Wednesday, July 25, 2012

House of Mercy by Erin Healy

When Beth’s world falls apart, can she ever be whole again?

Beth has a gift of healing—which is why she wants to become a vet and help her family run their fifth-generation cattle ranch. Her father’s dream of helping men in trouble and giving them a second chance is her dream too. But it only takes one foolish decision for Beth to destroy it all.

Beth scrambles to redeem her mistake, pleading with God for help, even as a mystery complicates her life. But the repercussions grow more unbearable—a lawsuit, a death, a divided family, and the looming loss of everything she cares about. Beth’s only hope is to find the grandfather she never knew and beg for his help. Confused, grieving, but determined to make amends, she embarks on a horseback journey across the mountains, guided by a wild, unpredictable wolf who may or may not be real.

Set in the stunningly rugged terrain of Southern Colorado, House of Mercy follows Beth through the valley of the shadow of death into the unfathomable miracles of God’s goodness and mercy.

House of Mercy by Erin Healy was a captivating read that really captured need we have for God's mercy and grace and how He gives it to us freely, even when we run from His love. The plot line flowed well and filled with moments of sorrow, joy, tribulation, and hope. The novel was interesting and kept me glued to the pages. The literal yet symbolic nature of many of the scenes in House of Mercy were intriguing and helped drive home the points Erin was making in her novel. House of Mercy was certainly a unique novel. There were many instances that seemed very unrealistic and maybe even crazy, but they all flowed together to create a powerful story that revealed what true love, mercy and acceptance are. I would have liked if there had been some mention of Jesus in the story. God was mentioned often, but some times in a more mystical light than what is reflected through the Bible. I think that mentioning at some point any character's belief in Christ as God's ultimate gift of mercy would have added to the story. I have read all of Erin Healy's novels, and I really enjoy her choices of both description and language.

The character development in House of Mercy was excellent as well. Beth was a deep and interesting character, filled with both strengths and weaknesses.  I did not really like Beth at first as she was immature and not concerned for how her actions would affect her family and those she loved. I enjoyed seeing her growth as a person as she traveled and experienced the mercy and love of her Heavenly Father. The other characters were individual and captivating as well. One of the antagonists in the plot had a very unique psyche, and it was horrifyingly interesting to see her thought processes and to watch her actions. The men who worked on the ranch were exciting and filled with surprises themselves. I was happy to see a surprising romance even develop in the midst of the pain and uncertainty.
Overall, I really enjoyed this novel. Its plot, tone, language, and character development were all created well and helped me experience House of Mercy to the fullest. The book ended in a very satisfying if not tantalizing manner. I wonder if there might be a sequel .....  if not, I will have to simply let my imagination run free in imagining what awaits for the characters.

I received this novel for free from Thomas Nelson Publishers through Booksneeze in exchange for an honest review.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

God on the Streets of Gotham by Paul Asay

What do God and the Caped Crusader have in common? While Batman is a secular superhero patrolling the fictional streets of Gotham City, the Caped Crusader is one whose story creates multiple opportunities for believers to talk about the redemptive spiritual truths of Christianity. While the book touches on Batman’s many incarnations over the last 70 years in print, on television, and at the local Cineplex for the enjoyment of Batman fans everywhere, it primarily focuses on Christopher Nolan’s two wildly popular and critically acclaimed movies—movies that not only introduced a new generation to a darker Batman, but are also loaded with spiritual meaning and redemptive metaphors.

As many Americans wait eagerly for the third Christopher Nolan Batman film to premiere tomorrow at midnight, Paul Asay digs deeper into the story of Batman to find hidden truths that show, whether through Batman's dissimilarities or similarities, some of the characteristics of Jesus, God, and the Gospel. In an intriguing twist to many theological books, Asay digs into Batman: Past, Present, Future through ten unique chapters. The first chapter, Masked, reveals Batman's two sided nature and how it came about through his unfortunate circumstances as a child. The second, Marked, shows how Batman and his city of Gotham are marked by suffering and sin just as we are before we are redeemed by God. The third chapter, Nemesis, looks at the enemies of Batman and how there is evil lurking in everyone of us. Paul Asay continues to pull from the story of Batman for the following seven chapters.

