Thursday, September 30, 2010

Giveaway: Code Triage

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Since I enjoy Candace Calvert's novels so much, I love to share the experience with others. I'm doing a giveaway for my copy of Code Triage by Candace Calvert.

You can learn more about this novel by reading my review.

This contest is for USA & Canada residents only.

To enter the giveaway:

1) you can twitter me saying "Hi @genrereviewer. Enter me in the giveaway for suspense novel CODE TRIAGE by Candace Calvert."


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. Also include the name of one of the previous novels in this series (which can be found in my review). I'd be fun if you also included why you're interested in reading this novel.

The winner will be randomly selected. I'll announce the winner at noon (Central Time) on Oct. 7, 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 mailing 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!

Code Triage by Candace Calvert

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Code Triage
by Candace Calvert

ISBN-13: 978-1-4143-2545-3
Trade Paperback: 384 pages
Publisher: Tyndale House
Released: October 2010

Author Website

Source: Review copy from the publisher.

Book Description from Back Cover:
Dr. Leigh Stathos likes her ER shifts fast, furious, and adrenaline-infused—“Treat ’em and street ’em”—with no emotional complications. Life’s taught her a soul-rending lesson: nothing lasts forever, including marriage. And the clock is ticking toward the end of hers. Then an unwelcome confrontation with “the other woman” begins a whole new set of lessons.

San Francisco police officer Nick Stathos never gives up, whether protecting his patrol neighborhood, holding fast to faith—or trying to save his marriage. Seven days is all he has to reach Leigh’s heart. But when a desperate act of violence slams Golden Gate Mercy Hospital into lockdown, it starts a chain of events that will change lives forever.

Code Triage is a medical suspense novel that will appeal to both men and women. The author dug into the deeper issues of how three different childhoods created three people with different expectations about love and marriage and how that threatened to tear apart Leigh and Nick's marriage. This book is for anyone who wonders if marriage can last for a lifetime.

You don't need to read Critical Care or Disaster Status to understand this story, and you can read this novel first without spoiling your enjoyment of her previous novels. However, Leigh's story starts in Disaster Status, so you'll enjoy this series the most if you read them in order.

The author has a fondness for symbolism, and she's getting ever better at skillfully weaving it into her stories. The world-building was excellent. The details about the stables/horse troubles and the ER brought the story alive in my imagination without slowing the fast pacing. The tension remained high throughout the story. The suspense was created through the medical emergencies, the physical danger during the crisis, and the relationship tensions between Leigh, Nick, and Samantha.

The characters were interesting, complex, and realistic. They faced realistic problems in their work and in their relationships. I felt like this story really could have happened.

Several of the main characters were Christians, one of whom felt like she couldn't trust God (or humans) to be there for her. Through circumstances, she learned that the burden of making relationships endure wasn't centered on her shoulders. The novel wasn't preachy. While it will probably appeal most to Christians, I think most non-Christians wouldn't be bothered by how the religious content was worked into the story.

There was no sex. There was a very minor amount of "he swore" style bad language. Overall, I'd highly recommend this novel and the whole series as exciting, 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
Don’t drop that baby; don’t—

Heart pounding, Officer Nick Stathos slammed the door of his car and sprinted toward the police perimeter, gaze riveted on the panicky young mother at the window of the second-story apartment. She clutched her infant against her baggy navy scrubs and leaned farther out to stare at the scene below: police officers, neighbors in pajamas and robes, patrol cars, a fire truck and ambulance. Lights sliced red-white-blue through the grayness of the late September morning.

She craned her head backward, and her eyes, mascara-streaked and desperate, followed the San Francisco PD helicopter hovering above the shabby, converted pink Victorian. Nick hoped that methamphetamines, once Kristi Johnson’s drug of choice, weren’t at the root of today’s drama. She’d been allowed to keep her kids after a previous skirmish, and he knew how rare the mercy of a second chance was. He’d been praying for one in his marriage for the better part of a year.

He jogged forward through a gathering crowd of reporters, flashed his badge at the first in a line of officers, then slowed to a walk. The mother lifted the baby to her shoulder and disappeared from view, then returned to lean over the windowsill again. The baby’s legs dangled limply as she fought with the tattered curtain, and Nick winced at a childhood memory of eggs dropped from a highway overpass. A baby’s skull wouldn’t have a chance against concrete. Dispatch had to be wrong—Kristi wouldn’t neglect her kids. Could never harm them. He knew the girl; he’d patrolled her Mission District neighborhood for nearly five years.

“Stathos, don’t waste your time.” A uniformed officer, a paunchy veteran he recognized from the Tenderloin station, stepped forward, raising his voice over the dull thwoop-thwoop of chopper blades. He exhaled around a toothpick clenched between his teeth, breath reeking of coffee, cigarettes, and bacon. “SWAT’s on the way.” He glanced up at the window and shook his head. “911 call from a four-year-old, and now Mom—one Kristina Marie Johnson, twenty-two years old—is refusing to let us do a welfare check. Landlord informed us she has a gun in there. Says the boyfriend deals meth.”

“Gun?” Nick growled low in his throat. “Let me guess: same landlord who’s been trying to evict her? Think he could have a reason to lie?” He watched the window. “There’s no gun. The boyfriend’s under a restraining order and long gone. I’ll talk to her.”

“She’s not talking; that’s the trouble.” The officer crossed his arms. “Her kid told dispatch she and the baby were left alone all night. That they were ‘real sick.’ You should hear the tape; it’ll rip your heart out. Said she’d been ‘singing to Jesus’ all night to keep from being scared. Begged for someone to find her mommy. Then Mom shows up a few minutes before we get here and won’t let us in. Child Crisis is on the way. The medics need to check those kids.”

“So I’ll talk to her.” Nick pushed past him.

“You can’t fix this one, Stathos. Give it up.”

Nick looked back over his shoulder. “You don’t know me very well. I don’t give up.” His jaw tensed. “Ever.”

The officer shook his head, eyes skimming over Nick’s jeans and hooded USF sweatshirt. “Think you’d come up with a better way to spend a free Friday, but go ahead and knock yourself out. Colton’s in charge. Fill him in, and—”

They both looked up as Kristi Johnson shouted.

“Officer Nick! Don’t let them take my babies! Tell them I’m clean now. You know I am. Tell them I would never . . .” She shut her eyes and groaned. “This is all a mistake. My girlfriend sleeps over while I work nights at the nursing home. She comes over after her swing shift. Always gets here fifteen minutes after I leave.” Her brows drew together. “They’re only alone for fifteen minutes; that’s all, I swear. I had them tucked into bed, but I guess she didn’t show up last night. I didn’t know!” She shifted the baby in her arms and his legs swung again, floppy as a home-sewn doll’s.

Read the rest of chapter one.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Author Quirks: T. L. Higley

Next up is T. L. Higley, author of Petra: City in Stone. I asked her:

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

Her answer:

I take research seriously – a little too seriously sometimes! I’ve traveled to each of the settings of my books, through Egypt, Greece, Israel, Jordan and Italy. While in Jordan researching for Petra: City in Stone, I knew the story would prominently feature the High Place of Sacrifice – a plateau very high above the city which is carved into a rock gorge. So of course, I had to climb to it! I paid a little Bedouin man whose grandfather had lived his whole life in a cave on the side of the mountain to take me up there. We made half the trip by donkey, and then climbed the rest of the way on foot. There were times he had to reach down and haul me up! When we reached the top, I found the 2000 year old altar still stood, along with the slaughtering slab for animal sacrifices. Of course I had to climb up on the altar and get some pictures. My Bedouin thought I was crazy, I think! You can see pictures of my escapades here: Photos of Petra. It was an awesome experience!

