Saturday, August 27, 2016

To Have and To Hold: Three Autumn Love Stories

To Have and to Hold
Betsy St. Amant, Becky Wade, & Katie Ganshert
(Zondervan 2016) 

I enjoy love stories set during fall and winter seasons. To me they bring a fresh and hopeful feel as the air changes, the days grow cooler, and the leaves rustle as they fall.

To Have and to Hold held promise. I was captivated by the blurb on the back, the cover seemed romantic, and the three authors were ones whom I have never read before.
There are pros and cons to the book.
Firstly, I will start with the cons. In story one: Love Takes the Cake, repetition of Melissa's accident became a burden to read. Will seemed too preoccupied with her accident and his personality did not seem to mesh well with him being a soldier. Charlotte seemed two dimensional and never seemed to have actually grown as a woman. She seemed stuck as that college kid who made a mistake. To me, if you own a bakery, then you have already moved past the past. If a reader is expecting a Christian romance, then she/he would be disappointed.

In story two: The Perfect Arrangement, I found myself having trouble really delving into the story since most of the story is comprised of emails between three individuals. Amelia seemed too flighty. The fender bender seemed contrived in order to have a plot to the story. This was not a Christian romance, per se. No talk of Jesus or of faith.

In story three: Love in the Details, I found myself with another tired plot, billionaire boyfriend. Although not as repetitious as the others, I did see a couple of things that some more conservative readers would balk at. Coming from Zondervan most readers would not expect borderline phrases that take God's name in vain. The faith portrayed was at best minimal and surface faith only.

The pros for these stories: Each was a clean read. All had a sweet romance air to the story and the happily ever afters that readers would enjoy to read. The writing, although the repetition could have been deleted and more character development portrayed, was captivating. This is a book that can be enjoyed by a variety of readers from a broad age group. 

***I received this book through BookLook Bloggers at Thomas Nelson in exchange of a complete and honest review*** 

Saturday, August 20, 2016

The Long Journey to Jake Palmer by James L. Rubart

The Long Journey to Jake Palmer
James L. Rubart
(Thomas Nelson 2016) 

Was this book good enough? If the book had a soul, it would ask the same question that burned inside Jake Palmer's heart.

It's a fantastical story. One that pushes the boundary of this world and gives a glimpse into another.

Scarred. Hurt. Devastated. Jake Palmer is a man stuck in his own bottle of doubts. He represents the thing inside all of us that we have learned to ignore and deny existing within us.

I was confused by the slow start and the reasoning for it, but only for a while. The beginning lays the groundwork to Jake's heart and his true personality. Each character played a part that strengthened and propped up Jake's journey through the corridor.

To do a true review would take too long because there are nuances to this story. Layers and layers that as you peel them away, more is revealed.

Allegories to Christian stories in the Bible. Parables and pearls of wisdom. Symbolism. With each chapter, each scene, there's always this nugget of wisdom that the reader can take away, be it from Jake's conversion with Rachelle at the beginning to Jake's contest with Ryan, who is not what he seems.

The title, The Long Journey to Jake Palmer, is perfect. Because to understand oneself, it will take a long journey. I was mildly surprised by the book and since this was my first book by James L. Rubart, I look forward to the day I can read another by him.

***I received this book through BookLook Bloggers at Thomas Nelson in exchange of a full and honest review.***  

Thursday, August 18, 2016

The Occupied by Craig Parshall

The Occupied
Craig Parshall
(Tyndale 2016) 

Once again I've come across a book that leaves me with a deeper meaning to spiritual warfare. The Occupied is more than mere thriller or horror; it is also a book on truth about the unseen forces that influence the world today just as it did in the past.

Because we can't see it, doesn't mean it's not there. The character Trevor Black (and I started to see a little symbolism about his name as I read more) is blessed with the gift of discernment. Discernment meaning he can smell and sense the evil of demons around him and at times see them as they "occupied" a person.

Although the Christian aspect is not heavy or layered thickly throughout the book, the belief in Christ is made evident. As is the Scriptural truths about the battle that we cannot see.

