MARVELOUS by TRAVIS THRASHER REVIEWED


Marvelous
By Travis Thrasher
Published by Nav Press
ISBN#978-61291-623-1
331 Pages

Back Cover: Brandon Jeffery’s summer started out with a bang—as in, a friend crashed his car and now he has to work two jobs to pay it off. It’s at Fascination Street Records that he’s introduced to a beautiful but quiet girl named Marvel. She’s new to Hidden Cove and looking for a summer job, so Brandon secretly strikes a deal with their boss to work for free so she can be hired.

When a classmate is found murdered, however, their summer takes a turn for the mysterious. Brandon’s friend Devon is sure he knows just who’s to blame: the creepy recluse of the town quarry. But the police have few leads, and Brandon has the sneaking suspicion he’s being watched.

That’s not what’s in the forefront of on his mind, though. More than trying to pay off his car to his unemployed, alcoholic father and protecting Seth Belcher from the school bullies, he’s determined to date Marvel. He doesn’t understand why they seem so close and she refuses to date him, but as the mystery behind her tragic past begins to unravel, Marvel finally confesses her reason: God has revealed she’s destined to die saving others—and it’s going to be soon.
 
Great fun to meet Travis Thrasher this summer in Atlanta GA
REVIEW:   I am a Travis Thrasher fan. I was first introduced to Travis through his earlier novels titled The Water Mark, The Second Thief, The Promise Remains, Three Roads Home, Blinded, Letters of War, Home Run and Then I read Isolation. This book wasn’t like his others. I’m a chicken at heart so reading scary stories is not something I seek out. This author has added an element to this novel that wasn’t in his other stories.

Travis Thrasher is a talented author that has written many types of genre’s well. He’s written love stories, mysteries, horror, movie novelizations and coming of age novels. I was thankful for the review copy of Travis Thrasher’s new YA novel so I thought I’d give it a try. I’m glad I did. Marvelous is the first book in a new YA series called Marvella. I was hoping since this was a YA series Travis wouldn’t be too graphic and dark like he was in the book Isolation. I was right. I was hooked from the start, check this out.

“The worst feeling in the world is being stuck. Stuck in a place you know you can’t leave, stuck in a position with no power. Stuck being a person you’d never trade places with.”

“Summer’s barely begun, and I already feel like some kind of prisoner.”

The author has set the tone of the book. It’s written in Brandon’s pov and in first person. This is the summer before Brandon’s senior year. A friend totals his car, he’s now working two jobs to pay his parents back for the car. He had not planned on the string of unfortunate events. Brandon feels strapped until Marvel walks into the Fascination street Record store he works at.

Marvel is beautiful and fascinating. She wants to work at the music store. He goes to his boss Harry and pleads for him to hire her. Braydon gets his wish. Soon he discovers there’s more to this beauty. She’s fun, mysterious, complex and tight lipped. He tries hard to earn her trust! He wants to date her.

Braydon is a guy I instantly liked. He’s a hard worker and takes time to watch out for people, like Seth Blecher; who’s being beaten by school bullies. Braydon had to help. He does his best to be there for Seth.

Braydon is willing to endure his Father’s drunken abuse. He hopes it will protect his younger brothers. He keeps this abuse a secret, which makes him loathe his father. He dreams of the day this violence will stop.

Then a school mate’s body shows up by the river. No clues as to who did this horrible thing to Art. He was Braydon’s age; a nice guy. This turns the small town of Hidden Cover upside down. Nothing like this has ever happened. Braydon talks to Marvel about this and then Marvel feels she compelled to share a secret with him. One she hasn’t share with anyone. Braydon handles the news with grace and compassion.

Then another teen’s body shows up dead in a similar fashion by the same river. This is a game changer for Marvel. She tells Braydon about the call on her life. In order to do what God’s called her to do it she’ll be required lose her life to save someone. Braydon doesn’t know what to think.

I enjoyed this novel it reminded me of the love stories this author has written in the past. It was fun, tender and complex. The author gives a glimpse of big events looming over head that will most definitely appear in the next books in the series. Wonder is the next book to be released January 2015.

This Ya novel is filled with mystery, and adventure. It’s a coming of age novel with a hint of romance, a sense of humor; a serious side too as they deal with the two dead teens, and a supernatural thread. This author talks about relevant topics for teens today – abuse, sex, drugs, alcohol, bullying and has them think about where will they spend eternity? I felt that the novel; Marvelous is the “set-up” book for the series. The author took his time in sharing what he did so readers will get to know this fun diversified cast.  You can’t help but get attached to Braydon and Marvel their love story and how they deal with life and their friends.

I found myself rooting for Braydon and Marvel as they try to navigate life separately but are being drawn together.  I was anxious about what will happen next for them and the people of Hidden Cove. I was afraid of what the author will surprise readers with next. At the same time the author did give hints about the dark yet hopeful story to come. He ends this book on a cliff hanger and a few questions to think about. On the last page there are two audio playlists. One a Fascination Street Play list and the other is for Marvel. Let the fun begin. Travis Thrasher is a versatile author I enjoy reading. I’m so glad he’s connected with a young audience and speaks their language. Mark you calendars’ to read the next installment of this mysterious series.

Nora St Laurent
TBCN Where Book Fun Begins! www.bookfun.org
The Book Club Network blog www.psalm516.blogspot.com
Book Fun Magazine www.bookfunmagazine.com

INTO THE FREE by JULIE CANTRELL REVIEWED



Into the Free
By Julie Cantell
Published by: David C Cook
ISBN#978-0-7814-0424-2
370 Pages

Back Cover: Just a girl. The only one strong enough to break the cycle.

In Depression-era Mississippi, Millie Reynolds longs to escape the madness that marks her world. With an abusive father and a "nothing mama," she struggles to find a place where she really belongs.

For answers, Millie turns to the Gypsies who caravan through town each spring. The travelers lead Millie to a key that unlocks generations of shocking family secrets. When tragedy strikes, the mysterious contents of the box give Millie the tools she needs to break her family's longstanding cycle of madness and abuse.

