Tag Archives: speculative fiction

Book Review: The Baggage Handler

11 Nov

 

There is no doubt why The Baggage Handler won the 2019 Christy Award for First Novel. It is excellent! You ARE going to want to read this!

When three people take the wrong suitcase from baggage claim, their lives change forever. 

A hothead businessman coming to the city for a showdown meeting to save his job.

A mother of three hoping to survive the days at her sister’s house before her niece’s wedding.

And a young artist pursuing his father’s dream so he can keep his own alive.

When David, Gillian, and Michael each take the wrong suitcase from baggage claim, the airline directs them to retrieve their bags at a mysterious facility in a deserted part of the city. There they meet the enigmatic Baggage Handler, who shows them there is more in their baggage than what they have packed, and carrying it with them is slowing them down in ways they can’t imagine. And they must deal with it before they can leave.

In this modern-day parable about the burdens that weigh us down, David Rawlings issues an inspiring invitation to lighten the load.

 

David Rawlings is an Australian author, and a sports-mad father-of-three who loves humor and a clever turn-of-phrase.

Over a 25-year career he has put words on the page to put food on the table, developing from sports journalism and copywriting to corporate communication.

Now in fiction, he entices readers to look deeper into life with stories that combine the everyday with a sense of the speculative, addressing the fundamental questions we all face. That starts with his debut novel – The Baggage Handler – a contemporary story that explores one question: What baggage are you carrying?

 

My Impressions:

I had heard a lot of great things about The Baggage Handler by David Rawlings, so I was thrilled to get the chance to read this debut novel. The buzz said it is a parable, and it certainly is. This book made me dig deep into my own attitudes, expectations, experiences, and insecurities — the baggage that is part and parcel of who I am. Insightful, thought-provoking, and a real conversation starter, this book gets a very highly recommended rating from me.

It all begins with three people with lost baggage. Each is facing struggles at the end of their plane rides, and the experience of searching out their lost baggage is not pleasant. Add an enigmatic baggage handler who forces them to face their real selves, and you have a riveting look into what people carry around with them and their inept means of dealing with it. The characters Rawlings created are well-developed, not the stereotypes often found in parables. They were very real and relatable from the opening chapters. Did I see myself in any of them? Maybe. 😉 The baggage they carry, often unrecognized or not of their choice, includes envy, unforgiveness, and unworthiness. The doubts and fears each exhibit come from the depths of the human experience. And that is what makes The Baggage Handler so powerful — its universal message. A light is shown on what we all need to deal with. The setting of the baggage facility is masterfully depicted — you’ll see when you read the book. Not everything is resolved in the way I would have liked, leaving me feeling both hopeful and sad. But isn’t that how it is in real life as well?

Perfect for a book club discussion ( you will want to talk about this book!), The Baggage Handler is a must-read! I cannot wait for more from Rawlings.

Very Highly Recommended.

Great for Book Clubs.

Audience: adults.

To purchase, click HERE.

(Thanks to Thomas Nelson for a complimentary copy. All opinions expressed are mine alone.)

Book Review: Synapse

21 Oct

About The Book

Book: Synapse

Author: Steven James

Genre: Thriller, Sci-Fi

Release Date: October 8, 2019

Thirty years in the future, when AI is so advanced that humans live side by side with cognizant robots called Artificials, Kestrel Hathaway must come to terms not just with what machines know, but what they believe. Is hope real for them, or merely an illusion?

Soon after experiencing a personal tragedy, Kestrel witnesses a terrorist attack and is drawn into a world of conspiracies and lies that she and Jordan, her Artificial, have to untangle. With a second, more brutal attack looming on the horizon, their best chance of stopping it is teaming up with federal counterterrorism agent Nick Vernon.

But the clock is ticking — and all the while, Jordan is asking questions that Artificials were never meant to ask.

Deftly weaving suspense and intrigue into a rich, resonant tale that explores faith and what it really means to be human, Steven James offers us a glimpse into the future and into our own hearts.

Synapse is an unforgettable, gripping story of dreams shattered, truth revealed, and hope reborn.

Click here to get your copy!

My Impressions:

A futuristic techno-thriller that explores questions as old as time, Synapse will keep you on the edge of your seat. I found Steven James’ latest novel a mind-bender as I sought to process the interactions between Artificials (cognizant robots), Naturals (humans), and Plussers (specially-augmented humans) and the search for terrorists with varied agendas and motives. The basic premise is simple — Purists (those who oppose the spread of technology) are out to prevent a leading tech company from unleashing new advancements — yet this book has so many twists and turns along with thought-provoking questions on God, that its complexity requires a careful reading. Readers will find themselves questioning the technology that makes our lives easier, and in turn, as a couple of characters state, reflecting on the distractions that keep us from thoughts of eternity. I especially found main character Jordan, a cognizant robot with free will, intriguing. In Jordan, James has created a machine that feels, thinks, and aspires to what humans should. See, I said mind-bending. The novel is action-packed, and will appeal to those with a preference for the thriller and dystopian genres. And the faith messages shared will certainly make any reader re-think any conceptions they have on the goodness of God in a fallen world.

