Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Author Quirks: Liz Curtis Higgs

Next up is Liz Curtis Higgs, the author of Here Burns My Candle. I asked her:

What's a quirky or little-known fact about yourself, your writing, and/or one of your novels?

Her answer:

Of all my memorable experiences while traveling across Scotland to do research for my historical novels, here’s a favorite, drawn from the pages of My Heart’s in the Lowlands, published by WaterBrook Press…

I had the glen all to myself that morning; even the Visitor Centre wasn’t yet open. The weather was dry and mild, though it had rained the day before, and the ground was muddy in spots. I climbed to the top of the glen without mishap, eager to use my going-away present from my husband: a brand-new Canon with a zoom lens and sleek design.

After photographing the glen of Loch Trool from every angle, I cautiously started back down the hill, letting the camera swing about my neck instead of doing the intelligent thing and tucking it in my pocket. Suddenly my foot slipped, and gravity took over. Down I went, tumbling over the sharp rocks, my brand-new camera leading the way.

“Help!” No one was around, of course, but I had to do something. Even with my foot painfully pinned under me, my camera worried me most, since mud and tiny stones covered the lens. “Help!”

Out of the blue appeared an older man with a shock of silvery hair and a sturdy build. “Och! What’s happened here, lass? Have ye taken a tumble?”

I held up my Canon with a groan. “We both did.”

He plucked the camera from my hands, deftly brushed off the last of the dirt, and examined the lens with a practiced eye. “A scratch or two on the case. Nothing to fret about.” He made a minor adjustment, then handed the camera back to me. “Good as new.”

That’s when I noticed the professional-looking equipment draped around his neck. “Are you a…”

“Photographer,” he said with a nod, then cupped my elbow to help me up. “Come, let’s get you onto level ground.” A moment later, he climbed over a hillock and was gone from sight.

Imagine, in that vast, empty glen, a man—nae, an angel—with camera know-how and strong arms showing up at the precise moment I was desperate for both!

Thank you, Liz Curtis Higgs, for sharing this fun story.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

An Absence So Great by Jane Kirkpatrick

book cover

An Absence So Great
by Jane Kirkpatrick

Trade Paperback: 386 pages
Publisher: Waterbrook Press
First Released: 2010

Publisher's Book Info Page
Author on Twitter
Author Website

Source: This book was provided for review by the WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group.

Book Description (my take):
When Jessie Gaebele was fifteen, she became an assistant to a photographer to learn the trade and help while the owner was sick with mercury poisoning. Her employer and teacher, Fred, was forty-one years-old, married, and had kids. His wife (also a Jessie) had emotionally withdrawn from him and wouldn't forgive him for the death of their four-year-old son, so he started bonding to young Jessie instead.

Jessie's now eighteen, and she's fled to another state to get away from the temptations that Fred poses. Her family is disgusted with her for loving a married man, and she berates herself for every mistake she makes while learning to live out from under their guidance. She works long hours to save up for her dream--her own photographic studio--and to forget Fred. But forgetting Fred isn't possible when he keeps turning up and constantly tries to secretly support her financially. Will she ever attain her dream of having her own studio near her family when it means Fred will also be nearby, refusing to leave her alone?

An Absence So Great is a novel about honestly viewing your choices, accepting forgiveness, and finding healing.

An Absence So Great is a historical set in the 1910's in the northern Midwest of America. Though fiction, the novel was based off the story of the author's own grandparents. This was the second book about Jessie and Fred, and I haven't read the first one. You don't need to read the first book to understand this one, but I suspect it'd be better to start there if you're interested in this story.

I found much of this novel creepy and depressing. The characters were very realistic and had realistic struggles. But Fred was obsessed with Jessie (to the point he was almost stalking her at times) and she believed that this forbidden relationship must be true love because he was the only one who said anything encouraging to her. It wasn't a healthy relationship. It was depressing because the main characters (Fred and both Jessies) where so guilt-ridden and lonely. Jessie was constantly putting herself down, which wasn't surprising because her family was so prideful, unforgiving, and spiteful toward her. Yet she still viewed them as loving and supportive (even though they disapproved of everything she did). She also didn't seem to learn from her 'this isn't a good idea, but I'll do it anyway' mistakes for most of the novel, which stalled the forward momentum of the story.

The novel was somewhat slower paced since "waiting" was the main thing happening. The author obviously deeply researched the time period. We're constantly told what's going on at that time, the changing fashions, etc. There's less detail about the actual photographic process of the time. Most of the detail was worked in as part of the story, but at times it did intrude on rather than flow naturally as part of the story.

While there were a lot of good "realizations" by the characters, I don't agree with some of them (including a few that were implied). I don't agree that love is the same thing as a physical desire for someone, that romantic love lastingly fills a person's feeling of emptiness or loneliness, or that some loves can't be "gotten over" despite long absences and the effort to forget and move on. Also, while self-pity is unproductive, it isn't actually listed as a sin in the Bible. And accidents and poor choices aren't automatically a sin and shouldn't be considered equal to deliberately choosing to go against something God specifically said not to do.