Through it all, Millie experiences the thrill of first love while fighting to trust the God she believes has abandoned her. With the power of forgiveness, can Millie finally make her way into the free?

Saturated in Southern ambiance and written in the vein of other Southern literary bestsellers like The Help by Kathryn Stockett and Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter by Tom Franklin, Julie Cantrell has created in Into the Free—now a New York Times Best Seller—a story that will sweep you away long after the novel ends.

REVIEW: I’m thankful for the review copy of a book that introduced me to a talented new author. Into the Fire is a haunting and gripping story told through Millie Reynolds innocent eyes. She's growing up during the depression – Era in Mississippi.

Young Millie tries to make sense of relationships and life. Miss Harper says to Millie. After closing the book Grapes of Wrath, “when the right person’s on your side, you've got a good chance of beating the odds!"

Millie is honest with a friend named River and says, “I don’t even know if I believe in God anymore.”

“River thinks before answering. I like that about him. “Well, I’m sure God still believes in you.”

I've heard this phrase before from Mama. I’m not falling for it." I thought he’d be different. But he’s just like every other boy I know. He’ll say anything to fool the girl.”

“Each day, I scramble through old - growth hardwoods fertile fields, pretending I am scouting for a lost tribe or exploring ancient ruins, other kids in town play with dolls and practice piano. I don’t care much for that. My friends are the trees, and my favorite is this sweet gum. Mostly because she’s planted right in front of our porch, so close I can see Mama’s wedding ring slip loose around her bony finger while she drops carrots into a black iron pot. I named my tree sweetie. Every day, I climb sweetie’s limbs and listen for her songs.”

I really liked Millie. She’s gut wrenchingly honest, and had a different way of looking at things. My heart went out to her when she found herself in a horrific situation – thru no fault of her own. She’s a thinker, she’s brave and feels alone. She ponders, “If God really loved her, how could she be alone."

Then she visits the Anderson family and thinks, “As the day goes on, I can taste the existence of God in every bite of food, smell Him in every waft of Delta air…For years, I have searched for this God. This feeling of complete love and acceptance. He was always out of reach. But here food is scarce, money is tight, heart is heavy and tensions should run high. God is everywhere.”

couldn't put this book down. I was captivated by Millie her strength, courage, and imagination. My heart ached for this young one. I liked how this author dealt with some pretty tough and sensitive topics. She handled them with grace, compassion, and respect minus vivid details. For that I’m grateful. This is not a read for the faint of heart. The issues raised in this book are spousal abuse, mental illness, depression and rape!

Millie discovers who she is and what she’s worth in spite of her circumstances. Not many people want to face tragedy head on either did young soul. Millies' story is continued in the sequel named When Mountains Move. This an outstanding compelling read you won't want to miss.

Nora St Laurent
TBCN Where Book Fun Begins www.bookfun.org
Book Fun Magazine www.bookfunmagazine.com  
The Book Club Network blog www.psalm516.blogspot.com  

TROUBLE IN STORE by CAROL COX REVIEWED


Trouble in Store
By Carol Cox
Published by Bethany House
ISBN#978-0-7642-0956-7
346 Pages

Back Cover: Historical Suspense and Romance
in the Wild West

Fired from her most recent governess position, Melanie Ross must embrace her last resort: the Arizona mercantile she inherited from her cousin. But Caleb Nelson is positive he inherited the mercantile, and he's not about to let some obstinate woman with newfangled ideas mess up all he's worked for. He's determined to get Melanie married off as soon as possible, and luckily there are plenty of single men in town quite interested in taking her off his hands.
The problem is, Caleb soon realizes he doesn't want her to marry up with any of them. He's drawn to Melanie more every day, and he has to admit some of her ideas for the store unexpectedly offer positive results.

But someone doesn't want the store to succeed, and what used to be just threatening words has escalated into deliberate destruction and lurkers in the night. When a body shows up on the mercantile steps--and the man obviously didn't die from natural causes--things really get dangerous. Can Melanie and Caleb's business--and romance--survive the trouble that's about to come their way?

REVIEW:  I’m thankful for the review copy of a book I enjoyed just as much as Carol Cox'es last one. This novel had everything I enjoy in a book well timed humor, suspense, thrilling in parts and a splash of romance.

I instantly connected with the lead female character Melanie. She’s a single woman, alone, with no family to protect her; but somehow she musters up the courage to go far away to claim what her cousin had left for her in his will. She was willing to start a new life as a partial store owner in a strange land.

I liked the leading man in this novel too! Caleb. He’s a single father of a very active, sweet boy; who finds himself curious about Melanie, which frustrates Caleb.

When Melanie and Caleb meet sparks fly – not the good kind. He wonders who Melanie Ross thinks she is. He’s done very well without her help running the store thank you very much. Then she shows him the letter from her cousin. He doesn't know what to think. She’s a feisty woman who speaks her mind. He wasn't used to that.

Melanie has many challenges to face besides those she has with Caleb. There’s a murder to solve and people to win over and a little boy who she’s getting attached to in spite of the fact that Caleb is his father.

Here’s a peek at Melanie and Caleb’s first meeting: “I want to see Alvin Melson,” Melanie insists.
Caleb: “I’m afraid that isn't possible.”

Irritated, Melanie replies, “Mr. Nelson, over the past 4 days, I have traveled by train, stage coach, and freight wagon…I did not go through all that just to be brushed off like some bothersome insect. Please get him immediately, or at least tell me where I can find him.”

Caleb, “I have every reason to believe that he is in heaven. Miss Ross…my uncle too passed away last month, leaving me sole charge.” There was no mention of Melanie's claim.

Caleb can’t help but notice the qualities of this fine lady. He had to stop looking at her. She was a lady. “A lady, to be sure, and an irritating one at that. One who didn't hesitate to stand her ground when she believed she was right, which seemed to be most of the time…”

I liked what the author said in her notes to the reader – “When Melanie arrived in Arizona, she already felt like her life had been turned upside down.  Becoming the proprietor of the mercantile she inherited from her cousin wasn't a turn she’d expected her life to take. Little did she know that God had even more surprises ahead!"