Thank you, Tracy, for sharing this story and your trip photographs! I really enjoyed viewing the pictures after reading the novel, and I thought you did a great job at describing Petra. I could recognize the photos of the places described in the book.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Tournaments, Cocoa & One Wrong Move by Nancy Rue

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Tournaments, Cocoa & One Wrong Move
by Nancy Rue

Trade Paperback: 256 pages
Publisher: Zondervan
Released: Sept. 2010

Source: Advanced Reading Copy from the publisher.

Book Description from Publisher's Website, modified:
Everything seems to be going right for Cassidy Brewster—she’s the star of her high school basketball team, has a near-perfect GPA, and college recruiters are showing up at her games. But during the state tournament, she injures her knee. She won't be able to play for the rest of the season.

With pressures at home and at school, Cassidy becomes desperate and agrees to secretly take some supplements that will help get her back on the court more quickly. But the supplements turn out to be steroids. A teammate recognizes the signs, turns her in, and tries to take her place as star of the team. No one believes that Cassidy didn't know they were steroids. She's removed from the team and her best friends shun her. As Cassidy’s world falls apart, a mysterious book begins to speak to her, and it might just contain the answers Cassidy has been trying to find.

Tournaments, Cocoa & One Wrong Move is young adult general fiction with a romance. This is the third book in the Real Life series, but you can read the books in any order. The story was fast-paced, and the suspense grew as things got worse and worse in Cassidy's relationships at school and with her own family. Suspense also came from wondering if she'd get well enough to play again and, if so, if they'd override the rules to let her play again. I could hardly put the book down.

The world-building was also excellent, with the details about the setting, girls high school basketball, and physical therapy bringing the story alive in my imagination. The characters were realistic as were the pressures Cassidy faced. I even cried in sympathy with what she was going through. However, I thought the ending was a bit unrealistically tidy.

I was also concerned by the "bad boy" as Cassidy's romantic match. I'm all for getting to know people that are different from you rather than scorning them based on preconceptions. However, Cassidy's father was portrayed as unreasonable when he expressed concern about her friendship with the "trouble" kids. Granted, his stated reasons were bad ones (appearances), but I'd have a talk with my child if they started hanging out with "the bad crowd." Though it works out for Cassidy in the novel, peer pressure usually works the other way around in real life.

Christians and non-Christians were portrayed realistically with both the good and the bad. Cassidy finds a book, "RL," that's like a Bible and gives her guidance about her situation. The personalized & paraphrased stories seemed to be more loosely based on the Bible verses than previously, and I sometimes felt like the wording or conclusion was changed a bit to make it fit the author's point. Also, this time I usually didn't see how the stories even related to Cassidy's situation. Granted, everything was tied together into an a-ha moment near the end, but I prefer how the RL book was handled in the previous two books.

There was a very minor amount of bad language in the "he cussed" or "Don't say it!" style. There was no sex. 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
It was the best night of my life, it was the worst night of my life.

I think we read a book in Junior Honors English that started something like that. I couldn’t tell you the title now. I usually forget stuff like that the day after the test.

Anyway, that night Honors English was the last thing on my mind. So was AP Chemistry and the crush I had on the guy who bagged my mother’s groceries. All I was thinking about was basketball.

Specifically the fourth quarter of the game against Monument Valley High, which we had to win to take the county title. Actually, which I had to win. When Monument Valley called a long time-out — like, all of a minute long — Coach Deetz pulled us all into what he called a “puddle” (a “huddle” to any other coach), but his beady browns zinged to me at the end of every question. I was used to it.

“What’s the score, ladies?”

“Sixty-eight, sixty-eight,” Kara said beside me.

A half dozen of my best friend’s blonde curls had escaped from that messy bun thing she always did with her hair for games, and they were sweat-plastered to her temples. She could shoot with deadeye accuracy like nobody in El Paso County, but when the score got this close she usually choked. Reason number one why Coach’s eyes kept flicking to me.

“And how much time is left on the clock?” he said.

“A minute thirty seconds,” M.J. Martinez said, her voice so gone you could barely hear her accent.

Read more of chapter one.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Jonathan Park & the Secret of the Hidden Cave by Sandy & Pat Roy

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Jonathan Park & the Secret of the Hidden Cave
by Sandy & Pat Roy

ISBN: 0-89051-263-9
Trade Paperback: 112 pages
Publisher: Master Books
Released: 1999, 2001

Source: Review copy from the publisher.

Book Description, my take:
When two families are forced to shelter in a hidden cave during a violent rainstorm, ten-year-old Jonathan Park meets tom-boy Jessie. The excessive rain is flooding the river to the point it's going to destroy Jessie's family's farm. The kids are excited to find fossils in the cave. Maybe they can sell the fossils to help pay the mortgage on the farm!

But some scam men are determined to buy the farm cheap and sell high. When they catch wind of the kid's plan, they follow them to the cave and shut off the lights with them trapped inside. How will the kids find their way out of the dangerous cave and past the waiting men? And are the fossils even valuable? Read and find out!

Jonathan Park & the Secret of the Hidden Cave is a middle grade adventure story for boys and girls. It's an exciting story about a boy who finds unexpected friendship (and adventure) after some of his old friends rejected him because of his new, Christian beliefs. After the exciting introduction, the pacing slowed a little as backstory information was filled in while the kids explored the cave. Then the tension jump back into high gear. The suspense was mainly from the threat of physical danger due to the flooding and the bad guys.

The characters were engaging, and the descriptions were vivid. Since much of the story occurred in a cave with a scientist parent present, there was some discussion about how long it takes for cave formations to form (like over a bat fossil they find) and how fossils are formed. They even talk about how dinosaurs are mentioned in the Bible (though obviously not using that exact term). This information was woven into the adventure and didn't slow the story.

This was a Christian story. The characters do pray for safety, comment that God's in control, and believe that God created the universe as described in the Bible.

There were some nice black and white illustrations. There was no bad language or sex. Overall, I'd highly recommend this enjoyable 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
The red 4x4 sped down the muddy road, spraying water from newly formed streams. While his father, Kendall, navigated the unpaved road, ten-year-old Jonathan Park held tightly to the dashboard as the truck dipped and pitched. The windshield wipers flopped helplessly back and forth, unable to keep up with the driving rain. It was a race against time.

"The clouds are getting darker!" Jonathan yelled above the noise.

The sky flashed, temporarily blinding the two as they strained to see through the windshield. A clap of thunder boomed through the noise of the storm. "If we could just make it to Ghost Ranch before dark. It was a mistake to wait for a break in the storm," said Kendall. "I'm sorry, Jonathan, I shouldn't have dragged you out in this!" Hail began pelting the car as if to emphasize his point.

Read the rest of chapter one.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Catching Moondrops by Jennifer Erin Valent

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Catching Moondrops
by Jennifer Erin Valent

ISBN-13: 978-1-4143-3327-4
Trade Paperback: 384 pages
Publisher: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.
Released: Oct. 2010

Author Website

Source: Review copy from the publisher.

Book Description from Back Cover:
It’s been two years since Jessilyn Lassiter last looked evil in the eye, but she knew better than to think it was gone for good. At nearly nineteen, Jessilyn is more in love with Luke Talley than ever, and he is finally beginning to care for her in the way she always dreamed he would. But their romance is interrupted when Tal Pritchett—a young black doctor—comes to Calloway, stealing the heart of Jessilyn’s best friend, Gemma, and stirring up the racial prejudice that has been simmering just beneath the surface.

The tension escalates when Miss Cleta, Jessilyn’s neighbor, becomes the first white townsperson to accept Tal’s treatment, an offense that quickly leads to violence at the hands of the revived Ku Klux Klan. As Jessilyn dreams of vengeance, she begins to realize that in order to bring true peace, she’ll have to win the battle that’s waging in her own heart first.

Catching Moondrops is a historical novel set in 1938 in Calloway, Virginia during a period of high racial tension. It's also an awesome story and a fast read. It's the third novel in the series, but you can easily follow it without having read the first two novels. However, the impact will be higher if you've followed Jessilyn's story from the beginning. The previous two novels are also very well written, so start with Fireflies in December and Cottonwood Whispers.