The religious elements were mostly shown by actions rather than statements about God. Jessie's family were extremely legalistic Christians, a family she worked for believed in faith healing, and other Christian characters added a bit of forgiveness and grace to the picture. But the characters weren't preachy.

There was no sex or bad language, so the novel was clean reading.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

Excerpt from Chapter One
Milwaukee, Wisconsin, four months earlier

JESSIE GAEBELE’S THOUGHTS AT TIMES behaved like a toddler’s: one moment they stayed safely hidden in the pump organ’s shadow, and the next minute they popped up to pull out all the stops, increasing in volume, shouting in her head, underscoring the aching loneliness that defined her days.

Today, as she stood in this men’s refuge permeated by the scent of oil and grease and gasoline, she flicked away those toddler voices. She had good reasons to be here. She was eighteen years old, it was 1910, and young women alone were going places they’d never gone before. She didn’t need to be embarrassed or afraid. Why had she come to Milwaukee if not to prove to herself and others that she could make wise choices and pursue a dream? One day she’d have her own photographic studio back in Winona, Minnesota, where her family lived. Her future beckoned, but she would return only when she’d proven to herself that she was in control of her heart.

“It might be best if you had your father look at it, Fräulein,” the proprietor cautioned.

“I’m not purchasing it for my father,” Jessie told him, a man her father’s age she guessed.

“Ach, I’m sorry. You look so young. Your husband then.”

Jessie took a deep breath. “It’s for my own use.”

The proprietor’s eyes widened. “Ah, well, do you have”—he looked over her small frame—“the stamina to make such a purchase? Riding an Emblem’s not like riding a bicycle or a horse, if you know what I mean.”

She didn’t know how to ride an Emblem or a Pierce or any other kind of motorcycle. She didn’t know where she’d learn or practice, or where she’d keep it once she figured out a way to afford the gas.

Read more of chapter one.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

The River Kings' Road by Liane Merciel

book cover

The River Kings' Road
by Liane Merciel

Hardback: 400 pages
Publisher: Gallery Books
First Released: 2010

Source: Review copy from the publisher.

Back Cover Description (slightly modified):
The River Kings’ Road takes us to a world of bitter enmity between kingdoms, divided loyalties between comrades, and an insidious magic that destroys everything it touches. . . .

A fragile period of peace between the warring kingdoms of Oakharn and Langmyr is shattered when a surprise massacre fueled by bloodmagic ravages the Langmyrne border village of Willowfield. A visiting Oakharne lord and his family are slaughtered along with the inhabitants, leaving behind a scene so grisly that even the carrion eaters avoid its desecrated earth. But the dead lord’s infant heir has survived.

Brys Tarnell, the mercenary who saves the ailing babe, enlists the help of a Langmyr peasant with a baby of her own. Odosse agrees to feed and care for the child of her enemies as they travel a dark, perilous road.

Sir Kelland, a divinely blessed Knight of the Sun, is asked by a Langmyr noble to unmask the architects behind the slaughter and avert war between ancestral enemies. Bitharn, his traveling companion, conceals her lifelong love for the Knight behind her flawless archery skills, but her feelings may ultimately be Kelland’s undoing.

Leferic, the youngest son of an Oakharne Lord, finds himself trapped in a cycle of violence which he justifies by his desire to bring about peace.

As one infant’s life hangs in the balance, so does the fate of thousands. For deep in the forest, a Maimed Witch practices an evil bloodmagic that could doom them all.

The River Kings' Road is a well-written and enjoyable epic/heroic fantasy novel. I look forward to reading the next novel in the series. The pacing was very good, and I had a hard time putting the book down because I wanted to know what happened next. The world-building was also very good, and the author built believable cultures and characters.

The complex characters were interesting and engaging. They varied from cynically practical to naively good-hearted. Each character was faced with the hard choice of following selfish desires or showing sacrificial love. Several had to decide if the ends justified the means. I liked how the novel played these choices out in realistic ways.

There were several point-of-view characters, but I didn't have any trouble following them and found all of the characters equally interesting. Since the novel completed Odosse's desire/fulfillment journey, I'd actually consider her the focal character of this novel, and her choices played a pivotal role. I suspect Sir Kelland will be the pivotal character of the next novel based on several hints at the end of this one.

There was no sex and no bad language. The magic was primarily of the "god-granted power" (i.e. paladin) kind. Overall, I'd recommend this novel as well-written, clean reading.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

Excerpt from Chapter One
AUTUMN, 1217

Brys Tarnell was not a pious man. It saved his life that day.

The attack came at highsun, when Sir Galefrid of Bull's March and most of his men were in the tiny chapel of a tiny hamlet observing their daily prayers. Ever since Galefrid had married his pious young wife out of Seawatch, he'd become much more religious; all through their journey, she'd insisted that they stop at the nearest chapel for noon prayers, and he had obliged. By now their custom was well known, and the village solaros usually had the chapel ready for them before they arrived.

