Book Review: Keepers of The Covenant

17 Oct

208990Keepers of the Covenant, Book Two in the Restoration Chronicles

In one life-changing moment, the lives of the Jewish exiles in Babylon are thrown into confusion and despair when a decree arrives from the king’s palace in Susa. It calls for the annihilation of every Jewish man, woman, and child throughout the empire on the thirteenth day of Adar, in less than one year. Ezra, a quiet Jewish scholar and teacher, is suddenly called upon to lead the community as they seek God for a reason for this catastrophe. When a second decree arrives, authorizing them to fight back, Ezra is thrust into the role of military leader as they defend themselves against their enemies.

When the battles come to an end, Ezra’s brother Jude is dead and Ezra is required by the Law he so diligently studies to marry Jude’s widow, Devorah, and provide an heir. Fatherhood changes Ezra, and he asks God to make a way for him and the other exiles to leave Babylon for good and return to Jerusalem. His prayers are answered and the exiles move to Judea to revitalize worship at the temple–but the fight to keep God’s Law is never easy. As more and more of his community are tempted, a new battle emerges…this one for the survival of God’s covenant and the souls of His chosen faithful.

 

LAustin-183Bestselling author Lynn Austin has sold more than one million copies of her books worldwide. She is an eight-time Christy Award winner for her historical novels, as well as a popular speaker at retreats and conventions. Lynn and her husband have raised three children and live near Chicago.

 

My Impressions:

I think it must be really hard to write Biblical fiction — fiction that is entertaining and engaging while at the same time faithful to God’s Word, His intent and His purposes. Lynn Austin is an author who does an exemplary job of combining all the necessary ingredients to do just that. In her latest book in the Restoration Chronicles, Keepers of The Covenant, Austin combines the stories of Ezra and Esther to bring forth a cohesive narrative of the life of post-exilic Israel. She also does the best thing I like about Biblical fiction, she inspires her readers to open up God’s word to look into scripture for themselves. (You can read my review of book 1, Return to Me, HERE.)

Ezra is a scholar with no other desire but to study the Torah. But when word comes of the Persian king’s edict in which all Jews are to be killed, he is called to become a leader of his people in Babylon. Reluctantly he follows God’s call and embarks on a journey to know Him. Amina and Reuben are children in the days of Haman’s schemes and Esther’s triumphant victory, but the thirteenth of Adar changes their lives for ever. Austin follows these characters and their families in examining God’s everlasting covenant with those He calls His own.

Keepers of The Covenant is three stories in one that come together as the people of Israel return to their home in Jerusalem. All the characters face doubts and fears as well as decisions that change the course of their lives. I found all of the characters realistic and relatable for readers in the 21st century. There really isn’t anything new under the sun, and the difficulties of life are as real now as they were then. Austin has created a wonderful sense of place as well. You can almost see the the green hills surrounding Jerusalem and feel the sandy grit of 4 months travel from Babylon to the Holy Land. The theme of justice tempered by mercy is strong and a good lesson for readers today. But it was the the inclusive love of God that really spoke to me.

Keepers of The Covenant is an excellent novel, one that I will recommend to anyone regardless of their favorite genre. This historical novel is much more than dates and places in the past, but a retelling of God’s timeless truths and promises.

Highly Recommended.

Audience: older teens and adults.

(Thanks to LitFuse and Bethany House for my review copy. All opinions expressed are mine alone.)

To purchase this book, click on the image below.

Book Review: The Covered Deep

16 Oct

953750Bianca Marshal is holding out for the perfect husband. Finding a man that meets the requirements of her “must-have” list in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains has proven impossible. Bianca’s mama insists that there’s no such thing as a perfect true love, and that Bianca’s ideal man is pure fiction. On the eve of her twenty-fifth birthday, Bianca discovers a devastating statistic: her chance of marrying is now only eighteen percent. Unwilling to accept spinsterhood, Bianca enters an essay contest that propels her into a whirlwind search for her soulmate. Via the opulence of London and the mysteries of the Holy Land, Bianca’s true love will be revealed, but not without a heavy price.