Recommended.

Audience: adults.

(Thanks to Celebrate Lit and Thomas Nelson for a complimentary copy. All opinions expressed are mine alone.)

About The Author

Steven James is the critically acclaimed, national bestselling author of sixteen novels. His work has been optioned by ABC Studios and praised by Publishers Weekly, Library Journal, the New York Journal of Books, and many others. His pulse-pounding, award-winning thrillers are known for their intricate storylines and insightful explorations of good and evil. When he’s not working on his next book, he’s either teaching master classes on writing throughout the country, trail running, or sneaking off to catch a matinee.

 

 

More from Steven

“James is a pro at creating suspense.”

Criminal Element

 

“stimulating tale…thrilling story of greed and corruption”

Publishers Weekly STARRED review

Read my op-ed on robots and faith in the New York Times

 

I grew up reading and loving science fiction stories. I’ve always been intrigued by the idea of artificial intelligence, but as I’ve thought about it over the years, I’ve realized that our lives are not based just on what we know, but also what we believe. So, I started asking myself, “What would the world look like if machines developed artificial belief?” Within a few decades, advanced AIs might very well have consciousness and self-awareness. At that point, what will they choose to believe about the meaning of live, God, and the afterlife?

All of these questions were in my mind as I wrote Synapse, a story that takes place 30 years from now in a world very much like our own. This is a cautionary tale with implications that are both chilling and revealing and I think that if you like suspense, you’ll love this near-future thriller.

Steven

Learn more at stevenjames.net

Facebook and Twitter: @readstevenjames

Buy the book: https://www.tnzfiction.com/synapse-a-novel/

Blog Stops

Book Reviews From an Avid Reader, October 8

Just Your Average reviews, October 9

Emily Yager, October 9

amandainpa , October 10

Wishful Endings, October 10

Just the Write Escape, October 11

Writings, Ramblings, and Reflections, October 11

Pause for Tales, October 12

Mary Hake, October 12

Debbie’s Dusty Deliberations, October 13

For The Love of Books, October 13

Truth and Grace Homeschool Academy, October 14

Hallie Reads, October 15

Blogging With Carol, October 15

Remembrancy, October 16

Through the Fire Blogs, October 16

Simple Harvest Reads, October 17

Texas Book-aholic, October 18

Rebekah Jones, Author, October 18

janicesbookreviews, October 19

Bigreadersite, October 19

A Reader’s Brain, October 20

Inklings and notions , October 21

By The Book, October 21

Congratulations 2019 Carol Award Winners!

29 Sep

The winners of the 2019 Carol Awards have been announced. Congratulations to all the talented authors!

 

Contemporary

Where Hope Begins by Catherine West

 

Historical

The Solace of Water by Elizabeth Byler Younts

 

Historical Romance

A Light on A Hill by Connilyn Cossette

 

Mystery/Suspense/Thriller

The Reckoning at Gossamer Pond by Jaime Jo Wright

 

Novella

MissTaken Identity from The MissAdventure Brides Collection by Kimberley Woodhouse

 

Romance

Just Let Go by Courtney Walsh

 

Romantic Suspense

Hidden Peril by Irene Hannon

 

Short Novel

The Rancher’s Surprise Daughter by Jill Lynn

 

Speculative

The Mark of The Raven by Morgan L. Busse

 

Young Adult

Fawkes by Nadine Brandes

 

Debut

The Story Peddler by Lindsay Franklin

 

 

2019 Christy Award Finalists

19 Sep

Here are the finalists for the 2019 Christy Awards. A top honor in Christian fiction, you can be sure of an excellent read when choosing one of these books. Congrats to all the talented authors!