Brys, alone among the knights in Galefrid's retinue, was not anointed to the sun, and so was permitted--even expected--to avoid that daily bit of nonsense. He had just stepped out of the village inn to answer nature's call when he heard the thrum of bowstrings and saw the first flight of fire-arrows, trailing dark smoke against the bright sky, arch in through the chapel's open windows.

There were a dozen men waiting outside the chapel doors. Hard-faced men, armed in oiled leather and chain, who carried swords better than any bandit could afford. They stood to either side of the doors, hidden from the view of those inside but plain to any other eyes. Yet none of the villagers had called a warning.

Read more of chapter one.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

And the winner is...

It's time to pick a winner for the copy of Beaded Hope by Cathy Liggett. Using a random number generator and numbering the entrants in the order I received them, the winner is:


Congratulations! I'll be contacting you for your address.

For those who didn't win, you can always join in the fun by buying this book at your favorite bookstore!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Author Quirks: Cathy Liggett

Next up is Cathy Liggett, the author of Beaded Hope. I asked her:

What's a quirky or little-known fact about yourself, your writing, and/or one of your novels? (For example, you can tell us about a non-standard pet you have, an unusual way you do your writing, a strange real life incident that inspired a scene in one of your novels, or so on.)

Cathy Liggett's answer:

What is big and gray and a little wet behind the ears?

Well, before going on our mission trip to South Africa, I wouldn’t have known the answer to that question either. But when we went on safari during our stay, let me tell you, we learned very, very quickly! And it was SCARY!

First off, I need to say, you’re probably thinking what I was when I learned the trip to South Africa included a safari. Really? And I would spend money on a safari for what reason? When I could actually be using that money for the people in the township? BUT, I was quickly told and learned firsthand that while the people of South Africa suffer unimaginable tragedies with disease and poverty rampant everywhere, they are still a people who are joyous and feel quite blessed. They feel God has given them an incomparably beautiful homeland with exquisite creatures abounding, and they want visitors to see what the Lord has blessed them with.

So...off we went to Pilanesburg one day ~ and were so lucky to be able to take the “real” Mama Peggy and Mighty with us too. They’d never done such a thing before, so it was a first experience for all of us.

It was bright and sunny when we got to the park that afternoon. After getting something to eat and letting the monkeys that populated the grounds entertain us for while, we prepared for our safari that evening. By the time we set out, however, the clouds were rolling in. And, by the time we got to the furthest point along the dirt path, rain teemed down. Since the caravan (which held about 12-15 people I’d say) was canvas topped and had canvas sides, we were drenched and freezing in our shorts and spring parkas. Kindly, the driver high-tailed us back to the lodge and gave us a raincheck ~ good for the 6 a.m. safari the next morning.

It was our first night in a bed that felt like anything comparable to home. Even so, we climbed out of that comfortable spot (a bit reluctantly, I admit) at around 5 a.m. and set out in the van in the darkness once again.

It was truly breathtaking to see the sun rise over the African grassland and hills, and to see the animals in their natural state as well. Lion cubs with their moms rose up out of the tall grass, stretching…giraffes dipped their necks to breakfast on leafy tree limbs… impalas slowly made their way to waterholes for morning drinks. Oh, and the birds we saw were incredibly beautiful!

Anyway, I’m not sure why but about halfway through the safari, the driver stopped the van and turned off the engine. I think he wanted us to look around and see some of the animals in the distance. My husband and I, along with a South African man with a huge camera, and a South African family (mom and son in one seat, and dad and daughter in a seat across the aisle), occupied the last two rows of the van which, again, was completely open, no windows, and had only canvas that ran around the sides.

Turned around, looking behind us, our two rows did see an elephant in the distance. An elephant that kept getting closer and closer and closer… The man with the camera had been on many a safari and knew the elephant was a young male and could tell from the seeping coming from his ears (just to let you know how close the creature had gotten!) that he was a young male during mating season and could be very easily agitated.

Oh, and the elephant was! Yes, indeed, the young male seemed quite perturbed. He came about twenty yards from the van and kept ducking and raising his head, like he was trying to tell us that we really needed to be moving along. We thought he was completely right!! We began calling up to the driver to start the van! Please! But…the driver was preoccupied and talking, and no one at the front of the van seemed to hear us.

So…as we sat there, the elephant moved closer. Ducking his head some more, he didn’t look at all happy with us. We yelled to the driver again. By this time, he seemed to hear us, but wasn’t comprehending the situation at all. Oh, but the young male elephant was! He saw we weren’t moving, so he started to! He began to stomp determinedly down the path toward the van.

All of us in the back seats screamed at the driver some more. My husband (I’m guessing in an act of chivalry) pushed me out of the seat and into the aisle, away from the open back area. And, I’m telling you in all honestly, by the time the driver got the van moving, the elephant was a foot from the van, his head lowered and looking ready to charge. I can truly feel my pulse quickening right now, just remembering it!