The pacing and world-building were excellent. I was completely pulled into the story. The characters were engaging, realistic, and complex. They dealt with realistic struggles, like losing a best friend, wondering how the future will turn out, dealing with traumatic events, and standing up for the right thing even when it's dangerous. The tension was created by a number of "normal" worries and changes in everyone's lives with spikes of high tension when lives were in danger.

Sad things happen in this novel. It's mostly about dealing with the really hard things in life, like seeing hatred spill over to harm the innocent, why God doesn't bring immediate justice to wrongdoers if He's real, and what hatred and bitterness can do to a person's life.

Many of the characters were Christians and several tried to get Jessilyn to make peace with God. However, I think many non-Christians share Jessilyn's view, so they might enjoy this novel as much as Christians.

The ending was very satisfying. There was a very minor amount of fake bad language. There was no explicit sex. Overall, I'd highly recommend this well-written, clean 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
There’s nothing in this whole world like the sight of a man swinging by his neck.

Folks in my parts like to call it lynching, as if by calling it another word they can keep from feeling like murderers. Sometimes when they string a man up, they gather around like vultures looking for the next meal, staring at the cockeyed neck, the sagging limbs, their lips turning up at the corners when they should be turning down. For some people, time has a way of blurring the good and the bad, spitting out that thing called conscience and replacing it with a twisted sort of logic that makes right out of wrong.

Our small town of Calloway, Virginia, had that sort of logic in spades—after the trouble it had caused my family over the years, I knew so better than most. But the violence had long since faded away, and my best friend, Gemma, would often tell me that made it okay—her being kept separate from white folks. “Long as my bein’ with your family don’t bring danger down on your heads, I’ll keep my peace and be thankful,” she’d say.

But I didn’t feel so calm about it all as Gemma did. Part of that was my stubborn temperament, but most of it was my intuition. I’d been eyeball-to-eyeball with pure hate more than once in my eighteen years, and I could smell it, like rotting flesh. Hate is a type of blindness that divides a man from his good sense. I’d seen it in the eyes of a Klansman the day he tried to choke the life out of me and in the eyes of the men who hunted down a dear friend who’d been wrongly accused of murder.

And at times, I’d caught glimpses of it in my own heart.

The passage of time had done nothing to lessen its stench. And despite the relative peace, I knew full well that hearts poisoned by hateful thinking can simmer for only so long before boiling over.

In May of that year, 1938, the pot started bubbling. I was on the front porch shucking corn when I saw three colored men turn up our walk, all linked up in a row like the Three Musketeers. I stood, let the corn silk slip from my apron, and called over my shoulder, “Gemma! Come on out here.”

Read the rest of chapter one.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

The Edge of Recall by Kristen Heitzmann

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The Edge of Recall
by Kristen Heitzmann

Trade Paperback: 416 pages
Publisher: BethanyHouse
Released: July 1st 2008

Source: Bought through

Book Description from Back Cover:
Tessa Young is a landscape architect who specializes in the design and creation of labyrinths. For years, she has immersed herself in the healing aspects of these elaborate structures, searching for God and hoping to make sense of the nightmares that have plagued her since childhood.

When Smith Chandler, a colleague who once betrayed her, offers an opportunity to reconstruct a remarkable Colonial-era labyrinth, she can't resist this project of a lifetime. But one evening, as dusk falls, an assailant ambushes Tessa and Smith and the real nightmare begins.

The Edge of Recall is a Christian romantic suspense novel. Both men and women will enjoy it. The pacing was very good. The suspense built as the mysterious intruder on the work site progressed from vandalism to violence and as the truth about Tessa's nightmares came closer to being revealed. Tension was also provided by the various strained relationships. The characters were interesting and complex. The world-building was good, with vivid setting details and some details about the jobs.

Tessa built prayer walk labyrinths as a way to help people find God (by walking them). However, as the story progressed, she realized that she also used them as a way to keep God impersonal and at a distance. Her father abandoned her family when she was young, and she's afraid God will, too. As her nightmares spilled into reality, she learned to trust and developed a closer relationship with God. While there were some prayers and God talk, it was not a constant topic.

There was no sex. There was no bad language. Overall, I'd recommend this enjoyable 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
Houses smaller than her dollhouse, fields stretching out and away. A pond tossing sunrays as she leans against the window, nose pressed to the glass. The plane seat rumbles. She feels it in her fingertips, in her teeth.

Daddy points. "Look there."

And she sees it. Circle upon circle, living branches shaped like the inside of a seashell. Mesmerized, she follows the path with her eyes to the very center.

Daddy's voice holds all the mystery in the world. "It's a labyrinth."

* * *

"Miss Young?"

Tessa opened her heavy-lidded eyes to white light, beige walls. For a moment she'd thought she was in— But no, it was the emergency room. She rotated her wrist and winced. Her neck burned, and she could almost feel the grip there still. She drew a ragged breath.

The nurse put a hand between her shoulder blades. "Let me help you up."

"Thank you." Tessa slid her legs over the side of the exam bed and sat up, woozy, as the curtain slid open with a squeal of metal rings on rod. A man with a hawkish face and wiry hair entered. Dr. Brinkley. She'd spoken with him ... how long ago?

"You've had some rest, Ms. Young?"

She pressed her fingers to her temples and realized that somewhere between arriving and now they had sedated her.

"Sheriff Thomas is back, if you're up to seeing him."

Her chest quaked as her mind replayed the knife flashing, Smith's stunned face. Would she have to identify him? Could she bear it? The sheriff entered, his pants and jacket shiny with rain.

"Is he ... is he dead?"

"We went over the property, Ms. Young. There's nothing to indicate a homicide."

She had a moment of disconnect. What was he saying? "You didn't find Smith?" Her throat constricted. "That's impossible."

"The rain's ruined what trace of an altercation there might have been."

She jolted. "Someone attacked us. He stabbed Smith."

"Someone not quite human."

"I didn't say he wasn't human, just grotesque, misshapen—"

"Pale and malformed, rotten teeth and milky eyes. Wasn't that the description?"

The description conjured up his image. "Yes. That's what I saw."

The sheriff slid out the pad he'd jotted her words on before. "Yours was the only vehicle."

She nodded. "I don't know how he got there, but it isn't the first time. I thought I saw him weeks ago."

"You said your boss was six-one, one-eighty. How would this small, malformed person with no transportation—"

"He must have hidden Smith, buried ... the body."

"We searched the field and surrounding woods." The sheriff looked her over slowly. "I'll round up some dogs in the morning, but before I do, why don't you tell me what really happened?"

She stared. "What do you mean?"

"It appears you had a scuffle, but frankly, your story is . . ." He spread his hands. "Not plausible."

Her panic rose. "It's not a story. I barely got away. Someone attacked us. He—" She fought the grief that raised the pitch of her voice. "Have you talked to Smith Chandler? Can you tell me he's alive?"

Read the rest of chapter one.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

And the BBAW winner is...

It's time to pick the winner of The Healer's Apprentice by Melanie Dickerson. Including all of the Twitter entries, we had 95 people enter! 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 the book at your favorite bookstore!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Petra: City in Stone by T. L. Higley

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Petra: City in Stone
by T. L. Higley

Trade Paperback: 344 pages
Publisher: B&H Books
Released: September 15, 2010

List Price: $ 14.99
ISBN-10: 1433668564
ISBN-13: 978-1433668562

Book on Amazon

Source: Special thanks to T.L. Higley for sending me a review copy. This post is part of the FIRST Wild Card Tour.

Book Description, my take:
Cassia, an abused concubine, flees Damascus with her young son when one of her husband's scams goes bad and he's killed. She seeks refuge in Petra, the home of her husband's family and the capital of the Arabian empire.

Cassia discovers that Alexander, her son, is heir to Petra's throne. After Queen Hagiru takes Alexander from her, Cassia learns of the queen's plan to kill Alexander so that her own son will someday rule.