I thought that God on the Streets of Gotham was an interesting idea. However, I was not excited by the implementation throughout the book. Asay is a person who seems to value Batman too much and often tries to string together comparisons between Biblical truth and Batman where none exist. I often struggled to understand the author's logic, and many times his theology seemed lacking. In Chapter 3, for example, at one point the author says, "We know there are two sides to the coin: one scarred and burned, the other reflecting God's perfect light. We know that each of us holds the coin in our souls. ...It's not chance that determines which side we show;...we choose what we'll show the world: our own sinful natures, or a perfect, pure light, not of ourselves, but reflected in ourselves, a light we can't take credit for but can embrace all the same. reflect the light we must first find it." Even here, some of this is true...we are sinners, we have some choice to live in sin or live for God. However, the way author says we ALL have light in us and to have the light you just just have to find it seems to parallel a more eastern ideal than christian ideal.

Overall, I thought the idea of comparing Batman to biblical ideas was clever and potentially very interesting, but I found that I struggled to connect with the book and see the same truths that author did. I was also uncomfortable with many of the author's assertions about God and truth as they did not always seem to have a clear foundation in the Bible. However, I will admit that Batman and Gotham do clearly show the sinful and fallen nature of man, and Paul Asay clearly demonstrates this in his book which I was glad to see. I believe that this book could certainly lead to some interesting discussions, I would just recommend reading it slowly and taking time to analyze the points being made.

I received this book for free from in exchange for an honest review.

Love in Disguise by Carol Cox

"Cox has fleshed out a fascinating cast of characters that move readers through a novel that dispenses romance and wit in the intriguing context of a Wild West mystery. A most delightful and engaging read."
—Publishers Weekly

"Cox does a wonderful job of combining historical details, romance, and suspense. Though Cox’s latest has moments of humor, it will still appeal to fans of Dee Henderson for the suspense aspect."
—Library Journal

Jobless and down to her last dime, former  actress' assistant Ellie Moore hears about a position with the Pinkerton Detective Agency and believes it's the perfect change to put her acting skills and costumes to use. Reluctantly, the agency agrees to give her one assignment, one chance to prove herself. Disguised as Lavinia Stewart, a middle-aged widow, Ellie travels to Arizona to begin her investigation of a series of robberies.

Mine owner Steven Pierce is going to lose his business if her cannot figure out who is stealing his silver shipments. In his wildest dreams, he never expected to receive help from a gray-haired widow...or to fall in love with her beautiful niece.

Then the thieves come after Lavinia and her niece. Ellie is not safe....despite her acting skills. Should she give up and reveal her true identity? Or can she solve the crime before they uncover who she really is....or before they silence her for good?

Love in Disguise by Carol Cox was an excellent and enjoyable novel that was captivatingly full of romance, humor, mystery, and suspense. Set in the 1880's in Arizona, the novel spun a convincing tale of intrigue and  featured everyone's favorite...a female detective/actress. The plot line of this novel was excellently written and flowed well from one scene to the next. The story was perfectly balanced with suspense, unexpected twists, humor, and romance. The tone of the novel fit the time period, and I enjoyed the author's use of description and language.

The characters were also developed well and very enjoyable. I loved Ellie Moore. The author allowed the reader to really experience Ellie's thoughts and her feelings, and sometimes it was hilarious to see what Ellie was thinking. I was also very intrigued by her balancing of all her characters that she was playing and her personality changes for every one. Her character growth was also admirable to see. I liked seeing her turn back to the Bible and to the love of God. I was not as fond of Stephen Pierce as Ellie. He seemed to have little to no faults which made him very static and unrelatable to the reader. I personally liked one of the other Pinkerton agents better than Stephen even though the fellow was only in a couple of chapters.

Overall, I really enjoyed Love in Disguise. The plot was full of twists, humor, and suspense, Ellie was an incredibly interesting character, and the tone and setting fit the novel well. I highly recommend this novel.

I received this novel for free from Bethany House Publishers in exchange for an honest review.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Coming Home by Karen Kingsbury