I learned that when you drive away from a beast like that, you’re supposed to zigzag so they have a hard time catching you. Luckily, that’s what the driver did. He started the engine and gunned it out of there, zigzagging away from the young male who only ran after us for a little ways. The South Africans, who knew better than we did, had much to say to the driver when we got back to our lodging, and it wasn’t nice. The driver should’ve never cut the engine, they told us. What if when he went to turn on the van, it wouldn’t start again?

Whew! I’m just so very thankful it did!

Thank you, Cathy Liggett, for sharing this fun story.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Here Burns My Candle by Liz Curtis Higgs

book cover

Here Burns My Candle
by Liz Curtis Higgs

Trade Paperback: 465 pages
Publisher: WaterBrook Multnomah
First Released: 2010

Book Trailer
Publisher's Book Page
Author on Twitter
Author Website

Source: This was book was provided as a review copy by WaterBrook Multnomah.

Back Cover Description (highly modified):
One by one the Kerr family secrets begin to surface when bonny Prince Charlie and his rebel army ride into Edinburgh in September 1745 intent on capturing the crown.

Lady Elisabeth Kerr is a Highlander by birth and a Lowlander by marriage. She secretly supports Prince Charlie, and she hides her worship of the moon, the Nameless One, from her Christian husband and family.

Her husband, Lord Donald, feels shamed by his past indiscretions against his wife, which his family doesn't suspect but the town gossips whisper about. He wishes to please his wife and to do something noble for once.

His mother, the dowager Lady Marjory, hides guilt inside her heart. Her two passions are maintaining her place in society and coddling her grown sons, but Marjory’s many regrets continue to plague her.

A story of love and betrayal, loss and redemption, flickering against the vivid backdrop of eighteenth-century Scotland, Here Burns My Candle illumines the dark side of human nature, even as hope lights the way home.

Here Burns My Candle is a historical general fiction set in 1745 in Scotland. The novel was described to me as a retelling of the Biblical book of Ruth. However, you could read this novel and never catch the resemblance if you weren't already looking for it. This is partly because the novel covered only the first eighteen verses of Ruth. I was expected a poverty-to-riches love story and got a tragedy about a rich family self-destructing instead.

Taking the novel on it's own merits instead of by what I was expecting, it's very well-written. The characters were complex and had realistic struggles. The historical details covered the politics of the time down to the tiniest detail of manners without getting heavy-handed. These details were woven skillfully into the story as needed.

The pacing seemed a bit slow in spots, but that might have been because I was expecting certain events and the story didn't seem to be moving fast enough for those events to occur.

Some Scottish words were used in the novel, but I never had a problem figuring out what was meant. However, there was a glossary in the very back for those who need it.

The religious content was mainly the characters quoting from the Pslams, a few, brief prayers to God and a number of more detailed prayers to the moon, and Elisabeth changing her allegiance from a god who failed her to a new one. Jesus was never mentioned.

There was no bad language. There was no explicit sex. Overall, I'd recommend it as well-written, clean reading.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

Excerpt from Chapter One
Milne Square, Edinburgh
14 September 1745

Lady Marjory Kerr heard a frantic tapping at the bedchamber door, then her name, spoken with marked urgency.

“News from the Royal Bank, mem.”

At this hour? Marjory lifted her head from the pillow, her gaze drawn to the wooden shutters, closed for the night. The coals in the fireplace had faded to a dull glow. She squinted but could not read the clock on the mantelpiece. Had she slept at all?

“What is it, Peg?” Marjory called out.

Her maidservant answered in a breathless rush of words, “They’re moving the bank’s effects to the castle.”

The hair on the back of Marjory’s neck rose. Transporting money and documents from the foot of New Bank Close to Edinburgh Castle involved a long climb up a winding street where brigands and thieves lurked in the shadows. The Royal Bank would never embark on so risky a venture. Not unless the day’s alarming reports had proven true.

“ ’Tis the Hielanders,” Peg whispered through the crack in the door as if the word itself might bring a hoard of savages thundering up the stair, brandishing their swords. “Folk say the rebel army will reach Linlithgow by morn.”

At that, Marjory flung off her bedcovers, any notion of sleep forgotten. Linlithgow Palace was less than twenty miles west. The army was too near her door. And far too near her sons, one of whom stood ready to bear arms at the slightest provocation. Was there nothing she could say to dissuade him?

She hurried across the carpet barefooted, too distraught to hunt for her brocade slippers. All of Edinburgh had followed the ominous approach of the Highland rebels led by their bonny Prince Charlie. Determined to reclaim the British throne for his exiled father, James—Jacobus in Latin—the young prince and his loyal Jacobites were marching toward Scotland’s capital, intent on capturing the city.

Read the rest of chapter one.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Chop Shop by Tim Downs

book cover

Chop Shop
by Tim Downs

Trade Paperback: 352 pages
Publisher: Howard Books
First Released: 2004

Source: Bought from half.com.