"I don’t know about you, but I often feel like Melanie did when life throws me a curve. I’d like to have things planned out well in advance and know exactly where I’m going and how to get there…but more often than not, it doesn't work out that way."

"What then? How are we supposed to react when the path we expected to follow turns out to be far different than the one God gives us?...No matter how wonderful I think my plans are, His are always so much better. And that’s where our happy ending truly lies – in trusting Him to know what’s best.”

I whole heartedly agree with Carol. I really enjoyed this story and her characters. It’s a fun read and would make a great book club pick. There’s a lot going on inside these pages. Love the cover too. It’s captivating!

This author's NEW BOOK is called Truth Be Told. I'll be checking that book out soon!

Nora St Laurent
TBCN Where Book Fun Begins www.bookfun.org
Book Fun Magazine www.bookfunmagazine.com
The Book Club Network blog www.psalm516.blogspot.com 

HALLOWED HALLS by HANNAH ALEXANDER REVIEWED


Hallowed Halls
By Hannah Alexander
Published by: Christian Writers Guild
ISBN#978-0-578-13707-0
269 Pages

Back Cover: When Dr. Joy Gilbert is fired from a lucrative job in the city by an employer who expected more than she cared to give him, she returns to her small hometown of Juliet, on the bank of the Missouri River. She arrives in the middle of the night, and her former employer's fifteen-year-old daughter, Tressa, pops out of the backseat, refusing to return home to divorced and broken parents. Minutes later Joy encounters Zack, who broke their engagement last year without a good explanation, and he's still very much single. When she finally arrives at her mother's house, it's to find Molly sick and broke, without electricity, as she cares for dozens of abandoned animals.

Deeply in debt from school loans and mortgage payments on a house in the city she never wanted, Joy must have a job, and the only position available in this town is working in the ER where Zack is the director. They must find a way to reconcile, and their work together becomes more vital when Tressa begins having unexplained fainting spells that grow worse over time.

Can Joy pull her life together and allow her wounds to heal as she tries to help the ones she loves? Can she face the secrets that come out as she and Zack fight Tressa's life-threatening illness? Come visit the charming town of Juliet, Missouri, where family and friends ensure no one ever feels alone, and heroes fight for the health and safety of those in need, in Book One of the Hallowed Halls Series, written by award winning author, Hannah Alexander
Fun Catching up with Hannah Alexander and Angela Hunt downtown Atlanta this summer

REVIEW: I’m thankful for a review copy that introduced me to Hannah Alexander and a fun, heartfelt story.  I instantly connected with Joy, the main character and how she is navigating a life she didn't expect to be living. Her whole life was turned upside-down when fiancé Dr. Zackary Travis broke their engagement for no apparent reason.

Joy then took a job out of state to get away from Zack and give her a break from her mother, Molly too. Things were going well at her new job until she decided to take a few probono clients at the pain clinic. It was something they had talked about her doing. The probono work; then the final straw for her boss was the fact she wouldn't give into any of his bosses sexual advances. She was serious about a medical career, she wanted nothing else! Joy’s Boss fires her when she refuses him one more time! 

More surprises unfold for Joy when she arrives at her mom’s house unannounced. Tressa – daughter of her x-boss pops out from behind the driver’s seat! Oh, wow, her xboss will blow a gasket about this development. She didn't look forward to making the call telling him about his daughter.

Joy's mother Molly works part time at the hospital says there’s an opening but she’ll have to talk to her x-fiancé Zack to get more information. Joy needs a job fast. she'll talk to Zack to secure employment. 

More difficult communications are held between Joy and Tressa's parents and then Tressa and her parents. Tressa's family were all hurting each other because of the divorce. Constantly fighting was not the way Tressa wanted to live. She needed a safe, peaceful, place and someone to talk to.

Tressa’s parents agree to let her stay the summer with Joy to give them time to work things out. Joy and Molly are excited about their summer until Tressa becomes sick. They start running tests, Joy seeks Zack’s help in discovering what’s going on with Tressa!

That’s when the fun begins! Zack and Joy find time to talk through their past hurts and see that they might have a hope for their future. Each struggles with their faith, God’s plan for their lives and the church.

Zack validates Joy, “You took a verbal beating when you left your old church…There are always tares among the wheat in this world. Don’t let the tares take over the church!...I know it’s hard, but don’t let the hypocrites steal the faith you have in God.”

I liked how this author naturally wove in the spiritual theme throughout this story! I liked how this author dealt with forgiveness of ourselves, how we extend it to others and forgiving the church. Unconditional love is hard to received and give away. The only one that can give this kind of love to us is God! 

This was a fun read with feisty characters I enjoyed. There are some surprises for readers too. I’m going to check out more books by this author.This is an enjoyable read and would make a good book club pick.

Nora St Laurent
TBCN Where Book Fun Begins www.bookfun.org
Book Fun Magazine www.bookfunmagazine.com
The Book Club Network blog www.psalm516.blogspot.com

CAUGHT IN THE MIDDLE BY REGINA JENNINGS REVIEWED



Caught in the Middle
By Regina Jennings
Published by Bethany House
201 Pages
ISBN#978-0-7641-0992-5

ABOUT BOOK: She Wants the Freedom of the Open Plains.
He Wants the Prestige of a Successful Career.
Neither is Ready for What Comes Instead.

The train to Garber, Texas, is supposed to bring life's next victory to Nicholas Lovelace. Instead, it gets held up by robbers who are thwarted by the last person Nick ever expected--Anne Tillerton from back home in Prairie Lea.

Anne's been hiding away as a buffalo hunter. She's only in town to find their runaway cook, but the woman flees--leaving Anne with her infant son. With Nick the only person Anne knows in town, the two form an unlikely team as they try to figure out what to do with the child.

But being in town means acting and dressing for polite society--and it's not going well for Anne. Meanwhile, Nick's work is bringing new pressures, and being seen with a rough-around-the-edges woman isn't helping his reputation. Caught between their own dreams, a deepening relationship, and others' expectations, can the pair find their way to love?