 

Contemporary Romance

Brunch at Bittersweet Cafe by Carla Laureano

Falling for You by Becky Wade

Wait for Me by Susan May Warren

 

First Novel

The Baggage Handler by David Rawlings

Engraved on The Heart by Tara Johnson

The Plum Blooms in Winter by Linda Thompson

 

General Fiction

No One Ever Asked by Katie Ganshert

Send Down The Rain by Charles Martin

We Hope for Better Things by Erin Bartels

 

 

Historical

A Rumored Fortune by Joanna Davidson Politano

Of Fire And Lions by Mesu Andrews

The Seamstress by Allison Pitman

Shelter of The Most High by Connilyn Cossette

 

Historical Romance

A Defense of Honor by Kristi Ann Hunter

Becoming Mrs. Lewis by Patti Callahan

With This Pledge by Tamera Alexander

 

Mystery/Suspense/Thriller

Called to Protect by Lynette Eason

Every Wicked Man by Steven James

Mind Games by Nancy Mehl

 

 

Short Form

A Shot at Love by Sarah Loudin Thomas

Catching Christmas by Terri Blackstock

Falling for Grace by Janet Ferguson

Legacy of Love by Kristi Ann Hunter

 

Visionary

Mark of The Raven by Morgan L. Busse

Shivering World by Kathy Tyers

The Story Peddler by Lindsay A. Franklin

The Wounded Shadow by Patrick W. Carr

 

Young Adult

The Crescent Stone by Matt Mikalatos

Fawkes by Nadine Brandes

The Warrior Maiden by Melanie Dickerson

 

 

Road Trip Reading — Oregon

28 Aug

This week I am again on the west coast with a Reading Road Trip to Oregon. I really, really want to go to Oregon, and soon. My two must-sees? Sea stacks and Powell’s Books. 😉 I’m afraid that this bucket list destination is on hold, so in the meantime I content myself with reading books set in our 33rd state, and following author Lori Benton on Instagram. Oregon’s geographic diversity — coast line and rivers, dense forest and high deserts — provides ample opportunities for photo shoots. Lori posts absolutely beautiful photographs. If you don’t follow her, definitely check her out.

Here are a few books that I have read with an Oregon setting. Not only did they capture the beautiful setting, they were great stories! Hope you find one to love.

 

 

Harbor Secrets by Melody Carlson (Legacy of Sunset Cove, book 1)

A Peaceful Coastal Town . . . Threatened by a Storm of Secrets

It’s 1916 when newspaper woman Anna McDowell learns her estranged father has suffered a stroke. Deciding it’s time to repair bridges, Anna packs up her precocious adolescent daughter and heads for her hometown in Sunset Cove, Oregon.

Although much has changed since the turn of the century, some things haven’t. Anna finds the staff of her father’s paper not exactly eager to welcome a woman into the editor-in-chief role, but her father insists he wants her at the helm. Anna is quickly pulled into the charming town and her new position…but just as quickly learns this seaside getaway harbors some dark and dangerous secrets.

With Oregon’s new statewide prohibition in effect, crime has crept along the seacoast and invaded even idyllic Sunset Cove. Anna only meant to get to know her father again over the summer, but instead she finds herself rooting out the biggest story the town has ever seen — and trying to keep her daughter safe from it all.

 

 

River’s Song (The Inn at Shining Waters, book 1)

Sometimes when we look back, we are able to see ahead 
Following her mother’s funeral, and on the verge of her own midlife crisis, widow Anna Larson returns to the home of her youth to sort out her parents’ belongings, as well as her own turbulent life. 

For the first time since childhood, Anna embraces her native heritage, despite the disdain of her vicious mother-in-law. 
By transforming her old family home on the banks of the Siuslaw River into The Inn at Shining Waters, Anna hopes to create a place of healing — a place where guests experience peace, grace, and new beginnings. Starting with her own family . . . 

 

 

Hope Harbor by Irene Hannon (Hope Harbor series, book 1)

Tracy Campbell never wanted to leave Hope Harbor, Oregon, or the idyllic three-generation cranberry farm where she grew up. But life–and love–altered her plans. When tragedy strikes and changes her plans yet again, she finds herself back in her hometown with a floundering farm to run and a heartbreaking secret. Romance is not on her agenda. Nor is it on Michael Hunter’s. The visitor from Chicago has daunting secrets of his own. But when Tracy recruits him to help save a struggling charitable organization, the winds of change begin to sweep through Hope Harbor, bringing healing, hope, and love to countless lives–including their own.

Fan favorite Irene Hannon brings a whole new cast of characters to life in a charming Oregon seaside village. Emotional and heartwarming, this story invites readers to come home to Hope Harbor, where love and hope bloom — and hearts heal.

 

 

Shattered Justice by Karen Ball (Family Honor series, book 1)

There’s no way sheriff’s deputy Dan Justice could have prepared for this. He spent a lifetime ensuring his actions and faith live up to the meaning of his name — Avidan: “God is just.” Then injustice invades his world, ripping away what matters most, forever robbing him of the life he once knew. Can his sisters and small-town community — especially one woman who loves Dan—help him overcome the horrors he’s facing? Or will bitterness and anger shatter him forever?