Back Cover Description:
Intern forensic pathologist Dr. Riley McKay has noticed irregularities in autopsies at the Allegheny County Coroner's lab. Suspecting foul play, she seeks help from Dr. Nick Polchak, the "bug man" renowned for his ability to solve murders by analyzing the insects on victim's bodies. Nick and Riley uncover a sinister link between the lab's director and PharmaGen, a start-up drug company specializing in genetic research. They also discover that PharmaGen fronts an underground system to procure transplant organs for wealthy clients by finding and murdering matching donors. But PharmaGen learns of their security breach and orders the couple destroyed. While staying a step ahead of PharmaGen assassins, romantic attraction develops between Nick and Riley. But the attraction is complicated by a tragic secret that Riley hides -- a secret closely tied to one member of PharmaGen's operation which propels the novel to its astonishing conclusion.

Chop Shop was a well-written contemporary suspense/mystery novel with a bit of romance. It's the second book in the Bug Man series (and I also reviewed Shoofly Pie), but you don't need to read the first book to understand this one. Chapter one of Chop Shop was pretty funny, but chapter two was the funniest thing I've ever read. I couldn't stop laughing...and I'm still laughing when I think of it.

The main mystery was fairly easy to figure out, but Nick also figured most of it out at about the same time. However, there was one mystery element that was revealed only near the end. The suspense was mainly created by the danger of being discovered and then because their lives were in danger.

The characters were complex and often quirky, and there was an underlying humor to the story. Nick's parts were often very funny, and all of the good characters--even the minor ones--were engaging. (Some of the bad guys were jerks.) Nick did make some stupid mistakes near the end that increased the suspense level, but this time he was validly distracted and had a good reason for not thinking straight or gave reasonable explanations for why he'd done them. The ending was a bit sad, but I could see it coming from way ahead of time so it wasn't a surprise.

The world-building and pacing were excellent. The level of detail was much better in this novel than in the first Bug Man novel, especially when it came to the fast-paced scenes.

The dead body scenes were somewhat graphic, but not really gross. There was one instance of "he cursed" style bad language. There was no sex. Overall, I'd highly recommend this novel as well-written, clean reading.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

Excerpt from Chapter One
North Carolina State University, May 2003

Nick Polchak stood with his nose less than twelve inches from the blackboard, his right hand waving a stick of chalk like a conductor's baton. From time to time he stopped abruptly, and the chalk would tap out a hypnotic staccato; then he would suddenly arch away from the blackboard, study his most recent series of scratchings, make a few quick edits with his left hand, and begin again. He spoke directly to the blackboard, as though students might somehow be trapped behind it. In fact, they were behind him, fighting off heat-induced slumber and cursing the fate that had forced them to take General Entomology during a summer session while more fortunate classmates were right now stretching out on the sands at Myrtle Beach.

"While all bugs are insects, not all insects are bugs," Nick confided to the blackboard. "True bugs belong to the suborder Heteroptera; these include lace bugs, squash bugs, chinch bugs, red bugs, water bugs. The tips of their wings are membranous, but only the tips--insects with entirely membranous wings belong to the suborder Homoptera, which includes cicadas, treehoppers, aphids, and lantern flies. Both orders, of course, are characterized by the sucking mouthparts--"

"Dr. Polchak," a weary voice interrupted, "will this be on the final?"

The chalk stopped tapping. Nicking turned slowly and looked over the class as if he were shocked to discover someone sitting behind him. "Who said that?"

Read more of chapter one.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Author Quirks: Julie Cave

Next up is Julie Cave, author of Deadly Disclosures. I asked her:

What's a quirky or little-known fact about yourself, your writing, and/or one of your novels? (For example, you can tell us about a non-standard pet you have, an unusual way you do your writing, a strange real life incident that inspired a scene in one of your novels, or so on.)

Julie Cave's answer:

Perhaps a quirky fact is that when I start writing a novel, I don't know how it will end or who the antagonist will be. It eventually comes to me as the book progresses, and often while I'm not even writing! I'll have a lightbulb moment at the supermarket or while out walking with the stroller.

Thank you, Julie Cave, for sharing your quirks.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Crossing Jhordan's River by Kendra Norman-Bellamy

book cover

Crossing Jhordan's River
by Kendra Norman-Bellamy

Trade Paperback: 250 pages
Publisher: Moody Publishers
First Released: 2005

Source: Bought from Half.com.

Book Description, My Take:
As a boy, Jhordan watched in horror as his mother told him that she loved him and then took her own life. As a young man, his first wife left him for a rich man while still claiming to love him...but, for her, love just wasn't enough.

Now handsome Jhordan Adams is a firefighter married to beautiful Kelli, a woman who clearly loves both him and his daughter from his first marriage. He loves Kelli more than he wants to. What if she leaves him, too? His solution is to pull away from her to guard his heart against the potential pain.