The queen is also the high priestess of Dushrat and calls upon demonic powers to stay in control. Cassia must learn to accept the help of the followers of the Jewish Messiah, who are willing to risk death to help rescue her son from the dark powers that hold him.

Julian flees from Rome to Petra to find safety and forget his failures--like the death of his betrothed in the arena for her Christian faith. As the Christians in Petra accept him and turn to him for leadership, he must face his past and his future. For helping Cassia will put him in the center of a spiritual battle that he's not yet prepared to fight.

Petra: City in Stone is a very well-written, fast-paced Christian historical novel that contains some romance. It's set in 106 AD in Petra, Rome, and Damascus. Both men and women will enjoy it. The author completely immerses the reader in the culture, setting, and time period. I was left feeling like this story really happened. The characters were complex, realistic, and engaging. I cared about what happened to them.

The suspense was high throughout and was created by the threat of physical danger to both the adults and to Cassia's son and from wondering if the characters would make the right decisions.

The Christian content was woven into the very plot, so it was always present. God's influence was obvious--he was a present and active character in the novel. There was also a strong spiritual warfare element to the novel. I loved the underlying message about trusting God.

There was no sex or bad language. Overall, I'd highly recommend this novel as very 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.

About the Author:
Tracy started her first novel at the age of eight and has been hooked on writing ever since. After attending Philadelphia Biblical University, she earned a B.A. in English Literature at Rowan University. She then spent ten years writing drama presentations for church ministry. A lifelong interest in history and mythology has led Tracy to extensive research into ancient Greece, Egypt and Rome, and shaped her desire to shine the light of the gospel into the cultures of the past. She has traveled through Greece, Turkey, Egypt, Israel, Jordan and Italy to research her novels, and looks forward to more travel as the series continues.

Visit the author's website.

Excerpt from Chapter One

The streets of Rome lay barren and empty, sucked dry by the colossal Flavian Amphitheatre that had swallowed seventy-five thousand Roman citizens in a single gulp, and would hold each one captive until they had enjoyed the horrors that Julian now raced to prevent.

More time. He needed more time. Already the crowd inside the four-story rim of stone cheered for the first event.

Julian’s sandals smacked the black basalt road that led toward the amphitheatre. The blistering Roman sun pounded the moisture from his skin and left him panting. He had run most of way, since an old servant in Vita’s house had pointed a gnarled finger toward the east, toward the Forum, toward the arena of death.

Eighty arches ringed the outside of the theatre on each of its first three stories. The bottom arches provided access to the public, and the second story’s niches held statues of the gods and emperors, who now looked down on Julian as he sprinted across the large travertine slabs that paved the arena’s edge.

He ran toward one of the four main entrances and fumbled for the tessera, the stone tile he wore around his neck. The designatores at the entrance would insist on examining it, to see the sector, row and seat to which he was assigned.

Indeed, the usher at this entrance was full of his own importance, and held a palm to Julian’s oncoming rush as though he could stop him with only the force of his arm.

“Too long in your bed this morning, eh?” His smug smile took in Julian’s hastily-wrapped toga and sweat-dampened hair.

Julian thrust the tessera before the man’s eyes. “Here, here, look at it.”

Still the amused smile. The usher opened his mouth to speak again.

“Look at it!”

Daunted, the man let his eyes travel over the tile, then took a tiny breath and stepped back. His grin faded to a look of regret over his own impudence, and he bowed his head. As if that were not enough, he bowed at the waist and extended a hand to invite Julian to enter.

Julian did not wait for an apology. He pushed past the usher and under the vaulted entrance, then straight through the arena’s outer corridor and up a ramp that led to the cavea, the wedge-shaped sections of marble seats. This main entrance led directly to the central boxes reserved for the elite.

He exploded from the dimly lit ramp onto the terrace. The morning sun slashed across half the seats, the height of the amphitheatre leaving the other half in shade. The red canvas velarium, the awning used to shade the spectators, would be raised before it got much hotter, but for now, thousands of bleached togas on white marble blinded the eye and the smell of the masses assaulted the nose.

Julian crossed the terrace in two strides, slammed against the waist-high wall that separated him from the arena, and saw a figure dash at him from the shadows.

His mother’s hands were on his arms in an instant. “Julian, what are you doing?” Her words were frantic, as clipped and terror-filled as his every movement.

“They have Vita, Mother!”

She wrenched his body fiercely to face her. Julian stood nearly a cubit taller than his mother, but Ariella had retained all the strength of her youth, along with the beauty. “There is nothing that can be done, my son.”

He yanked his arms from her grasp. “Do not say that!” Julian searched the cavea behind him, full to overflowing with the purple-edged togas of senators. “Where is Father? Is he here?”

“Julian, think! You must think.” Ariella’s voice was urgent and low and her clutching fingers again slowed Julian’s restlessness. “You will bring more harm – “

“I do not care!” His voice snagged with emotion, and he fought to harden the feelings into action. “I must end this.”

“You cannot, son.”

He turned flashing eyes on Ariella. “It is my fault! Do you not understand? I should be down in those cages.”

Ariella’s eyes misted. “I would not lose both my son and his betrothed on the same day.”

Betrothed. The word washed more guilt over Julian’s stricken soul.

A senator, one of his father’s friends, walked past and paused to hold out an arm in greeting to Julian. “Fine day for the games, is it not?”

Julian straightened at once, resuming the noble bearing trained into him since childhood, and returned the man’s grip. He nodded once in agreement, but did not speak. The senator moved on, and Julian dropped his shoulders, ashamed that he had not made a statement.

Ariella seemed to read his thoughts. Her dark eyes held his own. “It will take more than a day to change the Empire.”

Julian looked out over the yellow sand of the arena. “But this day, Mother, this day we must!” He slapped a hand against the top of the marble wall. “I am going to find Father.”

“Julian, you know that he can do nothing – “

He spun on her. “No. I am tired of both of you, always moving about your circles quietly, behind closed doors, the truth spoken only in whispers.” He lifted his own voice as an example. “There is a time to speak!”

Ariella’s nostrils flared, but she said nothing. Turning from her, Julian stalked to the nearest break in the seating and ascended the tiers alongside his father’s section. Here, the nobility did not sit on wooden planks as the rest of the citizens, but were given cushions or even chairs for comfort. He scanned the rows of seats for his father’s graying head, and instead met his dark gray eyes.

Julian shook his head and opened his mouth to shout across the intervening seats, but his father held up a hand, then stood and excused himself from his colleagues. He slid along in front of a dozen other senators, and emerged at the end of the row beside Julian.

Quietly, he spoke into his son’s ear. “I have just now heard. It is outrageous.”

Julian’s hands balled into fists at his side. “You must do something.”

“What can I do, Julian? The emperor has ruled, and Trajan is not a man to be defied.”

Across the arena, Julian watched as a trapdoor slid upward and a huddled band of men and women were prodded onto the sand at the end of Roman spears. Julian’s heart pounded with the shortness of the time left and he turned on his father with the frenzy of desperation. “She is out there, Father!”

But his father’s eyes held only grief, not anger. Not the fiery anger that could change the future, even now.

Julian pushed past him, down the steps. If his parents would do nothing from their positions of influence, then he would stop this madness from a position of strength.

It had been his fault, all of it. Trajan had made his stance clear. As long as they kept to themselves, did not flaunt their disagreement with imperial policy, did not take a public stand, they would be left alone. But that had not been enough for Julian. Passionate about the truth, eager to show himself a leader and foolish enough to believe himself invincible, he had spoken too loudly, in too many places.

And now this. Vita and the others arrested, convicted, and sentenced without his knowledge. Julian had brought this on them all, but he had escaped their fate.

At the terrace level he circled the arena toward the imperial box. The amphitheatre was one of the few places where the public had access to the divine emperor. Julian grasped at the thin hope that he could get near enough to plead for Vita’s life.