What happens when justice fails the lawman?

Sanctuary, Oregon . A town where the local diner owner makes you drink your milk—no matter how old you are. Where juvenile delinquency means blowing up outhouses. Where folks not only know their neighbors, but care about them. For widowed sheriff’s deputy Dan Justice, it’s a place where he and his kids can heal and grow.

Shelby Wilson loves Sanctuary and her work with troubled teens. Like Jayce Dalton. Sure, he’s as troubled as they come, but Shelby knows Dan is exactly what Jayce needs. She just didn’t expect that Dan might be what she’s always needed, too.

But sleepy little Sanctuary has a dark side, steeped in pain and secrets. Secrets that could destroy everything Dan holds dear. Secrets that will one day have Dan groping through the fog toward a lifeless body—and faith-shattering grief.

Can Dan find sanctuary in the light of God’s justice?

Rooms by James Rubart

On a rainy spring day in Seattle, young software tycoon Micah Taylor receives a cryptic, twenty-five-year-old letter from a great uncle he never knew. It claims a home awaits him on the Oregon coast that will turn his world inside out. Suspecting a prank, Micah arrives at Cannon Beach to discover a stunning brand new nine-thousand square foot house. And after meeting Sarah Sabin at a nearby ice cream shop, he has two reasons to visit the beach every weekend.

When bizarre things start happening in the rooms of the home, Micah suspects they have some connection to his enigmatic new friend, Rick, the town mechanic. But Rick will only say the house is spiritual. This unnerves Micah because his faith slipped away like the tide years ago, and he wants to keep it that way. But as he slowly discovers, the home isn’t just spiritual, it’s a physical manifestation of his soul, which God uses to heal Micah’s darkest wounds and lead him into an astonishing new destiny.

 

 

 

 

2019 Carol Award Finalists!

29 Jun

Congratulations to the talented authors who are finalists for the 2019 Carol Awards. Sponsored by ACFW, the winners will be announced at the annual conference in San Antonio. Your summer TBR stack just got taller!

Contemporary

The Hidden Side by Heidi Chiavaroli

Miles From Where We Started by Cynthia Ruchti

Where Hope Begins by Catherine West

 

Historical 

Phoebe’s Light by Suzanne Woods Fisher

The Melody of The Soul by Liz Tolsma

The Solace of Water by Elizabeth Byler Younts

 

Historical Romance

Where The Fire Falls by Karen Barnett

A Light on The Hill by Connilyn Cossette

Across The Blue by Carrie Turansky

 

Mystery/Suspense/Thriller

Cascade by Janice Boekhoff

Mind Games by Nancy Mehl

The Reckoning of Gossamer Pond by Jaime Jo Wright

 

Novella

In Sheep’s Clothing from A Bouquet of Brides Collection by Pegg Thomas

Her Redcoat from The Backcountry Brides Collection by Pegg Thomas

MissTaken Identity from The MissAdventure Brides Collection by Kimberley Woodhouse

 

Romance

The Saturday Night Supper Club by Carla Laureano

Freedom’s Kiss by Sarah Monzon

Just Let Go by Courtney Walsh

 

Romantic Suspense

Lethal Target by Janice Cantore

Called to Protect by Lynette Eason

Hidden Peril by Irene Hannon

 

Short Novel

A Widow’s Hope by Vanetta Chapman

The Rancher’s Surprise Daughter by Jill Lynn

Falling for the Cowgirl by Tina Radcliffe

 

Speculative

Mark of the Raven by Morgan L. Busse

The Story Peddler by Lindsay A. Franklin

The Man He Never Was by James L. Rubart

 

Young Adult

Fawkes by Nadine Brandes

A Worthy Rebel by Jody Hedlund

Common by Laurie Lucking

 

Debut

The Story Peddler by Lindsay A. Franklin

Engraved on the Heart by Tara Johnson

The Plum Blooms in Winter by Linda Thompson

2019 Inspy Award Winners!

29 Jun

Congratulations to the 2019 Inspy Award Winners! What a talented group. The Inspys are a blogger-based awards program, so you know that these books are definitely reader-approved. I hope you find your next great read!

 

Contemporary Romance/Romantic Suspense

Falling for You by Becky Wade

Debut Fiction

Among The Poppies by J’nell Ciesielski

General Fiction

No One Ever Asked by Katie Ganshert

Historical Romance

The Sons of Blackbird Mountain by Joanne Bischof

Literature for Young Adults

The Edge of Over There by Shawn Smucker

Mystery/Thriller

The Reckoning at Gossamer Pond by Jaime Jo Wright

Speculative Fiction

Mark of The Raven by Morgan L. Busse