Saturday, October 26, 2013

I, Saul by Jerry B. Jenkins

"An adventurous seminary professor, Augustine Knox, is drawn into a deadly race to save priceless parchments from antiquities thieves, and discovers a two-thousand-year-old connection with another who faced death for the sake of the truth. I, Saul consists of two riveting adventures in one as readers are transported between the stories of Augustine Knox and the man who would become the Apostle Paul.
I, Saul will keep readers turning pages as it offers new insight into the fiery early days of Christianity when Saul of Tarsus vowed to put an end to the new sect, whatever the cost. A fast-paced story filled with political intrigue, mystery, and rich historical detail, I, Saul is the thrilling tale of loyal friendships tested by life-or-death quests, set two millennia apart."

 I, Saul by Jerry B. Jenkins was an excellent novel that seamlessly wove together a story of modern day intrigue and the narration of both the beginning and end of Paul's journey on the earth. The chapters of this novel alternated between 3 connected story lines. The first was set in the present day and concerned Augustine Knox, a seminary professor who finds himself trying to beat the clock to save both his friends and a manuscript concerning the life of the Apostle Paul. The second storyline is set in the early years of the Christian church and is narrated by Luke, writer of the third Gospel, and is about his ministry to Paul during Paul's last days as he is imprisoned in Rome awaiting execution. The third storyline is connected to both the first and second plots, and it is about the content of Paul's memoirs, which Luke is reading over for Paul in order to correct any errors. These memoirs stretch from Paul's earliest beginnings as a young child all the way until he becomes a Christian and begins to evangelize far and wide. These three story lines alternate throughout the chapters, and they allow the reader to glimpse the importance of why Augustine Knox must save the memoirs as well as have an idea of what Paul might have gone through during his last imprisonment.

I enjoyed the three different story lines, but at times I did find the setup to detract from the overall plot as I had to mentally switch gears constantly in order to keep up with everything that was happening. I did enjoy the suspense, romance, and unexpected plot twists that occurred in the Augustine Knox storyline, and I felt like the characters were fairly well developed with various strengths and weaknesses. Augustine Knox grew significantly in his relationship with his father throughout the course of the novel, and at strategic points the author provided background information about Augustine's life, his father's life, and their past relationship so that the reader understood how much they had changed and why there were issues from the beginning. The other more minor characters also added humor, doubts, and difficult choices to the mix that helped further develop the plot and the characters. I also enjoyed learning more about what might have taken place in Paul's life before his conversion and also seeing how he related to others, especially friends such as Luke, during his last days. His desire to preach the Gospel even at his execution was very convicting for me. I felt like Jerry B. Jenkins did an excellent job researching about modern day Israel politics and especially about Saul/Paul's early life and his last days in Rome. These parts of the novel were very realistic, I could certainly see them having actually occurred in Paul's life.

Overall, I enjoyed this novel immensely, and I look forward to reading the next novel in the series, I, Paul, when it is released. I would highly recommend this novel to anyone looking to a action packed historical fiction novel that leaves you on your toes the entire time.

I received this novel for free from Worthy Publishing Group in exchange for an honest review.

Jerry B. Jenkins’s novels have sold more than 70 million copies, including the phenomenal mega-best-selling Left Behind series. Twenty of his books have reached the New York Times best-seller list, including seven that debuted at number one, as well as the USA TodayPublishers Weekly, and Wall Street Journal best-seller lists. Jenkins has been featured on the cover of Newsweek magazine. Jerry and his wife, Dianna, live in Colorado.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Beloved by Robin Lee Hatcher

Best-selling author Robin Lee Hatcher returns to the adventurous American West in the final book of her Where the Heart Lives series. This story is filled with Robin’s trademark heartwarming and emotionally charged message of faith, courage, and love.

When Diana Brennan’s husband returns eight years after abandoning her, can she find it in her heart to forgive him?

Diana Brennan came west on the orphan train and was given a home with a loving couple who cherished and spoiled her. At 17, she fell hard for Tyson Applegate, the son of a wealthy mine owner. After a whirlwind courtship and marriage, Tyson took off for adventures around the world, including fighting with the Rough Riders in Cuba. Receiving no word of him for eight years, Diana’s infatuation with her dashing husband died an ugly death, and she is ready to move past the old pain and marry again, just as soon as Tyson is declared legally dead.

But when her husband returns, supposedly a changed man, he wants to reunite with his wife and run for the senate. While Diana suspects the election is his real reason for wanting her by his side, she agrees to maintain his home and to campaign with him, but when it is over, win or lose, she wants her freedom. He agrees with one condition––she must give him a chance to change her mind about him.