He had not loved her. Not like he should, though he had tried. He had never known a more virtuous woman. The arranged match between them was a good one. But Julian had never felt more than the flame of admiration and respect for her, and he saw nothing but the same in her eyes. Still, they would have been married.

We will be married.

The foot-stomps of the crowd rose around him like a hundred thousand drumbeats. The cadence resonated in his chest and pushed him forward. He knew that sound. It was the sound of a mob hungry for blood.

Terror drove his footsteps. He could not look to the arena. Not even when he heard more trapdoors rise and the low growl of beasts begin.

The crowd screamed as one, and their shouts lifted to the pale blue sky like a puff of evil smoke from the underworld. Julian’s bones seemed to turn to water. He raced on. The emperor’s raised box was in sight.

But then they were beside him again, both his parents this time, grasping at his arms, pulling him backward.

“It is too late, son.” His mother’s voice held the grief of both the present and the past, for she had seen much sorrow in the arena in her day.

His father turned him to the wall to face the sand. “You must say goodbye, Julian. You must say goodbye.”

He let his parents hold him there at the marble wall. He scraped his hands across the top, then gripped the white stone.

Lions. Six of them. Circling, circling the knot of friends in the center of the bright yellow sand that had been brought from one of the hills of Rome and spread on wooden planking to soak up the blood of gladiator, beast, and the condemned.

The lions charged at once, but for Julian, the moment stretched out, like a thread of silk spun from a slow-turning wheel, and though the crowd still bellowed, in his head all had gone silent and he saw only his group of friends, crumpling in on themselves like sand flowing into a sinkhole.

The lions must have roared before they pounced, though Julian heard nothing, and felt only the relentless scraping of his own hands across the stone wall. He scraped until his hands were torn and bloody, wanting to bleed with her, wanting to bleed with all of them, as he should have.

The sun had risen to pour its rays into the center of the arena, and the yellow sand beneath them turned to molten gold in the light, an oval of liquid gold with Vita and the others drowning in the center of it. He saw her face for a moment, lifted to heaven.

His mind disconnected and drifted strangely, then, to the words at the end of the Apostle John’s Revelation, and his vision of the New Jerusalem with its streets of pure gold.

Would Vita fall asleep in this golden sand and wake to streets of gold?

The beasts did their job well and quickly, and when it was over and the mutilated bodies of his friends lay scattered across the sand, Julian woke from his stupor and felt the guilt of every lost life bear down on him as though the stones around him had collapsed on his head. He tasted bile rising in his throat, and turned away from the wall to retch onto the paving stones.

His parents held his arms as he emptied the contents of his stomach. He heard the jeers directed toward him. When he stood, the tear-streaked faces of both his parents matched his own.

But he found no solace in their shared grief. They did not have to bear the guilt of it as he did. As he always would. He pulled from their embrace and escaped the amphitheatre, running back the way he had come, running like a haunted man.

Days later, when his guilt and grief had hardened into bitter anger, he tried once again to change the minds and policies of the Roman government. But in the end he brought only more disgrace, and more danger, upon his family.

In the cool of the evening three days after Vita’s death, he stood at the terrace wall of his father’s lavish villa in the Roman countryside, looking down into the flowered gardens his mother had commissioned, and listening to the fountain that trickled night and day into the central pool. He inhaled deeply of the night air, dragging in the scent of roses.

His guilt over Vita’s death had not abated, and he had added to it with his actions in the days since. His brazen words in the Senate House, and later the Forum, had identified him as one who should have also met his death in the arena that day.

Perhaps that was his wish. To be arrested himself, to be thrown before the gaping yaw of a dozen lions, to be given what he deserved.

But his family. He had not wanted the same for his family. His only brother, long since stationed in some military outpost, had never embraced the family’s beliefs, but even he could be reached by the long arm of the empire, and brought back to face condemnation with the rest.

Behind him, slaves stirred to prepare the evening meal and lit torches on the veranda. His parents would appear soon and they would all pretend that their privileged life continued.

But Julian had made a decision. His life in Rome was over. To protect his family, he must disappear.

He thought of his brother’s stories of the provinces that lay at the edges of the Empire. Of Britannia, of Judea. But even there the Roman army could search out a man. No, he must go further east than even Judea.

There was a place, a hidden city he had heard tales of since he was a boy. Stories that had sparked his imagination and given him the desire to travel across the desert sand to discover the city tucked between the rock cliffs of Arabia.

Petra. Capital of the Nabatean kingdom, wealthy center of the east-west trade route, and beyond even the Roman Empire’s reach.

Julian rubbed his hands together, palms still raw from being torn open the day Vita died. Yes, it was a good plan.

He would flee to Petra.

BBAW Forgotten Treasure


For Book Blogger Appreciation Week, today's theme is "Sure we’ve all read about Freedom and Mockingjay but we likely have a book we wish would get more attention by book bloggers, whether it’s a forgotten classic or under marketed contemporary fiction. This is your chance to tell the community why they should consider reading this book!"

book coverWell, I can think of several novels that I've really enjoyed that didn't get as much publicity as they deserved (in my opinion), but I guess the novel from that list that I've heard few others talking about is Heartless by Anne Elisabeth Stengl.

It's a Christian fantasy, and it had an underlying Christian allegory that I found very moving. If you're a Christian (and especially if you're a Christian teen girl who enjoys fantasy novels), then I'd highly recommend that you give it a chance.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

BBAW Wednesday Treasure


For Book Blogger Appreciation Week, today's theme is "...share with us a book or genre you tried due to the influence of another blogger. What made you cave in to try something new and what was the experience like?"

book coverA book I tried because another blogger liked it so well is The Gentlemen's Conspiracy by Nick Daniels.

I enjoy historical suspense novels, but I thought this novel might possibly be "point-driven." As in, the whole reason an author wrote a novel was to Make A Point and making that point drives the novel. But this novel sounded interesting, so I was wobbling on the fence until another blogger reviewed it and gave this novel a very enthusiastic review.

I'm glad I gave this book a chance. I didn't have anything to worry about as it's a well-written character-driven story. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and I'd recommend it to both men and women.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

BBAW Blogger Interview Swap

BBAW 2010

As a part of Book Blogger Appreciation Week, a number of book bloggers are interviewing each other and posting the interviews on their blogs. My interview partner is Lori of Psychotic State. (You can go to her blog to read her interview with me.)

I've enjoyed getting to know her better, and I hope you do, too.

Debbie: Lori, tell us a little about your book blog (like when you started it, what types of books you review, and what other types of posts you have on Psychotic State Book Reviews)?

Lori: I started my blog several years ago, more as a gossipy site where I could express my opinions about my favorite tv shows and celebrities (and not so favorite celebrities!) and last August, I decided to switch gears and go with a longtime love of mine - - books! Since then, my blog has been devoted to book reviews, author interviews, giveaways, guest posts and various updates relating to books I have read and/or reviewed (such as those from the true crime genre).

Debbie: How is Psychotic State Book Reviews different from other book blogs (i.e. unique features, etc.)?

Lori: I think my blog is a little different because I don't have some of continual memes that bog other sites down (although I do participate in some that I enjoy and find promote not only my blog but the books I read as well).

I have recently started my own Throwback Thursday, where I highlight older books I have read, to give them a new focus.

I also read and review a fairly eccentric group of books - - I enjoy the aforementioned true crime, chick lit, general fiction, certain types of nonfiction, historical fiction, supernatural/paranormal, some romance. So it wouldn't be unusual to find a review of a Tudor-era historical fiction one day and a book on a serial killer the next!

Debbie: Let's get to know you a little better. Why did you start book blogging?

Lori: I have loved reading since I can remember and it's very rare to find me without a book in hand. I also have been writing, in one form or another, since I was 8 and it seemed a natural progression to "marry" the two. Plus, I was feeling a little weary of the celebrity blogging at the time and thought reviewing books would be a better use of my time and my enjoyment of not only reading but writing.

