Book Review: Away From

30 Oct

22462077Two American families in the not-so-distant future decide to flee the country because of the passage of an amendment limiting religious freedoms and the equally disturbing deteriorating moral fabric of their everyday lives. In the process, other “believers,” who also have been marginalized by the system, join them. However, the challenge for this ragtag group of believers, in the end, is to learn to tolerate each other and to appreciate each other’s differences. Their journey is fraught with narrow escapes, imprisonment, and danger at every turn. Because of the “bio-chip” that many believers refuse to have implanted, their antiquated and restricted options for transportation further impede their travel. With the help of divine providence, they escape adverse weather, over-zealous authorities, dangerous cults, and the threat of separation. Their final voyage across the Atlantic Ocean, reminiscent of the early pilgrims, culminates in another landing on the shores of “a new world”.

 

Zann Renn was born in the 1960’s and grew up in a small Indiana town. The budding author was brought up in a Christian family, where the creative atmosphere included music and lively discussions that were the norm. Renn attended a liberal arts college for undergraduate work in English, and graduated with a Master’s Degree in English from Ball State University in Muncie, IN. The author is married, has two grown children, and lives in a rural area near Nashville, TN. Renn’s major enjoyments include family time, walking in the woods and making music with friends.

Author Interview

 

My Impressions:

Zann Renn’s debut novel, Away From, tells the story of a future United States in which everything, except Christian beliefs, is tolerated. All public thought and speech is closely monitored by the government, yet perversity is the norm and seen as less a threat to society than the church. It is a chilling look at what our country could become. It is also a novel in which the faithful and persecuted few decide to start a new life of freedom in another land — kind of a futuristic Pilgrim story.

The first chapter of Away From starts strong with the description of the Tolerance Amendment that is anything but tolerant. Unbelievable, yet very believable given the way our country is going. However, what started as a great premise never really materialized for me. I had problems with a number of things — poor editing, characterization and plot development among them. I also had problems with the profanity that was used and descriptions of sexual acts, one of which was so perverse that it turned my stomach. Please know that I usually have trouble writing negative reviews. These things are very subjective. But in the case of Away From, I want my readers to be fully aware of material that they may find objectionable. With that being said, there are many favorable reviews on Amazon, so check them out HERE.

(Thanks to Bozeman Media for a review copy. The opinions expressed are mine alone.)

Book Review: Escape through The Wilderness

29 Oct

9781632682017medSixteen-year-old Savannah Evans walks with a slight limp thanks to a gymnastics’ accident that dashed her Olympic dreams, but didn’t stop her from attending an adventure camp in Idaho. At Camp Arrowhead, she quickly befriends Jade Chang and Rico Cruz, but Conner Swift taunts Savi because of her injury.

When the four are teamed together for an overnight white-water river rafting adventure, Savi refuses to get in the same raft with Conner. Unfortunately, the director will not reassign her.

A fun expedition down the river turns into a nightmare when their raft slams into a huge rock and their adult guide disappears down the river.

Without their guide and desperately trying to steer an out-of-control raft, they pass the “Last Chance” marker and enter the larger rapids. With Jade pinned between the raft and a rock, and Rico clinging to a lifeline, Savi must cut the raft free.

When the four drag themselves out of the river, they’re bruised, beaten, lost, and twenty-five miles from camp. Because of late-night campfire tales of Vexel, a vicious animal that roams the nearby woods, Savi and the others are terrified.

Savi becomes the unlikely leader who tries to guide the group back to Camp Arrowhead. Limited supplies, injuries, and the constant threat of Vexel—who Savi fears is stalking them, complicate the harrowing return trip.

 

Gary RodriguezGary Rodriguez is president of LeaderMetrix Inc., a consulting company that specializes in senior-level executive coaching, organizational development and conflict resolution. He is the author of the new adventure novel Escape through the Wilderness scheduled for release in June 2014.

His first book Purpose-Centered Public Speaking was an instant hit and recently republished by Tate Publishing.

His extensive resume includes eighteen years as an executive in the radio business where he spent several years as one of the original managers of Infinity Broadcasting. He was twice nominated as medium market manager of the year by the Bobby Poe report, a national media publication.