REVIEW: I’m thankful for a review copy of a book that drew me first by the book cover and the time period! The novel starts out in Sept 1883 Pushmataha Indian Territory and introduces readers to a thick skinned woman named Anne Tillerton. She’s a strong woman who dresses like a man and works as a buffalo hunter. She’s rough and tough.

While she’s on a mission to find their run away cook the train she’s riding is robbed. Anne’s angry.  She doesn’t sit idly and let these men take from innocent people. That’s when she runs into someone from her past. They have a chance to talk and catch up when their train gets to town. Anne blurts out to Mr. Lovelace, (the brother of a good friend) .…”Stop staring at me. I’m beginning to regret saving your hide.”

“Too late for regrets. You’re in my town and I can’t have you going around unprotected.” Mr. Lovelace points out.

“You’re going to protect me? You weren’t much help during the train hold up.” Anne reminds him.

Now Mr. Lovelace was annoyed. His arms crossed, “But you certainly appreciated my company afterwards.”

“Anne’s throat closed at the memory of her weakness. Shame on her for having one.”

Anne catches up with their runaway female cook and her little son, Sammy. Anne tells the cook to get a grip and be the mother her young son needed her to be. Sammy deserved that and more. This cook takes Anne’s advice and leaves little Sammy in her care, along with a note telling Anne she was right she didn’t make a good mother but she felt Anne did. She trusted Anne to do the right thing. She ended the note “thanks for taking care of Sammy.” Anne’s world is turned up-side down and inside out. She didn’t know anything about babies.

This emotionally charged story will pull at your heart strings as Anne is caught in the middle of a mess and with a delightful little boy named Sammy. She fights for what is right, learns to face her demons and challenge Mr. Lovelace’s faith. Anne has experienced a lot of life’s blows that would have killed others. But she’s managed to pick herself up and put one foot in front of the other, making it one day at a time with no help from God. Thank you very much.  Anne thought to herself, “Sometimes it wasn’t about winning or losing. Sometimes it was about living to fight another day.” That was her flight. No man would use her again. She would call the shots. That’s why she hid behind men’s clothes.

Anne says to Mr. Lovelace, “No wonder you find Christianity an easy stroll down a flower-lined path. You only obey if God asks you to do something you want! It does make sense now that you’ve explained it.”

Nick felt sick, “Why did Anne’s questions seem to distort his beliefs into something incredibly shallow and self –serving?”

Anne is starting to think and feel differently now that this little innocent man child, Sammy was in her life capturing her heart, cracking the hard shell she put round it. She was willing to fight for him and do whatever she had to be what he needed to make sure he had a proper childhood.

You’ll adore Sammy and Anne Tillerton and feel for Mr. Nick Lovelace as Anne really gets him thinking about life, his faith and so much more! I recommend this as a fun read and a book club pick. There is so much to talk about. This is the first book I’ve read by this author it won’t be the last!

Nora St Laurent
TBCN Where Book Fun Begins www.bookfun.org
The Book Club Network blog www.psalm516.blogspot.com
Book Fun Magazine www.bookfunmagazine.com

ASHES in the WIND by PEGGY LEVESQUE REVIEWED


Ashes in the Wind
By Peggy Levesque
Published by Elk Lake
ISBN#978-0-99030602-2-1
267 Pages

Back Cover: DEA Agent Greg Jennings is dead—and now they’re saying he was dirty, on the take. His widow, Sara, hiding out in the Witness Protection program after an attempt on her life, refuses to believe it, though everyone else seems to have accepted it as truth. Everyone, that is, except Drug Enforcement Administration Agent James (Mac) MacIntyre, Greg’s best friend. When yet another attempt on Sara’s life drives her out of the Wit Sec program and back home to Phoenix, Mac makes it his personal mission to protect Sara and, in the process, to clear her late husband’s and his best friend’s name. With a ruthless drug cartel hot on their heels and a mole in the agency undermining their every move, Mac and Sara find themselves literally running for their lives—even as romance tugs at their hearts. Will they unearth the truth and outrun the danger in time to carve out a future for themselves?

REVIEW: I’m thankful for the review copy of a book that took me on a suspenseful, heart-felt journey and introduced me to a new author. I was hooked from the start, “Numbness crept across Sara Jennings’ skin. Her breathing quickened, drawing in more of the pungent formaldehyde. She rubbed her palms – damp even in the chill of the autopsy room.”

Did that get your attention? I found myself reading this book every chance I could got. Main character Sara Jennings had to face the truth, her husband was murdered and no one knew who did it or why. Now the murderer was after her. Did they think she knew something? If they only knew how tight lipped Greg was and how strange he had been acting near the end, they'd realize she knew nothing.

Greg precinct seemed to think he was on the take because of his behavior! He may not have been acting like himself but deep; down she knew her man was a man of faith. He wouldn’t have done what they accused him of.

Mac, Greg’s best friend, had become very protective of Sara; he seemed to think he could protect her 24/7 but no one could do that not even Greg. She might actually have to enter the witness protection program as much as she hated the thought. Mac was really pushing her to seriously consider this option.

I liked learning about Sara and Greg’s relationship. It was sweet. I quickly connected with Sarah and could understand her fear. Sara and Mac tried to hide their feelings from one another. It had been two years since Greg was killed; but each of them felt they couldn't betray Greg and/or his memory! Would there ever be anything between them?

Selina is a little girl in the story I adored. She was the light shining in on a dark world. She was a preschooler who had an imaginary friend named Gabriel. Selina felt safe with Gabriel by her side. Selina loved Jesus with all of her heart. She listens intently as Mac explains a concept to her about Gabriel’s disappearance.

“Maybe Jesus lent Gabriel to you because he knew that, for a while, you needed some very special attention….Jesus could see what a big, brave girl you’ve become, and he didn’t think you needed Gabriel anymore. He probably thinks you’re ready to trust Him alone to feel safe?

Selina says, “I can’t see Jesus.”

Mac replies, “I see. Well, have you ever seen the wind?”