Debbie: What do you like most about book blogging? The least?

Lori: Absolutely, positively, the people I have met have made book blogging worthwhile. I have found myself included in a circle of people who not only enjoy some of the same hobbies and interests I do, but a wonderfully helpful and friendly group. From the moment I started blogging books, and asking questions, I was met with a lot of encouragement and helpful direction. I will always be grateful. And let's be honest - - receiving books to read and write about is a pretty great plus too!

What I like the least is the pressure I put on myself to sometimes try to read more books than I should. I become very Type A personality wise when I am behind schedule, or feel I am behind schedule. And I cannot allow myself to write a shortened review or stint a book in any way, so the pressure builds. But ultimately, it's good pressure because I love to read.

Debbie: What are some things you do when you're not reading or blogging (job, hobbies, etc.)?

Lori: In my "normal" life, I'm a paralegal, wife and mother so I am generally fairly busy. My husband is a Navy man, so when he's deployed I am head of the household as well as Mom and Dad.

I love the movies (particularly classic Hollywood of the late 20s, 30s and 40s - - pretty obvious from my blog header!), baseball (Atlanta Braves fan), NASCAR (#17!) and my family is trying to get me more into football. I'd also like to get more into cooking, as well as partaking more of the pool for exercise purposes!

Debbie: What's an interesting/unique fact about yourself that most of your blog followers might not know?

Lori: Oh gosh, there are so many to choose from! I would say that I had a longtime dream of being a screenwriter for years (especially after a Ouija board told me I would be, wink, wink) and had several different screenplays I was working on but it never panned out for me. I still hope to be a published author one day though and my head is constantly buzzing from story ideas.

Debbie: What book has had the most impact on your life?

Lori: I can't pick just one, so I would say this would be a toss up between Pride and Prejudice, Flowers in the Attic, Fatal Vision and Helter Skelter. Totally bizarre, I know. Probably couldn't come up with more oppositional books.

P&P because I had avoided it like the plague in my younger years (fearing it because it was labeled a classic). I never had to read it in school and figured that Jane Austen simply wouldn't be my cup of tea. I saw the 1995 A&E P&P and the story consumed me to the point of obsession. I picked up the book and after I read it, I was kicking myself for not reading it sooner. Since then, it has opened a door for me to read more classical works, other works of Jane Austen's and the many, many sequels to P&P and Austen-inspired work. In fact, it's an obsession that lasts to this day and one I am happy to immerse myself in.

Flowers in the Attic because it was not only the first series I really got into but the first book that completely and utterly hooked me. It was the early 80s equivalent of the Twilight series. V.C. Andrews wasn't the most expressive writer but she was a phenomenal storyteller. These were the first books that I actually stayed up all night reading and made panicked trips to the bookstore to pick up.

Helter Skelter was the first true crime book I ever read (at 11) and I wasn't supposed to be reading it (now my parents know the truth). I became fascinated with abnormal psychology and the deviant personality, thanks to this book, as well as the law. It led me to psychology courses in school, a serious thought to becoming an FBI profiler and eventually to becoming a paralegal, where I hoped that I could work in criminal law (one area of law that I have never worked in, by the way).

Fatal Vision was yet another book that completely consumed me. I saw the miniseries and marched myself to B. Dalton the next day for the book, which I zipped thru in just a day or two (and this was a 700+ page book and I was a high school student at the time). I still consider it one of the best true crime books out there and I am still obsessed (for lack of a better word) with the case (in fact, you will see posts in memory of the victims at my blog each February, as well as updates on the legal aspects of the case from time to time). This is a book, along with Helter Skelter, that I will read over and over.

Debbie: I already know that Pride & Prejudice is your favorite book, but why is it your favorite?

Lori: Because Jane Austen was a damn funny lady! Seriously, when you read P&P, other than some of the language and the fact that women had to marry and marry as well as possible, it's easy to forget that she wrote this incredible work more than 200 years ago. She was an unparalleled writer with an acerbic wit and a very sharp eye toward her society and her own sex. She created characters and a story that still fascinate all these years later and that is beloved by many. That is quite a legacy.

Debbie: It has been nice getting to know you, Lori. Thanks!

Lori: Thank you, Debbie! I'm so happy to have been your interview partner for BBAW!

Monday, September 13, 2010

And the BlogFest2010 winner is...

It's time to pick the winner of So Over It by Stephanie Morrill. Including all of the Twitter entries, we had 135 people enter! Using a random number generator and numbering the entrants in the order I received them, the winner is:

Dollycas aka Lori

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

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

Saturday, September 11, 2010

BBAW Giveaway: The Healer's Apprentice

BBAW 2010

book cover
For Book Blogger Appreciation Week, I've decided to hold a giveaway for my Advanced Reader's Copy of The Healer's Apprentice by Melanie Dickerson.

You can learn more about this young adult romance novel by reading my review.

This contest is for USA & Canada residents only.

To enter the giveaway:

1) you can twitter me saying "Hi @genrereviewer. Enter me in the giveaway for the teen romance novel, THE HEALER'S APPRENTICE by Melanie Dickerson."


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. I'd be fun if you also included why you're interested in reading this novel.

The winner will be randomly selected. I'll announce the winner at noon (Central Time) on Sept. 18, 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 mailing 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!

The Healer's Apprentice by Melanie Dickerson

book cover

The Healer's Apprentice
by Melanie Dickerson

Trade Paperback: 272 pages
Publisher: Zondervan
Released: Sept. 2010

Source: Advanced Readers Copy from the publisher.

Book Description, Modified from Back Cover:
Rose has been appointed as a healer’s apprentice at Hagenheim Castle, a rare opportunity for a woodcutter’s daughter like her. While she feels uneasy at the sight of blood, Rose is determined to prove herself capable so that she won't have to return home and marry someone based on his ability to help her brother get ahead in life.

Then Lord Hamlin, the future duke, is injured, and Rose must tend to him. As she works to close his bloody wound, her admiration of him shifts to love as he does his best to encourage her even through his pain.

But Lord Hamlin is betrothed to a Duke's daughter to bring peace between the two dukedoms. He's determined to find the man trying to put a curse on his betrothed so that she can come out of hiding and marry him. But Lord Hamlin finds his own admiration of Rose changing into something deeper.

Rose must decide whether to follow her heart or trust God to work things out to their best end.

The Healer's Apprentice is a charming Christian teen romance novel set very loosely in 1386 AD Germany. While the author did work some "what life was like" historical information into the novel, it had more of a fairytale feel due to some of the details and since it wasn't tied into the larger historical picture.

Lord Hamlin was too good to be true and most of the characters didn't have much depth to them, but I did like the characters and enjoyed reading about them. I also liked how Rose learned from her choices. However, during the dance scenes near the beginning, I was confused by how Rose thought one way ("I don't trust him or like him, but I must be polite") but acted another (she flirted with the guy). I wasn't sure what the author was trying to portray: naivete, confusion of feelings, or what. Though Rose often acted contrary to her thoughts, the reason for it was more clear in the later scenes.

Christian faith played a continuous but low-key role in the story. I liked that Rose's and Lord Hamlin's trust in God grew throughout the novel and that they listened to His subtle guiding. However, it's unlikely that a healer (even a ex-nun healer) would really have a complete, personal copy of the Bible in 1386 AD. Also, some of the Catholic church elements seemed slightly off, and our Catholic main characters sometimes behaved more like Protestants. So that part didn't seem highly historically accurate.

There was no sex or bad language. One character was a "conjurer" of demons, but there was no fantasy/fairytale magic. Overall, I'd recommend this novel as charming, 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
Spring, 1386. Hagenheim. The Harz Mountains, Lower Saxony.

The towns people of Hagenheim craned their necks as they peered down the cobblestone street, hoping to catch a glimpse of the Duke of Hagenheim’s two handsome sons. The topheavy, half-timbered houses hovered above the crowd as if they too were eager to get a peek at Lord Hamlin and Lord Rupert.