For over thirty-five years, Gary has spoken in public both nationally and internationally. Gary’s resume includes a season in the U.S. Army where he was highly decorated as the youngest Drill Instructor in the Army’s history at age 18 years. He was also awarded the Silver Star (the nation’s third highest award for valor) while serving in Viet Nam.

 

My Impressions:

Escape through The Wilderness is an adventure novel suitable for middle school readers. Its main characters, 4 teenagers at an Adventure camp, are challenged by extreme conditions, injuries and dangerous situations. Survival is the main goal, but the teens learn teamwork along the way. There is also a character that lives her faith and makes a big impression on the other three.

I found the book a bit slow at first as the author attempted to establish the characters’ personalities and motivations. The legend of the monster Vexel is introduced during a night time camp fire — a foreshadowing of what is to come. But as soon as the 4 teens are thrown into peril, the action ramps up. Their encounters with wild animals and a lone hunter seem a bit hard to believe, but I think kids ages 12-14, will enjoy the survival skills employed by the characters, their independent actions and their determination to survive. There is also a lot to think about in the way the characters grow emotionally.

Audience: kids 12-14.

(Thanks to Pump Up Your Book for a review copy of this book. All opinions expressed are mine alone.)

To purchase this book, click on the image below.

 

 

Book Review: A Promise to Protect

28 Oct

722814Acting Sheriff Ben Logan hasn’t heard from Leigh Somerall in a very long time, but it doesn’t mean he can get her–or their whirlwind romance of ten years ago–out of his head. When she calls out of the blue, it is with a strange request to protect her brother, Tony. When Tony dies just days later, Ben is charged with a different task–protecting Leigh and her nine-year-old son, TJ, from the killers. But how can Ben keep an eye on Leigh if she’s doing everything in her power to avoid him? And could the secret that Leigh is keeping change Ben’s life forever?

 

 

Pats-FB-4-13-225x300Patricia Bradley is a romantic suspense writer living in the Deep South. Her short-stories have been published in Woman’s World, and her first book Shadows from the Past, set in Memphis and the surrounding are, won several awards … the 2008 Maggie (Inspirational Category) … 1st Place in the 2012 Touched By Love and Daphne du Maurier contests … finaled in the 2012 Genesis … bronzed in the Frasier.

Bradley’s second book, A Promise to Protect is set in the same area but features different characters.

Bradley is also an abstinence/healthy relationship speaker and has spoken to many students … and adults. When not writing or speaking, she throws mud on a wheel and trys to make something beautiful.

 

My Impressions:

A Promise to Protect by Patricia Bradley is a romantic suspense novel sure to appeal to all fans of the genre. The second book  in the Logan Point series, it can definitely stand alone. Most of the characters are new, although there are appearances from some characters in book 1, Shadows of The Past (you can read my review HERE.) Filled with twists and turns, this book packs a lot between the covers, including a romance that the reader can cheer for. Great for those looking for a romantic page-turner.

Leigh Sommerall has returned to Logan Point after many years of absence. Now a doctor, Leigh is determined to get her year long service contract done so she can get away from her home town and the secrets surrounding her past. But the death of her brother and the danger to herself and her young son TJ, put her under the protection of her ex-boyfriend Ben Logan. Danger seems to follow them both as they navigate a new start and a second chance at love.

There is a lot going on in A Promise to Protect – arson, murder, kidnapping, and more. The action really never lets up. I figured out early just who was behind all the mayhem in the small town, but that didn’t detract from my enjoyment of the novel. I was eager to see just what would happen next! The characters are likable and struggle with real life issues. Readers are sure to root for Ben and Leigh’s relationship. The themes of truth and forgiveness are explored, and the message of God’s care, mercy and forgiveness is strong. Overall, A Promise to Protect is a good bet for those who like non-stop action with a big helping of romance.

Recommended.

Audience: Adults.

(Thanks to Revell for a review copy of the book. All opinions expressed are mine alone.)

To purchase this book, click on the image below. The Kindle version is currently $4.99!

Author, Author! — Zann Renn

27 Oct

By The Book welcomes Zann Renn, author of Away From. Here is a little about her.

 

By The Book — Many authors say that they have always been a writer — making up stories as a child. When did you first become a writer?