Selina giggled. “Silly. No one can."

“So does that mean the wind isn’t real? Even through you can’t see it.”

“Everybody knows that.” Selina smiled.

"How do you know?” Selina tilted her head, “Because I can feel it blow. And I can see leaves moving in the trees and when it’s really, really mad, it blows stuff all over.”

Mac grinned, “That’s like faith, Selina. You know God’s at work because you see what He does, even though you can’t see Him working. You trusted Gabriel because you could see Him right?”…What do you think, Selina?”

"…I think Jesus wants me to trust him.  Nana says pleasing Jesus is even more important than pleasing Mama!..."

I like how this author naturally weaves in the spiritual thread. This novel is filled with complex characters I quickly cared about and felt for their situations. This story had some surprising twists and turns. It’s filled with suspense, action drama and a hint of romance. It kept me turning pages until the wee hours of the night wanting to see where this author would take me next.

I highly recommend this as a fun read and on that would be great for discussions at book club. There is definitely a lot to talk about. This author is one to watch. I'll be checking out more of her books.

Nora St Laurent
TBCN Where Book Fun Begins www.bookfun.org
The Book Club Network Blog www.psalm516.blogspot.com
Book Fun Magazine www.bookfunmagazine.com

NEVER-ENDING NIGHT by TANYA STOWE REVIEWED


Never-Ending Night
By Tanya Stowe
Published by White Rose Publishing
ISBN#978-1-61116-2486
184 pages

Back Cover: On the eve of the Battle of Shiloh, Union soldier Tyler Sheridan has a premonition he is going to die. That night, he writes an epic anti-war poem called “Never-ending Night.” The next day, a cannonball explodes in front of him, but rather than walking through the gates of Heaven, Tyler steps into a modern-day Civil War reenactment. Confused by a world he can’t comprehend, Tyler has no choice but to rely on a beautiful and fascinating photojournalist for help.

As Stacy Sutton watches Tyler emerge from the rising smoke of faux cannon fire, she’s amazed by the authenticity of his uniform and demeanor—and then he claims to be from the nineteenth century, a mere delusion according to doctors. But Stacy’s not convinced Tyler is delusional and sees helping him as her second chance—an opportunity to atone for the death of her partner...and her past. As the mystery surrounding Tyler’s appearance deepens, it threatens any hope they have of a future together, and Stacy finds she must discover whether the man she loves is a traveler through time or a mad man lost in his own delusions.

REVIEW:  I’m thankful for a review copy of a book that introduced me to Tanya Stowe. I thoroughly enjoyed this novel. It reminded me of a movie called, “Kate and Leopold” starring Meg Ryan and Lu Jackman. The movie was about a man from a time in the past who travels to the future, not by his own doing. Kate hires Lu Jackman to be a butler in a butter commercial. He’s perfect for playing a person from the past. He’s so authentic.

This story starts with a Civil War re-enactment. All the players are ready. It’s the battle of Shiloh. Photo journalist, Stacy Sutton came to do the photo shoot for her brother’s paper. It's not her usual beat but she needed a break. Her assignment in Iraq about did her in. She’s learning to live with the loss of a close friend. Stacy picks up her camera and starts to shoot the battle being waged all around her.

A man emerges from the rising smoke. She’s amazed at what she sees through her lens. Its real, this man isn't acting. Then she looks closer and notices he’s hurt, bad. They rush him to the hospital. He has a bad concussion and lost a lot of blood. When the man wakes up he starts talking like someone from the 19th century; he thinks Tyler Sheridan a soldier from the past. He’s a man who has had a premonition he might die in the battle of Shiloh and wrote a poem titled, “Never-ending night.”

Doctors think he might be crazy. Stacy doesn't agree. Could Tyler be a time traveler? Or was he a mad man lost in his own delusion?

Jeff knew his sister Stacy was gifted at what she did. He told someone,” Her pictures would capture the feel, but not the horrors. No civilian causalities lying dead on the road side or starving in the streets. No smell of blood, or visuals of rotting flesh…of death. No heart breaking screams to wake her each night.” He knew she had all those pictures in her head. He knew his sister needed a break from that kind of action. She needed to heal! Jeff cared and was a great support. He thought this reenactment would be something to take her mind off things that happened in Iraq.

Stacy was drawn to T.R. Sheridan. She could sense they’d been thru different battles with the same end result. She had to help him, stay with him in the hospital…”Then maybe her friend’s death would stop playing like a movie in her head. Maybe then she would have some kind of peace.”

Tyler was a mystery she thinks about the man, “Tyler Sheridan had fought a war. Somewhere, somehow, pain and survival had etched themselves into his face…Somehow, as impossible and unbelievable as it was, he had stepped from a smoky battlefield of death into the future.”

This novel kept me up late, I was captivated by the drama. I couldn’t put it down. I loved the mystery and how I learned along with Stacy about Tyler Sheridan. This author got my attention from the first page. It was a powerful read and a great escape. I loved every minute of this fun, heartfelt, and suspenseful story. This book would make a great Book Club discussion. It's rich. This was the first novel I've read by this author it won’t be the last.

Nora St Laurent
TBCN Where Book Fun Begins www.bookfun.org
Book Fun Magazine www.psalm516.blogspot.com
The Book Club Network blog www.psalm516.blogspot.com

THE SINGING QUILT by KATHI MACIAS REVIEWED


The Singing Quilt
By Kathi Macias
Published by New Hope
ISBN#978-1596-693920
236 pages

Back Cover: Jolissa Montoya believes God is calling her to work with the disadvantaged children in her inner-city neighborhood. There’s only one problem: The children wouldn’t be able to understand her. Jolissa suffers from a speech impediment and has a thick accent because Spanish is her first language. Ridiculed through much of her youth, she is quite shy and reticent to speak. She is convinced that what God has spoken to her heart is impossible. Impossible, that is, until one day when her confidante shows her a quilt—a quilt that depicts the life of a courageous woman. Can another woman’s courage move her to try the impossible and step out and follow God wherever He leads her?