"The Baxters make plans to come together for a summer lakeside reunion, a celebration like they haven't had in years. But before the big day, the unthinkable happens. As the Baxter Family rallies together, memories come to light in the grief-stricken hours of waiting and praying, memories that bring healing and hope during a time when otherwise darkness might have the final word. In a season that changes all of them, the brilliance of family love overshadows even the valley of heartache as the Baxters draw closer to God and each other. "
Coming Home by Karen Kingsbury is supposed to be both a conclusion to the Baxter family and all of the series surrounding them (Redemption Series, Firstborn Series, Sunrise Series, Above the Line Series, and Bailey Flannigan Series) as well as serve as an introduction to new readers before they dive in to the above series. However, if I read this novel before I read any of the other series, I would not pick up a single one of those books. Coming Home simply rehashed EVERYTHING that happened in all of the other Baxter series. If I had read Coming Home first, there would have been no point in reading any of her other series because I would have already known about all of the twists, tragedies, and love stories that occurred. Any suspense would have been gone. As it was, half of Coming Home was a condensed version of every other novel concerning the Baxter family, and half was spent over a pointless tragedy. The tragedy made me cry, certainly, but the grief in the Baxter family was non-existent and what was there was extremely fake. The novel was simply too short to cover the subject properly.
If Coming Home was the first Baxter book that a reader read, the characters would have seemed fake, insincere, emotionally dry, and too ''Christian'' to be real. Even though I have read all of the other Baxter books, the connection to the characters in Coming Home was hard to establish. If any readers read Coming Home before picking up the other Baxter books, PLEASE do not think that the characters are like that in all of the other novels. For the most part, as is partially glimpsed in Coming Home, the Baxters are very realistic characters, having marital struggles, sexual temptations, struggles with grief and addiction, and runaway from God.
Overall, I was disappointed with this book as both a conclusion and beginning to the Baxter family. If you are new to the Baxter family, PLEASE start with the Redemption series instead. It is the first series, and is by far the best.
I received an eBook copy of this novel for free from in exchange for an honest review.

Orphan King by Sigmund Brouwer

The Future of the Immortals is in the hands of an orphan.

"My greatest fear was that they would find us and make of us a sacrifice beneath a full moon. How you, Thomas, must help us destroy the circle of evil."

The last words of his dying mother would completely change the life of young Thomas. Raised behind monastery walls, he know nothing of his mysterious past or fulfilling his imminent destiny. But now, in the heart of medieval England, a darkness threatens to strangle truth. An ancient order tightens their ghostly grip on power, creating fear and exiling those who would oppose them. Determined to defeat these mysterious enemies, Thomas leaves the monastery on an important quest.

He quickly finds himself in unfamiliar territory, as he must put his faith in unusual companions - a cryptic knight, a child thief, and the beautiful silent woman who may not be all she seems. From the solitary life of an orphan, Thomas now finds himself tangled in the roots of both camaraderie and betrayal.

Can he trust those who would join his quest....or will his fears force him to go on alone?

I have read most of Sigmund Brouwer's books, and I have enjoyed almost all of them immensely. However, the Orphan King fell flat for me and did not meet the expectations I have for a Sigmund Brouwer novel. The plot line was interesting, but I did not like the pace, nor the way the author revealed unknown information. The book was too short at only 200 pages, so the storyline felt as if it was crammed into a very short space. There were also times when the story moved too slow, and there were also important aspects of the story that were skimmed over. The novel almost felt as if it squished together and watered down to make it a young adult novel, and the worth of the story suffered as a result. There were parts of the storyline that I enjoyed, but as a whole the plot did not flow well. At the end of the novel there were still many aspects of the plotline that were still in the dark, which left me confused about many of the connections the author was trying to make. While a few strings left untied to be solved in a sequel is a good thing, I felt like I was tangled in a mess of strings.

The characters were decently developed, considering the length of the novel. Most of the characters were left in shadow and mystery even at the end, so I still had little information about them. Thomas was the only character with any real development. The rest of the supporting characters were static and one dimensional. I hope that the next book in the Merlin's Immortals series reveals more about these characters.

Overall, Orphan King was only an alright book. The plot was interesting but confusing and too short to explain anything. The characters had very little to no development. I will read the next book in Merlin's Immortals series in order to clear up the mess the first one left, but only for that. If anyone is interested in reading a novel by Sigmund Brouwer, this is not the first one I would recommend. The Sam Keaton: Legends of Laramie and the Nick Barrett Mystery series are both excellent series that Sigmund Brouwer has written.

I received this novel for free from Waterbrook Multnomah Press in exchange for an honest review.

Monday, July 9, 2012

The Bride Wore Blue by Mona Hodgson

Headed toward a fresh start but tethered by her past, Vivian longs to break free, to find forgiveness and love.
The youngest Sinclair, the family“ baby”, is moving from Maine to Cripple Creek, Colorado and joining Kat, Nell, and Ida, her three older sisters. But Vivian is a young woman with a will of her own, and made some decisions back in Portland that have begun to haunt her. Will she be able to live up to the expectations of her three 'perfect' and now happily-settled sisters?