 

 

BrandyVallanceHeadshot1-199x300Brandy Vallance is a graduate of Jerry B. Jenkins Christian Writers Guild Apprenticeship. She has attended many CBA and ABA writing conferences across the country. Brandy has had fifty articles published in various magazines and newspapers and was on staff with a magazine focusing on the Victorian time period. During this time, Brandy traveled to Victorian balls and tea events, learning the ins and outs of Victorian etiquette and customs. Brandy has had Victorian fiction and non-fiction articles published.

Brandy is a member of the Christian Writers Guild, American Christian Fiction Writers, and Pikes Peak Writers. She is the 2013 winner of the Christian Writers Guild Operation First Novel Contest which included a publishing contract for The Covered Deep by Worthy Publishing. In 2012, she won the American Christian Fiction Writers Genesis Contest for historical romance. In 2011, Brandy was a semi-finalist in the Genesis Contest. In 2009, Brandy won honorable mention at the Pikes Peak Writers American Icon contest.

Brandy has taught writing workshops covering The Business Side of Writing, The Novelist’s Life, Discovering the Depths of Your Creativity, and Unlocking Personification & Metaphor to Deepen Emotion. Brandy has been the main speaker at ladies retreats and was able to direct, design the set, and act in a play that she wrote. In June of 2011, Brandy took a research trip to England, Scotland, and Wales and fulfilled a lifelong dream, adding depth and reality to The Covered Deep as well as nourishing future novel ideas.

 

My Impressions:

A debut novel? Really?! The Covered Deep is Brandy Vallance’s first novel, but it sure didn’t feel that way. This well-researched historical novel has it all — a wonderful sense of place and time, well-developed characters, and a twisting plot that will keep the reader on her toes. If this is what you get with a first novel, I can’t wait to read more from Brandy Vallance.

Bianca Marshall knows what she wants. She just can’t find it in her small, southern Ohio town. Romance, love, adventure — she wants to experience it all and find her soul mate in the process. Urged by her father, Bianca enters and wins a contest that will whisk her away from small town life to sophisticated London society and the exotic locales of the Holy Land. But Bianca didn’t count on heartbreak, danger and God’s challenge of forgiveness.

As I said, The Covered Deep has it all. Vallance does a great job of capturing the life and times of not one but two locations — London and Jerusalem of the 1870s. I felt like I was traveling right along with Bianca as she left America for adventure and romance. Vallance’s characterizations are strong as well. The good characters, Bianca and Paul, were credible with real life flaws and faults. But it was the bad guys who I really loved. And while forgiveness and redemption were strong themes, not all the characters would accept the gift from God. The mysterious machinations of Sir Adrian had me guessing and kept me on the edge of my seat. There were plenty of times I held my breath along with Bianca.

I highly recommend this not just good, but excellent debut from Brandy Vallance.

Highly Recommended.

Audience: Adults

(Thanks to Worthy Publishing for a review copy. The opinions expressed are mine alone.)

To purchase a copy of this book, click on the image below.

Book Review: New Moon Rising

15 Oct

49045Second Novel in the St. Simons Trilogy.

A rich and riveting tale of love, hardship, and the journey for happiness in the war-torn South.

In New Moon Rising, Eugenia Price gives us a story of faith and courage that follows the struggle of James Gould’s son Horace to find his own place in life. Reaching manhood in the tumultuous years before the Civil War, Horace returns to St. Simons and finds himself disheartened by the intolerance on his beloved island. However, he wins the heart of lovely neighbor Deborah Abbott, who adores her “Mr. Gould” and becomes his wife, despite the difference in their years. She is not concerned with his rumored past, but she is saddened by his lack of faith. Filled with romance, hardship, and adventure, this sequel to Lighthouse vividly portrays the antebellum South while revealing an independent man’s search for happiness.

 

 

6320a6901ff60a82390b78-l-_v356503853_sx200_(From Wikipedia) Eugenia Price (June 22, 1916 – May 28, 1996) was an American author best known for her historical novels which were set in the American South.