The Singing Quilt is set against the backdrop of the life of Fanny Crosby, who in addition to writing hundreds of songs was also a well-known public speaker and active in Christian rescue missions despite her disability. Readers will be inspired not to let fear or a disability prevent them from answering what they think is God’s impossible call.

The Singing Quilt is the third book in the contemporary fiction “Quilt” series written by award-winning author Kathi Macias. The series focuses on various social issues, including racial and pro-life issues. Supplemental online book club materials will be available at NewHopeDigital.com.

Kathi Macais & I at Christy Awards this summer

About the Author: Multiple award-winning author Kathi Macias’s nearly 35 books include this “Quilt” series, the award-winning “Freedom” series, and the “Extreme Devotion” novels for New Hope Publishers. Her devotionals reach hundreds of thousands—through the Christian Civic League, Black Christian News, Latino Christian News, Christians in Recovery, and crosswalk.com. The Excellence in Media Angel Award, San Diego Christian Writers Guild fiction awards, Golden Scroll Novel of the Year (Red Ink), Carol Award finalist (Red Ink), 2011 Author of the Year for BooksandAuthors.net, and an international writing contest grand prize are some of her credits. A popular speaker for women’s retreats, conferences, churches, and TV and radio programs, Kathi also loves outreach to prison and homeless ministries, and praying for and aiding the persecuted church globally. A mother and grandmother, Kathi lives with husband, Al, in California.

REVIEW: I’m thankful for the review copy of another powerful novel written by an author I admire and have learned so much from. Adopted grandmother type character named Eva takes main character, Jolissa Montaya under her wing. Eva feels lead to share her treasured quilt and the meaning behind each of the quilt squares her special quilt called The Singing Quilt. Eva shares Fanny’s story through the different squares; each tale a memorable event in Fanny's life.

The hearts of Jolissa and Eva and the life of Fanny Crosby, are joined as one in their faith, hope and love God pours out to them as this story unfolds. This author highlights Fanny Crosby; a courageous, pioneering woman who was an active public speaker, mission worker and song writer in spite of her disabilities. I had heard of the name but knew nothing about this astonishing blind woman’s achievements. Her disability never prevented her from letting God do the impossible in her life. She impacted so many.
  
I was surprised at all the powerful songs this brilliant woman wrote. One of them was called, “To God be the Glory.” The author told a fun story behind this one. The song was written by Fanny but was made popular many years later. Someone played it for George Beverly Shaw who was with the Billy Graham crusade. In 1955 he introduced it with the choir at a crusade in Toronto. It became an immediate hit. Amazing!

Jolissa was encouraged and amazed by Fanny’s life. Tragedy struck Jolissa’s life early just like Fanny. After her parents death Jolissa is left with an Uncle who didn't like children and had given her emotional beatings since he took her in. She’s now in her early 20’s and feels trapped and afraid. Hope seeps into her heart as she listens to her adopted grandmother, Eva shares Fanny Crosby’s testimony; for the first time Jolissa sees hope in her future. I got choked up as Eva watched Jolissa start to believe what God said about her and started to receive His love into her heart. When we get a grasp of God’s unconditional love for us it’s a game changer. We are no longer victims of our circumstances. The enemy means things to destroy us but God uses all of our experiences for His glory, our good and that of others. This message shines through Jolissa and this book.

This novel is easy to read, encouraging and one you won’t want to miss. I recommend this as a great read for book club. There is so much for readers to discover and discuss.

Nora St.Laurent
TBCN Where Book Fun Begins! www.bookfun.org  
Book Fun Magazine www.bookfunmagazine.com  
The Book Club Network blog www.psalm516.blogspot.com  

DAWNLIGHT by KACY BARNETT-GRAMCKOW REVIEWED


Dawnlight
By Kacy Barnett-Gramckaw
Published by Elk Lake
ISBN#978-0-9903062-1-4
240 pages

Back Cover: Inspired by the mysterious events of Matthew 27:52-53: Amid first-century Jerusalem's political and religious unrest, Elisheba loses her beloved husband, Joseph. Though she is mourning, Elisheba must fight to protect herself and her young son from the schemes and deceptions of others who wish to control her fortune and her future. While Elisheba defies her enemies, her husband's closest friends must decide what they believe—and risk death. When another tragedy strikes, an impossible miracle shakes their lives—and their world is forever changed...at Dawnlight.

REVIEW: I’m thankful for the review copy of a book that had me look at Matt 27:52-53 with fresh eyes. This author does a brilliant job of illuminating the mysterious event described in this passage. “…and the tombs were opened and many bodies of the righteous who had fallen asleep were brought to life again, and after His resurrection they went into Jerusalem and appeared too many people.”

This is the first novel I’ve read by this author. It won’t be the last. I enjoyed her imagination, creativity and writing style. The story grabbed my heart as it opens up with family time between parents and child. Joseph, Elisheba and their four year old son, Benjamin are laughing and enjoying this special time. They are both followers of Rabbi Yeshea-Master Iesous (Jesus). The author reveals the horror followers felt after they hear the news about John the Baptist being beheaded. They feared for their own lives and that of Yeshua. If Jerusalem was no longer safe where would they go? Was there a hiding place?

I instantly connected with Elisheba and her situation. I was captivated by all that was happening.I liked that this story was told through Elisheba’s eyes. It gave a different feel and perspective on how followers felt about Jesus’s ministry.  I liked how this author wrote this novel in a panoramic sort of way: for example take the event of John the Baptists’ beheading. The author gives readers a peek at several different people in all walks of life and how they all dealt with the news.

I felt part of the community standing by watching others react to the news of the disciples and of Yeshua – Jesus. I couldn’t put this novel down. It caused me to go re-read scripture. It is gripping, thought-provoking and suspenseful. I highly recommend this novel as a great read and one that would be wonderful for book clubs. This is a rich story, one you may never forget. It’s a must read!