The sisters warmly welcome Vivian to the mountain west, but the wild-and-woolly mining town isn’t ripe with opportunities for a respectable young woman. The youngest Sinclair sister is determined to make her own way, so when she’s offered a job as a hostess in a sporting house, she takes it, thinking the position is appropriate for a tainted, unlovable woman like herself. Although she’s convinced she’ll never be asked to entertain privately, Vivian keeps her employment a secret from her sisters, knowing they’d be mortified—as will Carter Alwyn, the kind and godly sheriff ’s deputy who’s sweet on her.

Vivian is descending into a life of secrets, lying to the very people who love her and could help her heal from her mistakes. Will an outpouring of grace remind her that she is still God’s beloved and that her past can be washed as clean as Rocky Mountain snow?

The Bride Wore Blue by Mona Hodgson was an interesting and convicting novel about a sinful woman who learns that God offers forgiveness and acceptance to those who turn to Him and away from sin. The Bride Wore Blue is the third book in the Sinclair Sisters of Cripple Creek series. While I did not read the first two books in the series, the novel was written so that I was able to quickly connect with the characters and enjoy the story. The plot line was well written and had a couple surprising occurrences that added to the suspense and excitement of the story. The tone of the novel varied, and the author clearly showed the thoughts and feelings of the two main characters, Vivian and Carter.

The characters of the story were fairly well developed and engaging. I liked Carter Alwyn. At times I thought he was too perfect, but I enjoyed seeing his growth and his confessions of hypocrisy and making some sins worse than others. Vivian was an interesting young woman. I liked her independence and boldness, but I was saddened to see her choices in life. I was pleased to see her growth as well and her realization of God's love and forgiveness. As Vivian realized, "when faith should have sustained her and sent her into God's arms, she's wallowed in self-pity and turned to Gregory. Now she knew the difference between a superficial man and a man of deep faith and integrity. Her transgressions and the wrenching heartache that followed had readied her heart to receive God's grace." [The Bride Wore Blue, Kindle location 3240].

Overall, I enjoyed The Bride Wore Blue, I cannot wait to read the first two novels and the fourth novel in the The Sinclair Sisters of Cripple Creek series. I highly recommend this series for an quick yet enjoyable read.

I received this eBook for free from Waterbrook Multnomah Press in exchange for an honest review.

Godforsaken by Dinesh D'Souza

First Chapter click here
For a lot of people, the biggest question about God is not, surprisingly enough, whether he exists. Instead, it is about whether God is truly good. Dinesh D'Souza, in his debates with leading atheists, quickly realized that many of those debates revolved around the question of evil in this world—how God could create a world that allowed such suffering and evil. In Godforsaken, Dinesh D'Souza takes these questions head on: Does God act like a tyrant? Is God really responsible for the evil in this world? Why is there suffering in the world? For the first time ever, Dinesh D'Souza approaches this topic with historical and scientific proof and presents to the reader why God is truly worthy of our worship and love.

Godforsaken was a carefully researched book that really spoke to both the intellectual and emotional side of any person, Christian or otherwise. Dinesh D'Souza broke his book into six parts. The first part is an introduction to the reality of suffering in this world and how all people groups everywhere at some point both experience and struggle with suffering and evil. The second part quickly yet thoroughly analyzes the typical Christian and atheist both approach the conundrum of how a good God can exist and yet the reality that there is evil and suffering in this world. This part also shows how each Christian and atheist argument is flawed and cannot truly satisfy people's questions about evil and suffering. The third part addresses the moral evils that exist in this world as pertains to both people's free will, God's sovereignty, and the consequences of a fallen world. The fourth part of Godforsaken looks at the crimes that occur in nature and how those relate to the power and character of God. The fifth part deeply analyzes the character of God and how the evil and suffering in the world do not contradict the characteristics of God or lead to the conclusion that a loving God does not exist. Finally, the book concludes in the sixth part by emphasizing that we are not godforsaken, but rather, loved and ultimately saved by the God of mercy and grace.

Godforsaken is written in a way that is both enjoyable and stimulating. I was able to understand what the author was saying and still think critically about whether or not I agreed with his points. I liked D'Souza's organization of the book and his liberal use of quotes, research, and his experiences to drive home and complement what he was saying. I also appreciated his critique of atheist arguments about God and suffering, and his inclusion of his own experiences debating with world renowned atheists.

Overall, I thought Godforsaken was well written, organized, intellectually stimulating, and one of the best arguments and discussion on God, evil, and suffering that I have ever read. I highly recommend this book to anyone who wants an intellectual yet emotionally resounding explanation of evil and suffering.