In 1961 Eugenia Price visited St. Simons Island, Georgia during a book signing tour. In the cemetery for Christ Church, she saw a tombstone for the Reverend Anson Dodge and his two wives.[3] This inspired her to research the area, including history and famous figures. She would spend the remainder of her life writing detailed historical novels set in the American South, many of which were critically acclaimed. Her early works, particularly the St Simons Trilogy -which consists of the books The Beloved Invader (1965), New Moon Rising (1969) and Lighthouse (1972) were extensively researched and based on real people. This is in contrast to her later novels, such as Another Day (1984) and The Waiting Time (1997) which featured her own characters. Other historical novels include her The Georgia Trilogy consisting of Bright Captivity, Where Shadows Go, and Beauty From Ashes. The Florida Trilogy has Don Juan McQueen, Maria, and Margaret’s Story. Then she has a Savannah Quartet with Savannah, To See Your Face Again, Before the Darkness Falls, and Stranger in Savannah.

After moving in 1965 to St. Simons, Georgia with her long-time companion, the writer Joyce Blackburn (who assisted her with research), Eugenia Price became active in many local causes; most of which involved protecting the local environment from the effects of industrialisation.

She died in Brunswick, Georgia on May 28, 1996 of congestive heart failure. She is buried just yards from Anson Dodge and his two wives. Her tombstone reads “After her conversion to Jesus Christ, October 2, 1949, she wrote Light…and eternity and love and all are mine at last.”

 

My Impressions:

thumb.phpNew Moon Rising is the second book in Eugenia Price’s St. Simons series. (Read my review of book 1, Lighthouse, HERE.) Set on St. Simons Island, Georgia, in the years leading up to the Civil War, this richly detailed and well-researched novel brings to life the culture, customs and life of the antebellum South. Price was meticulous in her research so the reader can be assured of the accuracy of the novel. My book club leaves tomorrow on a field trip to St. Simons. We are looking forward to seeing all the places we have read about.

New Moon Rising focuses on Horace Gould, the son of James Gould, the builder of the original St. Simons lighthouse. A restless younger son, Horace struggles with finding his place in the world. After years away from the island, he finally comes home and takes his place in the planter’s society. Horace is an interesting character. He is hard-working and sensitive. At the age of 30 he marries a woman half his age to whom he is devoted. His world is one of compromise and contradictions. He runs and then finally owns the family plantation, Blank Banks, and while he hates slavery, he cannot find a way to break with the plantation system. He also firmly believed in the unity of the United States, but fought on the side of the confederacy. His struggle with right and wrong and acting on those principles follows him all of his adult life.

Price wrote this book in a time when books with strong faith messages were published by secular houses. There really was no Christian fiction genre. Price never waters down her beliefs — her faith is seamlessly woven into her stories. Harold Gould was a man who believed in doing things in his own way and in his own strength. In the end, Price depicts him as finally giving control to God.

I enjoyed New Moon Rising. If you like historical fiction, I think you will too.

Recommended.

Audience: older teens to adults.

(I purchased this book for my Kindle. All opinions expressed are mine alone.)

To purchase this book, click on the image below.

Spooktacular Giveaway Hop

14 Oct

Thanks to I Am A Reader, Not A Writer for hosting the 5th annual Spooktacular Giveaway Hop. Lots of bloggers are giving away books and bookish things, so be sure to check out all the participants HERE.

Spooktacular2013

 

I am giving away a Surprise Box of Books to one lucky reader. Are you brave enough to take a chance with this mystery giveaway? Then leave me a comment to enter to win. For extra entries, like me on FB or follow me on Twitter. (You can let me know of all your entries in 1 comment.) Good Luck!

Book Spotlight: How to Survive Middle School And Monster Bots

14 Oct

68430ebSometimes, being smart just isn’t enough.

It’s been a rough semester for Howard Boward, science genius. Not only is he having to dodge winter’s most feared weapon (snowballs), his close friend, Winnie McKinney, is barely speaking to him. If that weren’t enough, he’s the favorite target of some bullies who seem determined to make life at Dolley Madison Middle School as miserable as possible. But then Howard learns about an upcoming robot-building contest—finally a chance to show off his science skills and beat archrival Gerald “G-Force” Forster! Unfortunately, the only way to win is by using his secret “monster goo,” a formula that has terrifying side effects. Can Howard resist the temptation? Or will he unleash a robot rampage that could destroy the town—and ruin the school dance?