Nora St Laurent
TBCN Where Book Fun Begins www.bookfun.org
Book Fun Magazine www.bookfunmagazine.com
The Book Club Network www.psalm516.blogspot.com

MIRACLE in a DRY SEASON by SARAH LOUDIN THOMAS REVIEWED


ABOUT AUTHOR: Sarah Loudin Thomas grew up on a 100-acre farm in French Creek, WV, the seventh generation to live there. Her Christian fiction is set in West Virginia and celebrates the people, the land, and the heritage of Appalachia. Her first novel, Miracle in a Dry Season, releases August 2014 through Bethany House. Sarah is represented by Wendy Lawton of Books & Such Literary Agency.
A graduate of Coastal Carolina University in Conway, SC, Sarah once dreamed of being a marine scientist. But her love for words won out and she has spent much of her career in public relations and marketing. She currently oversees fundraising and communications for a Christian children’s home in Black Mountain, NC.
Sarah and her husband Jim live in the mountains of Western North Carolina with Thistle–the canine equivalent to a personal trainer pushing them to hike, run, and throw sticks. Sarah is active in her local church and enjoys cooking and–you guessed it–reading.




Miracle in a Dry Season
By Sarah Loudin Thomas
Published by Bethany House
ISBN#978-0-7642-1225-3
300 Pages

Back Cover: In a Drought, It's the Darkest Cloud
That Brings Hope


It's 1954 and Perla Long's arrival in the sleepy town of Wise, West Virginia, was supposed to go unnoticed. She just wants a quiet, safe place for her and her daughter, Sadie, where the
mistakes of her past can stay hidden. But then drought comes to Wise, and Perla is pulled into the turmoil of a town desperately in need of a miracle.

Casewell Phillips has resigned himself to life as a bachelor . . . until he meets Perla. She's everything he's sought in a woman, but he can't get past the sense that she's hiding something. As the drought worsens, Perla's unique gift divides the town in two, bringing both gratitude and condemnation, and placing the pair in the middle of a storm of anger and forgiveness, fear and faith.

REVIEW: I’m thankful for the review copy of a book that introduced me to Sarah Loudin Thomas and her debut novel. I instantly connected with her larger than life characters and couldn’t stop reading this story about a small town facing a severe drought.

Casewell is a single man who owned his own business. He liked working with wood, making furniture, woodcarving and working on his father’s farm. The drought brought back memories of the great depression for many…”Casewell remembers having little more than corn bread and milk for dinner and seeing the hard looks on his parents’ face.” Now he saw that same look on the people in his community.

There’s someone new in this small community called Wise. Her name is Perla. She and her young daughter have come to live with relatives. People want to blame their problems on her. She's new and an unwed mother. Not a winning combinations as far as the people in Wise are concerned.

“Judge not, that ye be not judged” Gossip does a number on the people who live in Wise. The meaning of this scripture comes to a head when the judging comes from the Pastor. Someone you should be able to trust. (not in Wise).

Casewell meets Perla and her beautiful, fun loving daughter. He tries to keep to himself but He doesn't like how people are treating this precious little girl and her mom, who just happens to be the most beautiful women he's ever met.

Big or small it’s all sin. The author drives home themes of forgiveness in a powerful non-preachy way. Casewell says this when it’s his time to say something at church, “That’s how God does us. He’ll forgive us anything – all we have to do is ask Him. I know I've had to ask Him for plenty of forgiveness here lately. He doesn't hold it over me. He doesn't carry a grudge, and I don’t think He even remembers what I needed forgiveness for. All He asks is that I forgive other people the way He’s forgiven me.”

Casewell smiled, “I know. Easier said than done. Somehow other people’s sins seems to look worse than mine…But in God’s eyes sin is sin, whether it’s murder or telling a little white lie. We all need forgiveness just the same…and we need to dish out forgiveness just as quick as we dish out judgment and condemnation. Jesus made it pretty clear that God’s forgiveness depends on our forgiving one another.”

This novel is mainly written in Casewell’s pov. The writing style and flow of the story reminded me of the movie Forest Gump. There was the narration in first person and then you had live action. This is a thought-provoking read that would be a great book club pick. There are discussion questions in the back that will help generate lively discussion.

I liked this cast of flawed quirky characters living through challenging times. It’s a heart-felt, novel that will grab your attention, get your blood boiling at the Pastor and how crazy people became as the drought worsened. Your heart will hurt for Perla and her young daughter. These characters will stay in your heart and mind long after you close the book.

Nora St Laurent
TBCN Where Book Fun Begins www.boofun.org 
Book Fun Magazine www.bookfunmagazine.com   
The Book Club Network Blog www.psalm516.blogspot.com
  
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Sarah & I at the ICRS in Atlanta this Summer

Nora St Laurent
TBCN Where Book Fun Begins www.boofun.org 
Book Fun Magazine www.bookfunmagazine.com   
The Book Club Network Blog www.psalm516.blogspot.com    

THE BELOVED DAUGHTER by ALANA TERRY REVIEWED



The Beloved Daughter
By Alana Terry
Published by Amazon Digital Services
ISBN#B00C8T1SN4
232 pages

About Author: When Alana isn't writing, it's likely that she's on the floor wrestling with her kids. Or playing outside with her kids. Or chauffeuring her kids. Or trying some random science experiment with her kids. But she's probably not cooking or cleaning.

Alana is a homeschooling mother of three who loves to write, hates to cook, and enjoys reading a good book almost as much as she enjoys writing one.

Alana won the Women of Faith writing contest for "The Beloved Daughter," her debut inspirational novel. "What, No Sushi?" is Alana's first book in a chapter-book series for kids published by Do Life Right, Inc.

REVIEW: I’m thankful for the review copy of a book that introduced me to Alana Terry and her compelling novel that read like a non-fiction book. The style format of a memoir to a beloved daughter was engaging. Since it was written in a first person perspective I felt as if I were standing by Chung-Cha’s side as she was tortured by guards in Camp 22. I couldn’t put this book down.

Chung-cha’s world changed the instant the soldiers showed up at her house. Her only crime was being the daughter of a Christian. Here’s a peek at what the soldiers said to her father, “Answer me now, you filthy Christian pig.” Pock-Marks was wheezing even as he sneered at father. “Will you let your daughter suffer for the sake of this precious religion?”