Kelli can't understand the distance that her husband Jhordan has put between them. It's been less than a year since they got married! The only explanation she can come up with for his absences from their home and reluctance to get physically intimate is that she's not enough somehow and that he's being unfaithful to her. Deeply hurt, she starts spending time with a handsome divorce lawyer who's more than willing to listen to her woes.

Will Jhordan and Kelli cross the river of pain in their marriage before it divides them forever?

Crossing Jhordan's River was an interesting Christian general fiction book. The topic of the novel and how it was handled will probably appeal to both men and women. There was a good amount of suspense, especially near the end, and the pacing was very good. The world-building was okay.

The characters were likable and had realistic struggles and reactions. Initially, the character's motivations were stated extremely clearly, and I tend to prefer a bit more subtly. However, the author did back off in the second half and let the reader figure things out for themselves.

The characters were Christian and did attend church and pray (though usually the details of the sermons, prayers, etc., where left to the reader's imaginations). Characters handed out plenty of good marriage advice to Kelli and Jhordan, but the novel wasn't preachy in the sense of "you need to get religion, folks!"

There was married sex, but it wasn't graphic. There was no bad language. Overall, I'd recommend this novel as good, clean reading.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

Excerpt from Chapter One
Kelli sat up and looked at the space beside her. The pillow was neatly in its place, and the covers were too tidy to have been slept on or under. By now, she should be accustomed to the routine, but it never got any easier. At this point in her life, she didn't expect to be sleeping alone.

By anyone's definition, she was still a newlywed. It had been less than a year since she and Jhordan Adams had tied the knot, and it didn't take a rocket scientist to know that they had a problem. At twenty-nine, it was her first marriage. Jhordan was only a year older than she, but the marriage was his second.

During their yearlong courtship, he'd been nothing short of a gentleman. The tall, handsome man with the strong features of Tyson Beckford and the deep chocolate skin of Wesley Snipes walked into her church one Sunday morning and took a seat right next to her. Not once during the entire service did Kelli's heart stop pounding.

In a matter of months, she was madly in love, and she knew he felt the same. Jhordan was distant at first and almost seemed to fight his growing affections for her, but fate won the battle. After marrying him, Kelli moved from her one-bedroom apartment in Jackson, Mississippi, to the two-bedroom apartment he rented in the tourist-attraction city of Biloxi. The move was a good one. It placed her closer to her church and her parents.

Kelli had no idea what was wrong. Wesley and Mary Jenkins had raised her to be a very respectable lady. Her parents had been married for nearly forty years--forty good years--and she knew how a woman should treat her husband, but apparently she wasn't doing something right.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Giveaway: Beaded Hope

book cover

I really enjoyed Beaded Hope by Cathy Liggett, so I decided to give away my review copy so others can also enjoy it. You can learn more about the novel by reading my review.

This contest is for USA and Canada residents only.

To enter the giveaway:

1) you can twitter me saying "Hi @genrereviewer. Enter me to win BEADED HOPE by Cathy Liggett."


2) You can leave a comment to this post asking to be entered. Please also leave some way for me to contact you--or follow this blog so you can see the winner announcement.

For an additional entry, go to the Beaded Hope shop and include in your primary entry the name of the piece of beadwork from Beaded Hope that you like the best.

The winner will be randomly selected. I'll announce the winner at noon (Central Time) on March 24, 2010 on this blog. If you entered using twitter, I'll send you a @ or DM telling you of your win and asking where to send the book. If you entered using the blog comments, you'll need to leave your e-mail address or check back to see if you won so you can e-mail me your shipping address. If the winner hasn't responded with a mailing address within four days, I reserve the right to pick a new winner.

I hope everyone has fun with this!

Beaded Hope by Cathy Liggett

book cover

Beaded Hope
by Cathy Liggett

Trade Paperback: 391 pages
Publisher: Tyndale
First Released: 2010

Author Website

This novel was inspired by a nonprofit organization named Beaded Hope. A portion of the proceeds from the sale of this novel will go to support it.

Source: Review copy from the publisher.

Book Description, My Take:
Four American women take a mission trip to South Africa. One hopes it will help her career, another is running away from the loss of a loved one and her dreams for their future, another hopes for relief from the hurtful, judgmental attitudes of people who were once her friends, and another hopes it will renew and strengthen her relationship with her daughter.

Their lives are changed in ways they didn't foresee when they meet the group of South African women they're supposed to help. These women suffer from AIDS and have lost many loved ones to it yet they have great joy and faith despite the overwhelming adversity.

One of their new friends shows them the amazing beadwork of the local women. She tells them her dream of helping these women to support their families by somehow selling their beadwork in America. The American women agree to help make her dream a reality, but, with the obstacles in their way and their own problems to deal with, it may take more than they've got...

Beaded Hope was a well-written and enjoyable inspirational general fiction. It's fast-paced and full of suspense. I was quickly engaged by the realistic characters and their realistic struggles, and I cared about what happened to them. The world-building was excellent and brought everything (especially South Africa) alive in my imagination.

