amanda Cabot outdid herself with the last.
With Autumn's Return brought the reader again to Cheyenne, Wyoming. The main character is a doctor and Cabot shows in great detail and extreme accuracy the prejudices against woman doctors.
Exquisite detail is given to the settings and culture. The reader can almost taste the dust, feel the heat, and hear the bells and chimes of the late 1880's. Adding to the tension is the character's relationship with her neighboring businessman, a young attorney.
Both will work together to save a patient and to save themselves.
Extraordianarily wonderful, this book is a definite keeper. I find myself always looking forward to Amanda Cabot's novels!

The Ruby Ring by Karen Rees
(CrossLink Publishing)
There are mixed feelings about this book by Karen Rees. The author has a simplistic, yet engaging command of storytelling. She's able to bring the reader deep into the story with the dialogue and narrative description.
Research into 16th century was greatly expressive. Little known and rarely spoken of facts gave the reader the sense of turmoil the people of that time experienced. The powerful grip of the church over the people showed how power corrupts.
From a historical point, this book was great, a good read to teach about Tyndale's desire to make the Bible available to all.
From a writer's view, Rees word usuage and sentence structure was exceptional. The descriptions and setting very well done.
From a conserative reader's viewpoint, which also includes a writer's viewpoint, I found that the book blurb did not match the story. It was deceptive considering the ruby ring didn't come into play until well past midway of the book; and, Tyndale was not a major character.
Although I felt the author wanted to be true to the language of that time, I view the words "p**s" and "b**ch" too harsh for a Christian based book. These words, although used in the right context, are vulgar and crude by today's standards. I felt the writer could have been more creative to avoid use of those words; ex: "defile the pope's hem" instead of "p*** on the pope's hem". Another word I felt would push readers away was the use of bastard. Although mild, it can drive many readers away.
Despite the language, I felt the book at times drew out the plot in an attempt to expand the word count. A three star book that has potential to be a five star book...
With the issues I listed above, I will carefully consider any other books by CrossLink Publishing.
***I recieved a copy from the publisher in exchange for a full and honest review***