“Out of the corner of my eye, I saw father set his jaw. “My daughter and I do not cower in fear of those who can harm the body but can not kill the soul,” he proclaimed.

“For a moment, my fear was replaced by anger toward father and toward the God he served so faithfully, but of who seemed so powerless at the moment to intervene on my behalf…I was about to be murdered.”

This was difficult eye opening, meaningful read; as it gives readers a glimpse into the life of a persecuted Christian; specifically the horrifying plight of the North Korean people. This author paints a sobering look at flawed characters walking out their faith in terrifying circumstances. Main character Chun-cha was too young to understand all her father did for the underground church. She didn’t share her father’s faith. She wondered what the purpose was of all this suffering for your faith? Can the unspeakable be forgive? Will faith sustain even when it seems God has forsaken his people?

“Chung-cha recalls, “When I was 12, you see, my father’s faith was strong that it seemed completely unattainable. I could never be as steadfast as my father…. I’m not God! I clenched my fists…just because my life in Sanhe is hard and dangerous doesn’t mean God doesn’t want me here.”

“If your truly where God wants you to be, then you could at least try to be joyful.” Kwan retorted.”

This novel is not for the faint of heart. This author delivers gritty details of life in North Korean prison camps thru Chung-cha’s young eyes. They are heart wrenching vivid images of the terror, deprivation and humiliation prisoners endured day after day.

These characters and their situation will stir your soul, break your heart, challenge your faith and show you that God moves in all situations in spite of what the evil one is doing. God is still in the miracle business even in prison (it reminded me of the things (told in the bible) that happened to the Apostles in prison).

The underground church is flourishing in spite of the enemy’s attempts to wipe out Christians. It’s a word picture of how faith triumphs in the most hellish conditions. This made me think of how precious "Freedom" is. I don’t often Thank God enough for this precious gift. I never have to worry about being imprisoned and/or shot for reading my bible, going to church or having a bible study in my home.

The Beloved Daughter is a thought-provoking read that will stir your spirit, give you a deeper understanding of North Korea’s current situation and make you want to pray for them more. This is a story of faith, loss, God’s redemption, sacrifice and miracles. I highly recommend this novel for book clubs. There will be lively discussions guaranteed. It’s a book that will leave you changed.

Nora St Laurent
TBCN Where Book Fun Begins www.bookfun.org
Book Fun Magazine www.bookfunmagazine.com
The Book Club Network Blog www.psalm516.blogspot.com

DRIFTWOOD TIDES by GINA HOLMES REVIEWED




Driftwood Tides
By Gina Holmes
Published by Tyndale
ISBN 978-1414366425
400 Pages

Back Cover: He made himself an island until something unexpected washed ashore.
When Holton lost his wife, Adele, in a freak accident, he shut himself off from the world, living a life of seclusion, making driftwood sculptures and drowning his pain in gin. Until twenty-three-year-old Libby knocks on his door, asking for a job and claiming to be a friend of his late wife. When he discovers Libby is actually his late wife’s illegitimate daughter, given up for adoption without his knowledge, his life is turned upside down as he struggles to accept that the wife he’d given saint status to was not the woman he thought he knew.

Together Holton and Libby form an unlikely bond as the two struggle to learn the identity of Libby’s father and the truth about Adele, themselves, and each other.

REVIEW: I’m thankful for a review copy of a book that talks about second chances; from an author I enjoy reading.

Holton Creary, renowned driftwood artist losses his wife, Adele in a freak accident. When she kissed him good-bye that morning little did he know it would be their last embrace. “It wasn’t an hour after Holton had handed her a travel mug of coffee and kissed her through the open car window when a squad car pulled up in front of the house. The moment the policeman took off his hat and slid it under his arm, Holton knew…Adele was gone.”

“Holton was so stunned that his heart froze, unable to respond. Before that could change, he drove to the nearest liquor store and bought the biggest bottle of gin he could find.”

Libby and her fiancé, Rob had their blood tested (before the wedding) to see if either of them were carriers for Cystic Fibrosis, “the disease that had taken the life of Rob’s younger sister.” The results had great and mysterious news. The great news was neither of them were carriers for the disease. Surprising news was her blood type was A positive. Weird. “Both of her parents had O blood types,…two 0s don’t produce an A child. It had to be an error!”

This information sends Libby digging for answers and eventually leads her to the front door of Holton Creary, world renowned artist, widow. A man resolved to live a life of seclusion. “Someone Libby found drinking away his pain on the Outer Banks in North Carolina... A knock on Holton’s door changes everything for them both.” They struggle to find answers to their mounting questions about Adele. Both are surprised the blood test results and what they meant.

Rob, Libby’s fiancé is patient with her to a point. He didn’t’ understand why this search had to be done now. They had a wedding to plan. Time was ticking. Libby’s mom Caroline was the controlling type and they were slowly losing control of their special day each day Libby was away!

Holton thought to himself, “Adele had been the love of his life, but maybe true love wasn't a one-time shot. Maybe like this branch – turned – driftwood, hearts could be re-purposed.”

Both Libby and Holton learn, “If we want to be forgiven, we have to forgive.”

Gina Holmes pens a heartwarming story with complex believable characters I instantly cared for. This is a story of forgiveness and a one of new beginnings. This author also talks about giving God control of you life by surrendering it all to Him. (Easier said than done!) It’s a process that requires you taking one step at a time. "Accepting the things I can not change, the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference." I liked this encouraging novel with it's forgiveness and new beginning themes! This makes for a good read and a lively discussion for a book club pick.

RELEASE DATE of Gina Holmes NEW book SEPT 1, 2014 - you can Pre-Order it now!
 
http://www.deepershopping.com/item/holmes-gina/driftwood-tides-a-novel/6151429.html
Gina Holmes & Ane Mulligan & myself March 2014 at a Book Event
Nora St Laurent
TBCN Where book Fun Begins www.bookfun.org
The Book Club Network Blog www.psalm516.blogspot.com

Book Fun Magazine www.bookfunmagazine.com