Zann Renn — I honestly cannot recall since I began creating stories and poems earlier than I can remember. My mother tells me that I was an articulate child who understood and was moved by poetry in particular. The rhythm and meter of words mesmerized me, and my earliest journals and poems were written in a preschool hand with misspelled words.

BTB — Was there a special someone, such as a teacher, parent, or other relative, who encouraged you to pursue writing.

Zann — My mother was my first and best encourager. She used to reward my good behavior with empty journals and time alone in my room. Often she would show me interesting photographs taken by famous photojournalists then ask me to weave a story around what I thought was going on in the picture. She read me poetry, taught me about meter and rhyme, and helped me craft lyrics. Later on, particularly at the university level, there were two or three professors who inspired me and opened up the world of great literature for me. However, by then the groundwork had already been laid by my mother.

22462077BTB — When did you decide to write Christian fiction? Do you have a particular motivation to write books that contain faith threads?

Zann – This book was not so much a decision as it was an impression. This particular novel came to me quite literally in its entirety in the middle of the night. Though it took several years for me to flesh out the characters and solidify the plotline, the story was all there from the beginning. I had never really intended to be a novelist, my forte is poetry and lyric writing, but this experience opened a new door for me that will lead, I hope, to subsequent fiction. My faith informs nearly everything I do. My guess is that a faith philosophy, or lack thereof, informs what most people do. Though I don’t agree entirely with any one of the characters in this book, and though I don’t even particularly like some of them, I am trying to present a Christian story as an insider rather than as an outsider. I have always been a bit of a renegade in most Christian circles, but all of these “characters” are my brothers and sisters in the faith, nonetheless. I love them for their convictions, for who they are, and for who they are not.

BTB — What does a typical writing day look like? Are you structured or informal in your writing schedule?

Zann — My academic background has certainly taught me some degree of structure and discipline. At some point you just have to “jump in there” as a writer and get something on paper, even if you never end up keeping it. On the other hand, at least for me, there needs to be a certain amount of inspiration moving me to sit down and write. Otherwise, I think my prose ends up feeling a bit flat and lifeless.

BTB — Away From is a dystopian novel set in the future. Why did you decide to write in this genre.

Zann — Any futuristic writer, whether it is Orwell, Wells, Bradbury or Huxley, is trying in some way to give his or her readers a glimpse of a possible future. Most of the time these “glimpses” in futuristic fiction are not all that idyllic, so this kind of writing becomes somewhat of a warning to those who might be considering heading down certain paths. This novel deals in particular with marginalizing groups of people through semantics, majority rule, and popular politics. At the least, I hope this book will provoke thought and discussion about how we can protect and preserve the rights of all people.

BTB — What types of research did you do in preparing to write this novel?

Zann — I had to research everything from the geography of the United States to hot air balloon operation to ship building, not to mention the early American history I reviewed as well as the wording of early American documents and journals. Thankfully, I had some gifted editors who gave me wonderful suggestions and revision advice.

BTB — What do you want your readers to take away with them after finishing Away From?

Zann — I hope that this novel will unsettle people a bit, that it will make readers think, reflect and discuss. I also hope that the story will make Christians think about what is important and essential in our faith and what is not, what is worth fighting for and what needs to be compromised.

BTB — Readers are always curious as to what a writer is working on or just what is next to be published. Can you give us a glimpse of current works in progress?

Zann — The working title of my next novel is Craving Beauty, which is about a small group of people living in the same small town in the Midwest who travel together to an exotic castle in a Mediterranean location to discover the true meaning of beauty.

BTB — What would you like to share about your personal life?

Zann — I know exactly two facts about Canadian geese . . . and they are both wrong.

Thank you so much for sharing with the readers of my blog. 

 

22462077Away From by Zann Renn — With the moral fabric of America deteriorating at a rapid rate, the final straw was the passing of an amendment that limits religious freedom. In this dystopian novel, two American families flee the country looking for a better life. Along the way, they meet other believers who, too, have been marginalized by the system. As if being on the run wasn’t enough —  narrow escapes, adverse weather, and the new required bio-chip make this pilgrimage to a new world next to impossible. Can this ragtag group of believers, in the end, learn to tolerate each other and appreciate one another and make it to the new world far from their native shores?