 

ronbates1Ron Bates began his career as a newspaper reporter in Texas, and later became an editor and columnist. His humorous features led him to a job as the resident humor columnist for three of Legacy Publishing’s regional magazines. As a freelance writer, Bates’ works include the children’s story, “Arnold Bought a Bug,” and “St. Mary’s and the Art of War,” the true story of how Italian POWs transformed a tiny Texas church. Bates also wrote the Cranium Comics series “Brawn,” the inspirational play, “Flight 1615,” and “Underground Ink,” a collection of funny poems. An award-winning copywriter, Bates lives in Frisco, Texas.

 

I have not read How to Survive Middle School And Monster Bots, but thought this looked like a good book to share with you. I am giving this book to a young friend, so I will give you the scoop on it when he is done.

Audience: Ages 8-12.

(Thanks to Zonderkidz for a free copy of this book.)

To purchase this book, click on the image below.

Book Review: Why Dogs Are

13 Oct

WDA_OutsideCoverWhy Dogs Are tells the story of how a dog teaches some life lessons to a very special child. It seeks to explore the concept of God’s unconditional love and how someone without the ability to see or hear can comprehend its scope and His impact in our lives. Named a Finalist in the non-profit Indie Book Awards (category Spirituality, 2014), 100% percent of net profits from book sales goes to charities that train and support therapy dogs. The book is first in a series called Love Unleashed.

The author’s own dog Muttley was a therapy dog that brought his light and love to nursing home residents and to children with disabilities. Born deaf and blind, Brian was the inspiration for the book. His character is a composite of the many children who attended the Alabama Institute for the Deaf and Blind who had to learn to live life with one or more disabilities.

tana1-300x230Tana Thompson spent 30 years teaching in colleges and universities around the south, watching computers go from huge mainframe technological monsters to carry-in-your pocket smart phone equivalents. Now in retirement, she is following her dream of writing, having interests in children’s literature and non-fiction genres such as memoir writing and regaling unique travel experiences shared with her late husband, Ken, in the Middle East and the Indian subcontinent. She is so committed to using her right brain for a change that she also makes jewelry, stained and fused glass, and delights in photography. She lives on her own heaven-on-earth slice of Lake Logan Martin in beautiful Alabama, with 2 “chosen” dogs, 2 rescued dogs and 4 rescued cats.

Tana Thompson wrote her first story in the sixth grade, was encouraged by her teacher to continue writing, and didn’t. But the desire remained in her heart only to be reawakened later in life. In the interim, she earned a Ph.D. from Georgia State University and taught computer and management information systems in several colleges and universities around the south. Her last career position was the most meaningful, assisting teachers and staff at the Alabama Institute for Deaf and Blind to integrate computers into their daily job duties. Her late husband Ken was Vice President at the Institute; together they experienced the exceptional love and devotion of parents, family and teachers working with these exceptional children. The Thompsons also participated in a pet therapy program that saw their two Golden Retrievers, Rambeau and Muttley, form a team that visited nursing homes, classrooms and especially the students of AIDB, where the dogs sensed a “special touch” was required. Muttley earned his “Canine Good Citizen” designation, and proudly wore his official bandana and patch when visiting his special friends.

 

My Impressions:

When approached with reading/reviewing Tana Thompson’s children’s book, Why Dogs Are, I was eager to accept. A book about God’s love and care for those with special needs through his creation seemed like a perfect match for me. My husband is a veterinarian and treats service dogs. I am always looking for books to share with his clients and thought Why Dogs Are would be a great addition to his waiting room reading. I have some mixed feelings about this book. It has some great points, but I have some reservations about its view of God.

First the premise of Why Dogs Are is wonderful. What could be better than telling the story of God’s care of his people by providing comfort, help and love through his creation, in this case a dog. The story involves a young boy named Brian who is deaf and blind. God sends him a dog to teach unconditional love and forgiveness. I loved the illustrations of Brian’s interaction with the dog. Eye-catching and colorful, they vividly show the relationship that develops between a service dog and his person. The author also includes other illustrations of dogs and how they help people. This book does a good job of teaching children about special needs situations — showing people in everyday situations, living life just as everyone else.