Bees in the Butterfly Garden by Maureen Lang

Raised in an exclusive boarding school among Fifth Avenue’s finest, Meg Davenport has all she’s ever needed . . . but none of the things she’s wanted most, like a family or a future not dependent on following etiquette and marrying well. So when her distant father dies, Meg seizes the chance to break every rule that has governed her life. Especially when she learns that John Davenport wasn’t the wealthy businessman she thought, but one of the Gilded Age’s most talented thieves.

Poised to lead those loyal to Meg’s father, Ian Maguire knows the last thing his mentor would have wanted is for his beloved daughter to follow in his footsteps. Yet Meg is determined, and her connections to one of New York’s wealthiest families could help Ian pull off his biggest heist yet.

But living in both worlds is more treacherous than Meg imagined. And as Ian's concern for Meg turns to love, he finds himself torn between greed and guilt. Can they find the legacy they both long for, or in trying to gain everything, will they end up losing it all?

Bees in the Butterfly Garden by Maureen Lang was a very interesting and enjoyable novel that kept me spellbound. Over 400 pages long, it was a still novel that I did not want to end. The plot line was well written and detailed. There were instances of sadness, humor, mystery, and suspense. There was plenty of description of both characters and scenes, and the tone of the novel was varied.

The characters were also well developed and realistic. Meg Davenport and Ian Maguire were both complex and interesting characters who both were headstrong, independent, and running from God. I loved seeing their growth in understanding about God, morality, friendship, and trust. The supporting characters like Kate, Geoffrey, and the Pemberton family were also created in an enjoyable and interesting way and added tension, suspense, and some crazy pranks to the novel. I was greatly surprised by the beautiful, godly characteristics of the older two Pemberton siblings, considering Meg's remembrance of them, and I enjoyed seeing their influence on Meg.

The themes of the novel were clear, well thought out, and added greatly to the story. Some of these topics included love, trusting others and God, doing what is right even when it is hard, and living in a way that brings glory to God.

Overall, I really enjoyed this novel, and I cannot wait to read other books by Maureen Lang. I received this novel for free in exchange for an honest review by Tyndale House Publishers.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

This Scarlet Cord by Joan Wolf

Within one of the Old Testament’s most famous battles lies one of its most tender love stories.

Hidden within the battle of Jericho is the story of Rahab, a beautiful and brave young Canaanite woman who aided the Israelites by hanging a piece of scarlet cord from a window. This act of faith changed her life by placing her in the genealogy of Christ.

The story of Rahab takes up only five paragraphs in the Bible. However, Joan Wolf weaves together a truly magnificent novel of 85,000 words in This Scarlet Cord. In the Bible, Rahab has a fair knowledge about the Lord God. Joan takes this fact and decides to make a story that relates how Rahab has such a knowledge and belief in God despite her people's beliefs in false gods. In This Scarlet Cord, Rahab is the beautiful youngest daughter of a Canaanite farmer, taken to Jericho for the pagan New Year celebration so that her father can find her a wealthy spouse. Sala is the only son of an Israelite merchant, in Jericho as a spy for Joshua’s army. These two young people had met a few years before in trying circumstances, and Sala had told Rahab stories of the Lord. Therefore, when Rahab returns home, she has seeds of truth planted in her bright mind.

The plotline of this novel was woven beautifully and flowed well. I was captivated by the story and the unexpected twists even as I already knew the outcome from the Bible. I enjoyed Joan's twist in making Rahab a virtuous, unspoiled young woman even though the Isrealities assumed her to be an unclean prostitute because of her religion, as the Bible indicates that she was a prostitute. The liberties that Joan took with the story were reasonable and really added background information on on the beliefs and rites of the Canaanites and the setup of the city of Jericho. I also learned about certain sects of Isrealites that still lived in the land of Canaan and had never moved to Egypt with Jacob and Joseph.

The characters were created in a realistic and truly interesting manner. I enjoyed Rahab's spunky character and her growth into a wise and God-fearing woman who trusted God even when her future seemed bleak. Her bravery and boldness were both used by God to aid in the saving of both her family and the Isrealite spies. Sala was adorable in his love for Rahab and his boldness to speak God's truth to her. I also admired his respect and obedience to his father even as he disagreed with some of his father's decisions.

Overall, I really enjoyed This Scarlet Cord by Joan Wolf, and I would highly recommend it. I cannot wait to read other books by this author, specifically This Reluctant Queen which is about Esther.

I received this eBook for free from Thomas Nelson Publishers through Booksneeze in exchange for an honest review.