Most of the main characters were Christians. There was some God-talk and praying, but no preaching at the reader. Unless you're strongly anti-God, you probably won't be bothered by the religious content of this novel.

There was no sex and no bad language. The novel was a bit of a tear-jerker--what happened to the characters made me cry--but it was also full of hope. Overall, I'd highly recommend this well-written novel.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

Excerpt from Chapter One
Suburb of Columbus, Ohio

"Hey, Gabby, what are you doing?"

Even after all their years together, the sound of her husband's voice could still make Gabrielle Phillips's heart skip a beat. She pressed the cell phone closer to her ear. It had been such a long week without Tom at home. "I'm running into Hirscham's to pick up a shirt for Dad's birthday."

"Running? You're running?"

His overly cautious tone brought a smile to her face. "Not running, silly, although I could run, you know. I'm walking briskly. Hurrying. I have to be back at church by 1:30 for a meeting with the other directors."

"Is everything...?" His hesitancy to finish the sentence told her everything he feared. How many times had he asked the same question only to hear the worst? No wonder Tom could barely ask anymore. Only fools got too close to a fire after getting burned time and again.

But at least today she had good news.

"Everything is fine. Absolutely fine. Wonderful. Really." Closing her eyes, Gabby whispered her thanks to God. Tom's audible sigh and then silence made her think he might be doing the same. "Except for...I miss you terribly."


"When does your flight get in? Soon, I hope. It's supposed to storm today."

Monday, March 8, 2010

And the winner is...

It's time to pick a winner for the copy of Recollections of Rosings by Rebecca Ann Collins. Using a random number generator and numbering the entrants in the order I received them, the winner is:


Congratulations! I'll be contacting you for your address.

For those who didn't win, you can always join in the fun by buying this book at your favorite bookstore!

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Deadly Disclosures by Julie Cave

book cover

Deadly Disclosures
by Julie Cave

Trade Paperback: 287 pages
Publisher: Master Books
First Released: 2010

Buy from publisher

Source: Review copy (galley) from the publisher.

My Description of the Book:
FBI agent Dinah Harris is in disgrace after her personal life fell apart a year ago and her grief caused her to make a mistake that cost a man his life. She's now severely depressed, self-medicating using alcohol, and has considered suicide. What does she have left to live for?

Her old partner, David, pulls her into a missing person case in an attempt to help her. The prominent Secretary of the Smithsonian has vanished from his office, and his associates are telling a story that sounds rehearsed. When someone finally agrees to talk to them later, in private, she's soon found severely beaten and no longer willing to talk.

When the Secretary's body is discovered, Dinah and her partner must discover who is behind the ever-increasing body count and why the Secretary was killed in the first place. With the news press harshly questioning why a failure like Dinah is on the case, will her method of coping (by getting drunk) get her fired before the answers are found? Will she find a reason to live when all she feels is pain, loss, and loneliness?

Deadly Disclosures is a well-written detective suspense novel. The story was fast-paced, and the world-building was excellent. The details about the setting and the job brought the world alive in my imagination.

The characters were interesting and had realistic struggles. We didn't find out the details of why Dinah was so broken until late in the story, which made it difficult for me to bond with her, but enough information was dribbled out up until then that her actions were understandable and I cared about her.

I felt that some parts of the ending were wrapped up a little quickly--there were a few minor details that I questioned as they seemed to contradict something said earlier or seemed a little convenient. However, I was reading a galley and these minor details might have been fixed by the final version of the book.

The two main characters weren't Christian, but there were several Christian topics brought up during the novel. For example, a short TV debate between an atheist (the Secretary of the Smithsonian in his younger years) and a Christian was described during the murder investigation. Both atheist and Christian arguments were treated respectfully with no "straw men" arguments or quick conversions. Neither Christians nor atheists were portrayed as all good or all evil. Members of the secretive organization being investigated were shown doing good things and genuinely objecting to the murders. So, overall, I thought the Christian elements were handled very well and wouldn't bother most readers, but it is a Christian novel.

There was no sex and no bad language. I'd highly recommend this novel as well-written, clean reading.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

Excerpt from Chapter One
Thomas Whitfield climbed out of the Lincoln Towncar and stood in the snappy, early morning fall air, breathing deeply. The temperature had fallen a few more degrees overnight, signaling that winter was truly on its way.

Thomas glanced up and down the wide street. There was nobody around at this early hour, and he took a moment to drink in the sights of his beloved city. The graceful willows, their branches arching over the street, were turning gold and red and, in the gentle yellow morning light, threw off highlights like burnished copper. This street was like many others in the center of DC — wide and tree-lined, with magnificent government buildings standing one after the other. That was another thing that Thomas found so delicious about this city — so much of it hinted at the enormous wealth and prosperity of the country, and yet only a few streets behind these world-famous landmarks, the seedier side of American poverty flourished. It was a city of contradictions, Thomas thought.