However, I have a problem with the author’s view of heaven. She shows dogs living in Heaven and coming only to Earth to help Brian. After the dog’s success with Brian, other dogs are sent to help other people. I am not sure why the author took this route in explaining dog’s entry into Brian’s life. I think it may be a bit confusing to younger children. You may want to read this book with your child in order to explain the real story of Creation and God’s purposes for it.

Overall, I liked Tana Thompson’s book, Why Dogs Are, but I urge parents to read it first before introducing it to your child.

Audience: children ages 5-9.

(Thanks to BookCrash for a review copy. All opinions expressed are mine alone.)

 

 

Book Review: Chasing Sunsets

10 Oct

734367_w185Kimberly Tucker’s life hasn’t turned out the way she thought it would. A divorced mother of two, Kim resents her ex-husband for moving on with his life and living it up while she struggles to understand what went wrong. When her sons end up spending five weeks of summer vacation with their father, Kim’s own father suggests a respite in the family vacation home on tiny Cedar Key Island. As Kim revisits her childhood memories and loves, she soon discovers that treasures in life are often buried, and mistakes both past and present become redeemable in God’s hand. Readers will be swept away to an island retreat where they walk alongside Kim as she discovers that God’s answers may not come easily, but they do come.

 

EVAMARIEEVERSON2Eva Marie Everson grew up in rural Georgia just outside of Savannah and currently lives in Central Florida. She taught Old Testament theology for six years at Life Training Center in Longwood, Florida and has written numerous articles for Crosswalk.com (including the acclaimed Falling Into The Bible), and has had articles featured in Christian Bride Magazine, Christian Retailing Magazine, The Godly Business Woman and Marriage Partnership magazines. Eva Marie has been interviewed by a number of media outlets including radio, television, newspaper, magazines, and the Internet. In 2002 Eva Marie was one of six Christian journalists sent to Israel for a special ten-day press tour. She was forever changed.

Eva Marie’s work includes award winning books such as: Shadow of Dreams, The Potluck Club, and Sex, Lies, and the Media. She has over 20 titles to her credit.

Eva Marie is a graduate of Andersonville Theological Seminary. She won AWSAs very first Member of the Year Award in 2002. She is the past president of Word Weavers, one of the fastest growing Christian writers groups in the US. She is a graduate of CLASS and a member of several writer’s organizations. Both an international and national speaker, her passion is helping others to hear the heartbeat of God.

 

My Impressions:

Due to some glitches with my book club’s selections this fall, I was scrambling to find an alternate for our October discussion. Looking through the many titles on my Kindle, I came upon Chasing Sunsets by Eva Marie Everson. That title had been in the TBR queue for a while and my group read and enjoyed two of her other novels, Things Left Unspoken (review HERE) and The Potluck Club. Add that the book is currently FREE on Kindle, and we got our book! What at first seemed like a second choice soon became a boy-am-I-glad-I-chose-this-one book. Chasing Sunsets is sure to be a hit with my group and create great discussion. Have you read this one? We would love to know what you thought.

Kim Tucker is one year divorced and still not sure how it happened. As the novel opens things are strained between her and her ex, Charlie. He wants an extra week with their two boys and she is unwilling to give up without a fight. But a biased judge forces Kim to give up some of her time with her kids and gives her an opportunity to go back to Cedar Key to handle a few housekeeping issues for her father. Cedar Key holds wonderful childhood memories for Kim, but was also the scene of heartache and lost love. But being the responsible and dutiful oldest daughter, Kim reluctantly agrees to spend at least a few days at the vacation home. What Kim finds there opens old wounds, exposes secrets and offers a second chance at love.

There are a lot of things to examine in Chasing Sunsets – life after divorce, giving over control to God and confronting past demons. Kim grows in her relationships with family and friends, as well as with God. Characters are credible in their actions and reactions, both good and bad. Kim had a lot to learn and by the end of the book she is well on her way to peace. There are a few loose ends left in the book, making way for two additional books in the series that I am eager to read (Waiting for Sunrise and Slow Moon Rising). A great book for those who like women’s fiction with the plus of being set on a Florida island, Chasing Sunsets will make you eager to grab a cool drink, kick up your feet and lose yourself in its pages.

Highly Recommended.

Audience: Adults.

(I purchased this book for my Kindle. All opinions expressed are mine alone.)

To purchase this book, click on the image below. It is currently FREE on Kindle!

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