Some people may scoff and say that this is truly a work of fiction, but lessons and truth are often threaded through fiction. Can anyone smell demons? Yes, they can. Can anyone see demons? Most assuredly. Is there a way to be protected from them? A definite and resounding yes. And in the book this is shown multiple times.

Told in present tense, first person at the beginning and then morphing into past tense, first person, the reader is held firmly into the story to experience the life of Trevor Black as he learns what his new gift means for him and why. There are references to things I've seen in other books, such as Guardian King and Lord of flies, that makes those other books take on a new level. And it deepens the story of The Occupied even more. The title, The Occupied, has a dual meaning itself.

Want to know what it is? Then read the book! I highly and fervently recommend it.

It is a book that leaves you wanting more of Trevor's story; leaves you with questions and the need to understand more; leaves you with a veil lifted from your eyes and the desire to understand more about the full armor of God.

Craig Parshall has brought to readers a solid book of mystery, thrills, passion, hope, and above all love. Emotions ride high in The Occupied. And I will repeat this, buy the book! It's a book that will stay with you for days to come.  

 ***I received this book through Tyndale Blog Network in exchange of my full and honest review***

Friday, August 12, 2016

Frantic by Mike Dellosso

Mike Dellosso
(Realms 2012)

I love thrillers. I love horror. I like the heart thumping reaction to reading the battle between good and evil. Frantic offered me exactly that.

This is an in-your-face type of story. Think Stephen King and Rose Red, think Dean Koontz and his supernatural stories, or how about House on Haunted Hill?

Those don't compare to the darkness that this book forces the reader to face.

One twist after another kept the pages turning. One breath stealing scene to another kept me glued to the words unfolding before me.

This isn't your run of the mill Christian fiction or Christian thriller. It is straight up horror for the adrenaline junkies. And like most all horror stories, good overcomes evil; evil never prevails; and in this story, God is in control of it all.

This is just one of many books by Mike Dellosso that proved to me that he is beyond a doubt a master storyteller. If I want a book that will wear me out, will force me to keep the lights on, or will cause me to triple check my locks, then he is my go-to guy.

As with any book, it does have it flaws. Maybe I wished for a deeper connection with one of the characters (just not Gary or Harold, thank you). Maybe I wished for a little more action in some scenes, some kind of movement of the characters that would bring them to life a little bit more. But those are just my preferences. 

The story that Frantic brought to me quickly tamped down any thing that I may have considered a flaw. The story moved quickly, never allowing for a breath to be taken, and gave me a really great read. If you have not tried any of Mike Dellosso's books, I encourage you to do so. They are books that will definitely stay with you. 

Monday, August 8, 2016

The Rector by Michael Hicks Thompson

 The Rector
Michael Hicks Thompson
(Shepherd King 2015)

It's not often that I find a book that leaves me conflicted on what I think of it. That's a downside of reading books through a blogging program. I am honor-bound to write a review, but sometimes I come across a book that while decent and entertaining has me frowning over certain aspects of it.

One, The Rector was a book that was captivating in a 50s-noir style of reading. To me it seemed like a narration of a movie that played out before me.
I did wish for deeper character developments and at times I forgot it was a woman who was narrating. The author's voice intruded at times that gave the narration a distinctly masculine flair.

Two, the story line had many moments of convenience in the discovery of clues. I also didn't like the fact that the main character, Martha, would suddenly realize the answer to a question or discovery of a clue only to leave the reader in the dark. If a story is written first person, I expect to know exactly what that character is thinking and feeling.

Three, I had a tough time labeling this as Christian. The faith is there, but then this was 50s Delta Mississippi where faith and Christianity was a mainstay in most all homes. There were couple of instances where God's name was taken in vain and a couple of words that were taken out of context where some readers would consider them "curse/cuss" words.

Despite a few parts that had me scratching my head on whether the author did enough research or not, I did enjoy the book somewhat. Although if any readers are Southern Baptist, they may not enjoy some parts of the book that deals with the Episcopal denomination.

I can't recommend this book, but I can say it was an okay mainstream book. It was fast paced, entertaining, and one that leaves the reader wondering what else would happen in Solo.

***I was provided this book through BookCrash in exchange of an honest and complete review.