Rose shifted her basket from her left hip to her right and wrinkled her nose at the stale smell of sweat from the many bodies pressed close, mingled with the pungent scent of animal dung. Chickens and children skittered about, the clucking and squealing adding to the excited murmurs.

“I’ll wait with you to the count of one hundred, Hildy, then I’m leaving.” Rose couldn’t let Frau Geruscha think her apprentice was a lazy dawdler.

“Are you not curious to see if they’ve changed?” Hildy asked, her green eyes glinting in the sun.

“No doubt the duke’s sons have developed into humble scholars after two years at Heidelberg’s university.” Even as she spoke, she glanced up the street. In spite of wanting Hildy to think her indifferent to the young noblemen, Rose was glad she had a good view.

Rose’s dog, Wolfie, began barking so zealously his front paws lifted off the ground.

Hist. No barking.” Rose leaned down and rubbed the ruff of fur at the back of his neck.


Her heart leapt at the horrified tone in Hildy’s voice, and she stood and faced her friend.

“You didn’t even wear your best dress!”

Rose glanced down at her green woolen kirtle. “Oh, Hildy. As if it matters.”

“At least your hair looks beautiful.” Hildy ran her hand down Rose’s loose mane of brown curls, only partially hidden by her linen coif. “How do you ever hope to get a husband if you don’t pay more attention to your clothing?”

Rose scowled. “I don’t hope.”

How many times would she have to explain this to Hildy? When Rose was a little child, Frau Geruscha had taken a liking to her. Now that Rose was grown up, the town healer had chosen Rose to be her apprentice — an honorable life’s work that would prevent Rose from being forced to marry. Frau Geruscha, having grown up in a convent, had not only taught Rose about medicinal herbs, but also how to read Latin — a skill Rose was very proud of. But it was a skill most men would hardly value in a wife.

Read more of chapter one

Thursday, September 9, 2010

BlogFest 2010 Giveaway: SO Over It

BlogFest 2010

book coverFor BlogFest 2010, I've decided to hold a giveaway for one copy of So Over It by Stephanie Morrill.

You can learn more about this well-written young adult Christian general fiction novel by reading my review.

This contest is for USA & Canada residents only.

To enter the giveaway:

1) you can twitter me saying "Hi @genrereviewer. Enter me in the giveaway for the novel SO OVER IT by Stephanie Morrill."


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. I'd be fun if you also included why you're interested in reading this novel.

The winners will be randomly selected. The giveaway ends on Sept. 12, 2010 at 11:59 pm EST, and I'll announce the winner before noon (Central Time) on Sept. 13, 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 mailing address. If the winner hasn't responded with a mailing address within four days, I reserve the right to pick a new winner.

Saving Obsession is the next giveaway in the BlogFest 2010 ring.

Gun Lake by Travis Thrasher

book cover

Gun Lake
by Travis Thrasher

Trade Paperback: 400 pages
Publisher: Moody Publishers
Released: June 2004

Source: Bought through

Book Description, my take:
Five convicts escape from the Stagworth maximum security prison unit. They're willing to do anything to stay free, including rob and kill. Unknown to the gang, their leader is more intent on getting revenge on a man from his past than on making sure they're not caught. As he tracks down his victim, their path heads to Gun Lake, a vacation spot. Along the way, they pick up an ex-con who feels bound to fulfill an old promise but feels conflicted about what he's doing because of his Christian faith.

Also headed to Gun Lake is a beautiful woman fleeing her abusive boyfriend and a mother who is making one last attempt to reach her rebellious teenage son.

Already there is an alcoholic deputy who wishes something exciting would happen at Gun Lake so he can show what a hero he is and win back his wife.

When their paths meet, they all must discover if there is some way to leave past mistakes behind and start anew. For if there isn't, then none of them will leave alive.

Gun Lake is an introspective suspense novel. The characters spent a lot of time thinking about their past mistakes and feeling like there was no real hope. The suspense came from knowing that some of these characters were loose cannons and that all of these characters were bound to meet up. I wondered if any of them were going to survive. Though the suspense--or dread--was high, the introspection slowed the pacing some compared to most suspense novels.

The characters had depth and were complex and realistic, but they were also very depressed and had messed up lives. This wasn't a "happy" novel to read. The world-building was very good, weaving in details of the setting as well as prison life and abusive homes.

There were seven or eight point-of-view characters, so it took a few rotations to remember who everyone was. The author wrote the first paragraph of each viewpoint change using pronouns instead of the character's name so you didn't know who it was. That was annoying and confusing.

One character did believe in Christ and reluctantly tried to tell the others about Him despite being ignored. The other characters didn't believe in God, didn't believe God wanted anything to do with them, or questioned His existence since He hadn't saved them from their horrible lives (mostly caused by their own bad decisions). The main theme was how God can forgive even the worst sins and work in the bad of our lives to bring about good. In some, faith was restored. In others, it wasn't. One hit rock bottom and found his hope in Christ.

There was no sex. There was a fair amount of "he cursed" style bad language and a very minor amount of explicit bad language. Overall, if this is the type of book you're in the mood for, I'd recommend it as suspenseful, 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
Let's try this one more time, the man thought with excitement.

He wore black pants, a gray shirt, and a black cap that read "Security." On the side of his arm was a patch with the insignia of SARC, a nearby security service. He glanced at his watch. Nine forty-five.

It's about that time.

He brought the shopping cart to the front of the store. Only one person staffed the checkout aisle--a girl in her late teens. Other employees roamed through the sporting-goods store--a chubby, forty-something guy near the firearms section, a college-aged guy probably assigned to stocking, another tall and lean fellow he'd passed in the aisles. But the husky, short-haired woman behind the customer-service counter was the one he wanted to talk with.

"Excuse me. Are you the manager?" he asked with eyebrows raised and a friendly but courteous smile. They always responded to that smile.

She nodded. "What can I help you with?"

She had a heavy Louisiana accent and big arms for a woman. Surprisingly muscular. He wondered absently how much she could bench press.

"My name is James Morrison, and I'm from SARC. The service you guys work with?"

She nodded, looking as though she knew the service and wondered where this was headed.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

The Butterfly Effect by Andy Andrews

book cover

The Butterfly Effect:
How Your Life Matters
by Andy Andrews

Hardback: 114 pages
Publisher: Thomas Nelson
Released: 2010

Source: Review copy provided by Thomas Nelson's BookSneeze program.

Book Description from the Publisher's Website:
The decisions you make and the way you treat others have more impact than you may ever realize.

Speaker and New York Times best-selling author Andy Andrews shares a compelling and powerful story about a decision one man made over a hundred years ago, and the ripple effect it’s had on us individually, and nationwide, today. It’s a story that will inspire courage and wisdom in the decisions we make, as well as affect the way we treat others through our lifetime. Andrews speaks over 100 times a year, and The Butterfly Effect is his #1 most requested story.

The Butterfly Effect is an inspirational book for those who wonder, "Does my life matter?" It's gift-book style with slick pages, colorful interior, and full-color pictures (often only loosely related to the text).

The author first explained "the butterfly effect." Then he told the exciting story of Joshua Lawrence Chamberlin who made a courageous choice on July 2, 1863 which was pivotal in American (and world) history. Then, to make sure his point was clear, the author told the story of someone whose actions have saved billions of lives...but was it the man honored on ABC News for the accomplishment, or the man who made the first man's research possible, or the man who got the second man to see the value in such research, or the couple who saved the third man's life, or... It took a series of people acting to help another for this result to come about, yet they had no idea at the time how far-reaching an impact their actions would have.

The author tells the stories in an exciting, inspiring way, and it's a quick read. The author referred to us as being "created as one of a kind" and "in order that you might make a difference," but he doesn't get more specifically religious than that. Overall, I'd recommend this book as an inspiring read for both children and adults.