 

Zann Renn was born in the 1960’s and grew up in a small town in Indiana. Raised in a Christian family, within a creative environment filled with music and lively discussions, Zann attended a liberal arts college for undergraduate work in English, and later graduated with a Master’s Degree in English from Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana. Away From, Zann’s first novel, has been endorsed by New York Times Bestselling authors Andy Andrews and Ken Abraham.

Zann is married, has two grown children, and lives near Nashville, Tennessee.

By The Book’s November Selection

26 Oct

In November, By The Book will be reading Snapshot by Lis Wiehl. Have you read it? We’d love to have your thoughts.

 

689544Two little girls, frozen in black and white. One picture worth killing for.

The Civil Rights Movement is less than a distant memory to Lisa Waldren—it is someone else’s memory altogether, passed on to her through the pages of history. Her life as a federal prosecutor in Boston feels utterly remote from the marches in the South that changed her father’s generation—and the entire nation—forever.

But the truth is, she was there.

When a photograph surfaces showing a blond, four-year-old Lisa playing with an African-American girl at a civil rights march in Fort Worth, Lisa is faced with a jarring revelation: the girls may have been the only witnesses who observed the killer of civil rights leader Benjamin Gray . . . and therefore the only ones who can exonerate the death row inmate falsely accused of the murder.

Soon, Lisa finds herself in the dangerous world her father had shielded her from as a child. After some searching, the Waldrens find the other little girl from the photo and, in the process, uncover conspiracy mere steps away from the likes of Bobby Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson, and J. Edgar Hoover.

Based on real events and a photograph snapped by author Lis Wiehl’s own G-man father, Snapshot is a remarkably original marriage of mystery and history.

To purchase this book, click on the image below.

A Man of God

24 Oct

10525795_10152680975695379_2305053320215703852_nSome of you may have wondered where I have been the past week. I generally post 3-4 reviews a week, but this week things were a little different. Sunday evening my husband got a call from his older brother — a call no one wants to receive. My brother-in-law had been involved in a motorcycle accident and we were urged to get home as soon as we could. Home for my husband is a 6 hour car ride. Before we could get the car packed, the second call came letting us know that Darrell had died. What ensued was a drive through the night to get to my mother-in-law, a second drive to embrace my sweet sister-in-law and her three children ages 23, 20, and 18 — way too young to lose their father. The week progressed with more tears than I can count, but also an outpouring of love that is indescribable. My brother-in-law, Darrell Burnham, lived his life with gusto. He also lived his faith. 3000+ people came to the visitation to tell us how much he meant to them. 100 pastors in Honduras had a prayer meeting for our family.

Our lives are not our own. We impact the people around us for good or bad. I challenge you and myself to live a life like Darrell’s. Here is the letter my niece posted on her FB page.

On Sunday October 19, 2014 I lost the greatest man I have ever known. My daddy. Not only was he a brilliant physician, he was my role model, my best friend and the rock of our family. He always wore the biggest and most contagious smile that would light up every room. He was so selfless and loved so deeply. Most importantly he had such a passion for Christ and it was evident in everything he did. This world is a better place because it knew him. He left a mark on the world that will never be forgotten. His mission on earth was to live a life that reflected our Lord and savior and to impact others in such a way that they would come to know Him. And I believe he did just that. He was perfect to me. I will forever be grateful for the 23 years that God allowed me to have with my daddy. I was so lucky to be his daughter. To live under the legacy of Darrell Burnham. The world lost the greatest man but heaven gained the most perfect angel. He wasn’t ready and neither were we but he was prepared. I know my dad heard the words “well done my good and faithful servant” as he entered the gates of heaven. There won’t be a day that goes by I don’t miss my dad. He will always be the first person I think about every morning when I wake up. I will love him with my whole heart forever. I can honestly say I have never felt the presence of God as strongly as I did today as I celebrated my dad’s wonderful life. I know my dad was beaming down from heaven and this gives me so much hope. It isn’t over. We aren’t finished. I know I will see my daddy again one day in heaven with Jesus Christ. On behalf of my mom, Luke and Drew we want to thank each and every one of you for every text, call, message, shared story of my dad, hug and so much more. We can’t even begin to tell you how much it has meant to us. We would not make it without the love and support that we have gotten from our community. From the bottom of our hearts we thank you so much. We love you.

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.

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