His gaze fell finally to the building right in front of him — the main complex of the Smithsonian Institution. Enormous stone pillars flanked the entryway into a marble lobby, and behind that were laid out the evidence of mankind’s brilliance. Everything about the institution was testament to the scientific and anthropological advances of man over the pages of history — the inventions, the discoveries, the deductions, the sheer radiance of a human being’s intelligence at its finest.

Thomas Whitfield had always been immensely proud of this place, and everything it showcased. He had boasted about it, defended it, nourished it, and protected it, the way a proud father would his prodigious child.

He was the secretary of the Smithsonian, after all, and he felt a strange kind of paternal relationship with the buildings and their contents.

He stood for a moment longer, a slender whippet of a man dressed immaculately, with highly polished shoes gleaming, thinning dark hair cut short, and a gray cashmere scarf to ward off the cold. Then he purposefully strode down the path and into the main building, scarf fluttering behind him.

To the malevolent eyes watching him through high-powered binoculars down the street in a non-descript Chevy, he presented a painfully easy target.

Thomas settled in his large office with the door shut, turned on the computer, and shut his eyes briefly as he contemplated what he would do next. The course of events he had planned for this day would change everything, and the impact would be felt right up to the president himself. Courage, Thomas, he told himself silently. What you are about to do is the right thing to do.

He began to type, slowly and decisively, feeling within himself a great sense of conviction and purpose. He was so lost in concentration that he was startled by the door suddenly swinging open.

“What are . . . ?” he exclaimed, almost jumping off his seat. Then he recognized his visitor and he glanced at his watch.

“What are you doing here?” Thomas asked.

Read the read of chapter one.

Friday, March 5, 2010

The Heir by Paul Robertson

book cover

The Heir
by Paul Robertson

Trade Paperback: 368 pages
Publisher: Bethany House Publishers
First Released: 2007

Source: Bought from Half.com.

Back Cover Description:
Wealth. Fame. Power. Murder. Jason Boyer just got an inheritance to die for.

The Boyer business empire was supposed to pass to different hands. Which suited Jason just fine. The money was crooked and the power corrupt. But then an accident claims his father's life, and when the will is read, Jason is named heir.

Now power-hungry politicians and shady business partners all are trying to force Jason's hand. He wants only to be a better man than his father was--but attempting to stand for what's right soon brings murderous consequences.

As those closest to him are endangered--and news emerges that his father's accident may be something more sinister--Jason finds himself fighting for his soul...and his life!

The Heir is a suspense novel involving politics, business ethics, and a murder mystery. Jason's sarcastic humor lightened the angst of the novel as he tried to find a purpose for living and to do the right thing--even though he wasn't always sure what made a thing right.

All of the characters were likable or fascinating, though our view of them (through Jason's eyes) was rather shallow because he had shallow relationships with everyone. Jason was a cynical, sarcastic, searching character who gradually added some maturity to his complexity as he was forced to grow up.

The novel was very fast-paced, and I had a hard time putting it down. Since Jason usually acted in a way that made any situation worse (due to his temper), it was like watching a train wreck in slow motion while hoping that everyone survived the wreck. The ending was a bit sad though Jason did find answers to his questions.

There were a few, brief, generalized references to God (though none to Jesus), and there wasn't any preaching at the reader. There was no sex and no bad language. Overall, I'd recommend this novel as well-written, clean reading.

If you've read this book, what do you think about it? I'd be honored if you wrote your own opinion of the book in the comments.

Excerpt from Chapter One
I couldn't take my eyes off the casket. It was expensive, and it glowed, resting among the candles and the heaps of flowers. It so perfectly expressed the man inside.

The dignitaries droned, and I didn't hear them. We knew it all. We knew what he had done with his life. If a man knows his purpose, then everyone else will know it, too.

They'd been told what to say and to keep it short, and they obeyed. They'd all gotten where they were by doing what they were told.

It was tribute by catalog listing: achievements, philanthropy, and Senate career. The real man was never mentioned--the companies he inherited, the rivals he crushed, the cold-blood behind the politics--but everyone knew. Was anyone else listening? It's easy to eulogize a man who knew why he lived his life.

I just stared at that gleaming box and wondered why I was living mine.

We sang a hymn, and that brought me back--words obscure enough to drive any clear thoughts from a man's brain. A voice behind me sang off-key.

I watched the man's wife instead. He name was Angela, and she was sitting between my brother, Eric, and me. I might have given her a hug, but she had always objected to my familiarity. It was nothing personal; she objected to anyone. Her brother and sister were not at the service.

She was his second wife. The other one died young of cancer, which had been worth a lot of sympathy in his first election. If he had grieved for her, I wouldn't know.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Flawless by Selby & Campbell

book cover

Flawless: Inside the Largest Diamond Heist in History
by Scott Andrew Selby & Greg Campbell

Hardback: 336 pages
Publisher: Union Square Press
First Released: 2010

If you like true crime books, you might want to read my review of Flawless.