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.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

The Law of Nines by Terry Goodkind

book cover

The Law of Nines
by Terry Goodkind

Mass Market Paperback: 576 pages
Publisher: Jove Books
Released: August 2010

Source: Unrequested review copy from the publisher.

Book Description from Back Cover, slightly added to:
Turning twenty-seven may be terrifying for some, but for Alex Rahl, a struggling artist living in the mid-western United States, it is cataclysmic. Something about this birthday, his name, and the beautiful woman whose life he just saved, has suddenly made him — and everyone he loves — into a target. A target for extreme and uncompromising violence by people who can appear or vanish before his very eyes. The woman claims that she--and his enemies--are from another world where magic exists. Their conflict has spilled over into this world because, a long time ago, his family also came from her world. He unknowingly has something the enemy wants which he inherited on his birthday. Can they stop the enemy before both worlds are destroyed by their greed and cruelty?

The Law of Nines is a thriller with some fantasy elements. The action was non-stop except for 30 pages of dialogue stuck in at 193 pages into the story to explain who these mysterious killers were, where they're from, and why Jax didn't like them. The story was fast-paced and exciting, but it wasn't very pleasant. It involved torture, attempted rape, brutal mass murder of children, and a great deal of other violence. The world-building was done well, bringing the story alive in my imagination--even the violence.

While Alex and Jax were interesting enough characters, we never really learned much about them. The bad guys were flat, generic characters. They were angry and cruel with little motive given beyond greed and little difference between them beyond their names and jobs.

There were a few inconsistent or implausible elements, like Jax being able to successfully and completely hide three knifes (one of them large) under skin-tight or form-fitting clothing. And many important things were never explained, like how the bad guy intended to use what it turned out he so deeply wanted. [SPOILER] The suggestion given was that he wanted to bring superior weapon technology into his world through the gateway so that he could stay in control after he beat the other side. But he wouldn't be able to make that technology himself, so he'd always be dependent on the gateway. The other side of the gateway was currently controlled by powerful enemy magic users, so he wouldn't be able to safely use the gateway until the magic users were defeated. But the bad guy definitely wanted the gateway open now. It just didn't add up.[END SPOILER]

The end was also wrapped up pretty quickly, with Alex only needing one glance at the desired object to go from ignorance to sudden and complete understanding of how it worked. But at least it was a happy ending.

There was a minor amount of bad language. There was one non-explicit sex scene and two vaguely explicit attempted rape scenes. There was a lot of violence (some of it fairly graphic and gory), and it was often against innocent or helpless people. I only read the first few books of Terry Goodkind's Sword of Truth series, but this book reminded me of that plot in some ways (Alex is a lot like Richard, and so on). I suspect that Goodkind fans who can't get enough of his books will probably enjoy this one.

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
It was the pirate flag flying atop the plumbing truck that first caught his attention. The white skull and crossbones seemed to be straining to keep from being blown off the flapping black flag as the flatbed truck, apparently trying to beat the light, cannonballed through the intersection. The truck heeled over as it cut an arc around the corner. White PVC pipe rolled across the diamond plate of the truck bed, sounding like the sharp rattle of bones. At the speed it was traveling the truck looked to be in danger of capsizing.

Alex glanced to the only other person waiting at the curb with him. With his mind adrift in distracted thoughts he hadn’t before noticed the lone woman standing just in front of him and to the right. He didn’t even remember seeing where she’d come from. He thought that he saw just a hint of vapor rising from the sides of her arms into the chill air.

Since he wasn’t able to see the woman’s face, Alex didn’t know if she saw the truck bearing down on them, but he found it difficult to believe that she wouldn’t at least hear the diesel engine roaring at full throttle.

Seeing by the truck’s trajectory that it wasn’t going to make the corner, Alex snatched the woman’s upper arm and yanked her back with him.

Tires screeched as the great white truck bounced up over the curb right where Alex and the woman had been standing. The front bumper swept past, missing them by inches. Rusty dust billowed out behind the truck. Chunks of sod and dirt flew by.

Had Alex hesitated they both would have been dead.

On the white door just above the name “Jolly Roger Plumbing” was a picture of a jovial pirate with a jaunty black patch over one eye and a sparkle painted in the corner of his smile. Alex glared back as the pirate sailed past.

When he looked up to see what kind of maniac was driving he instead met the direct, dark glare of a burly passenger. The man’s curly beard and thick mat of dark hair made him look like he really could have been a pirate. His eyes, peering out of narrow slits above plump, pockmarked cheeks, were filled with a kind of vulgar rage.

The big man appeared infuriated that Alex and the woman would dare to be in the way of their off-road excursion. As the door popped open there was no doubt as to his combative intent.

Read the rest of chapter one.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Caught in the Middle by Gayle Roper

book cover

Caught in the Middle
by Gayle Roper

Trade Paperback: 240 pages
Publisher: Zondervan
First Released: 1997

Source: Bought at my local library's book sale.

Back Cover Description:
A corpse was not what Merry was looking for when she opened the car trunk.

Things like this just don't happen to real people, she thought. But Merry Kramer is new in town--and has yet to discover what hides behind the smiling faces of the residents of Amhearst, Pennsylvania.

As a staff reporter for a local newspaper, Merry finds the job contrasts incredible: as shocking as finding a body one routine as writing a human interest story on a local artist the next day. But when another death is discovered, suspicion begins to dawn.....and seemingly inconsequential choices forge a link that make Merry the next target.

Merry realizes she knows something the murderer wants to keep hidden. The question is, what? The next question is, can she survive long enough to find out?

Caught in the Middle is a humorous mystery. However, since Merry had no common sense, I didn't enjoy the novel very much. The great majority of the danger she was in came from her doing stupid things--like antagonizing someone who just admitted to killing someone in a fit of anger. And Merry often knew that what she was doing wasn't wise and went against common sense, but she did it anyway.

The mystery also wasn't very difficult to figure out. Merry had to actually be told the answer, and then the author tried to get cute and kept having the characters refer to the guy hunting her as "him" rather than by name, as though it was some big secret that she wasn't going to let the reader in on. I found that annoying.

I also didn't like the "hero." Merry had just freed herself from a verbally abusive jerk boyfriend only to pick up a "nice, wonderful Christian guy" who did things he knew annoyed her, always ordered her around like she had no brain (and she had a brain, just no common sense), didn't listen to her, and was otherwise just as bad as her last boyfriend. I did like that she didn't follow his orders, but the problem was that sometimes they were sensible ones, and he never learned that ordering her around would backfire.

Finally, there were some problems with the suspense scenes. For example, Merry was wearing a thick scarf wound 1.5 times over her neck but was quickly almost strangled to death. It's hard enough to strangle someone without thick padding in the way.

All that said, if you're into cheerfully get-herself-into-trouble heroines with spunk, you'll probably enjoy this novel. It's otherwise well written, it just happened to hit all my pet peeves.

Merry and several other characters were Christians, and it was portrayed as a part of their lifestyle. Merry prayed for help, mused about how she ought to be trusting God instead of worrying, and so on. The end got a little preachy, though, when two characters lectured each other about how they really needed to forgive and let go. While true, neither had asked for the other's opinion.

There was no sex. I don't recall any bad language. Overall, it was humorous, 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
"It was a dark and sleety night," I muttered as I slid behind the wheel and slammed the car door, grateful to have reached protection without drowning. I tossed my briefcase onto the seat and shook the water out of my rain-frizzed hair.

"Merrileigh Kramer, what have you done?" my mother had asked in horror when I'd had my waist-length hair drastically cut at summer's end on the new-look, new-person theory.

I'd looked in the mirror and wondered the same thing myself. I hadn't cut my hair, except for its annual split-ends trimming, since ninth grade. For a woman who hated change, I'd done a very drastic thing when I entered that beauty parlor. And it had only been step one.

Now my hand bounced on my curly mass like a kid on a trampoline. I sighed and reminded myself that it'd grow eventually. The only trouble was that I had to keep it curly until it grew. I didn't know what else to do with it.