Beloved by Robin Lee Hatcher is the third installment in the Where the Heart Lives series, and it follows wonderfully in path set by the first two novels. These novels are not strictly tied together, however, so it is possible to read them out of order.  The plot of this novel was well developed and interesting, and it included a good mixture of mystery, suspense, past mistakes, and, of course, romance. For example, the novel starts out at a party where Diana's engagement is being announced. All of a sudden, in walks her husband whom everyone thought was dead. This scenario adds to the feeling of suspense and intrigue that surrounds the events in this novel. Beloved is written in third person, but the storyline is still told from different characters' perspectives so that the reader has an idea of what the different characters are feeling about certain situations. Some of the characters that the chapters are told from include Diana, Tyson, Tyson's father, and Diana's supposed fiancĂ©. The novel also alternates between the present situation between Diana and Tyson and their past history, such as when they married, etc. These memories are also presented from either Diana or Tyson's point of view.
The characters in this novel are well developed and realistic. The way the novel is set up allows the reader to really see some of the growth that has occurred in Diana and Tyson from the time they married to the present. My sister is also reading the novel mentions that "originally Tyson had mistreated Diana, but when he comes back, he has changed and tries to win her heart over a second time. She is determined not to let him but slowly through his acts of love and kindness, he is begins to win her over against her will and better judgment." Both characters do experience growth as the novel continues, and it is cool to see how having a relationship with God can completely change the relationships you have (for the better).
Overall, I enjoyed this novel, and I would highly recommend Beloved as well as the first two novels in the Where the Heart Lives series by Robin Lee Hatcher.
I received this novel for free from and Zondervan Publishers in exchange for an honest review.

My Hope is Found by Joanne Bischof

Read the first chapter here.
Gideon O’Riley has been given another chance at a life with Lonnie. But will the fight for her heart risk it all over again?
After finally finding love with his sweet bride Lonnie, Gideon’s heart was torn when a woman from his past claimed to be his true and rightful wife, forcing him away from his family. God’s merciful hand saw Gideon through the heartache, and with Cassie’s blessing, he is able to return home. But his journey back through the Blue Ridge Mountains will hold a trial he never anticipated.

Meanwhile, Lonnie determines to seal off her heart from Gideon, convinced he is lost to her forever. Strengthening her resolve to move on is her growing fondness for the handsome Scotsman, Toby McKee—the young reverend she has come to care for deeply. His proposal of marriage offers a bright future for her and her young son.

Yearning to allow joy back into her life, Lonnie must put aside the broken pieces of her heart that still love Gideon. When he returns to find her betrothed to another, he has to place his hope in God, trusting that the One who redeemed their love once can do it again.

My Hope is Found by Joanne Bischof is the third novel in the Cadence of Grace series, and it was either a wonderful conclusion or a great installment to the series. The plot line was interesting and contained a perfect mix of romance, suspense, emotion, and plot twists. The themes of this novel were well developed by the author, and they included topics such as choosing forgiveness, trusting in God, putting God and others before selfish desires, and being kind to others. The novel was written in third person, but the story was still told from the alternating perspectives of Lonnie, Gideon, and Toby. These different perspectives allowed the reader to understand what each character was feeling and have a better idea of why certain events were occurring.

While all three novels have focused around the lives and struggles of Lonnie and Gideon, I felt like My Hope is Found had the greatest emphasis on what was occurring inside Gideon than the other two novels. I found this concentration to be important for the overarching story because for the first time Gideon began to truly find God and to understand what it means to find peace, love, and true live in Him. I loved seeing the changes that began to really take place in Gideon's heart and how it affected his interactions with those around him, particularly Lonnie and Toby. I liked Toby as a character, and I hope he appears again in future novels. Lonnie did not have as large a role in this novel, and she spend most of it working through her anger and disappointment in Gideon and his behavior as well as trying to understand her own feelings. I thought Lonnie could have been developed a little more in this novel so that the reader got a larger glimpse of her feelings and her struggle to decide between Toby and Gideon.

Overall, I really enjoyed My Hope is Found by Joanne Bischof, and I look forward to reading her future novels! I would highly recommend the Cadence of Grace series to any reader looking for a wholesome, heart-wrenching, yet still sweet, romantic series.

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

Friday, October 4, 2013

Critical Pursuit by Janice Cantore

Read an excerpt here.

Officer Brinna Caruso has built a reputation at the precinct as the cop to call when a child goes missing. For Brinna, it’s personal because she was once one of them. Brinna and her K-9 search and rescue dog, Hero, will stop at nothing to find a missing child, no matter the stakes.

Detective Jack O’Reilly isn’t ready to return to his homicide duties, after losing his wife to a drunk driver. He’s on the downside of his career, and bent on revenge, when he’s assigned as Brinna’s partner. While on patrol, Jack struggles between his quest for personal justice and his responsibility to those around him, especially his partner.

Skeptical of Jack’s motives, Brinna isn’t sure she can rely on her new partner, whose reckless abandon endangers the safety of those around him. But when a man surfaces with an MO similar to the criminal who abducted Brinna twenty years earlier, Brinna and Jack must cast aside previous judgments and combine efforts to catch the kidnapper, and finally allow Brinna the peace stolen from her as a child.

Critical Pursuit by Janice Cantore was an exciting novel that explored the reality of child kidnappings and what goes on during typical police rounds. The plot was well developed and kept me interested throughout the entire story. It contained a good mix of mystery, suspense, and emotion. The themes that this novel explored were convicting and clear, and they included the importance of family, forgiveness, trusting and having faith in God even when evil and suffering occurs. The narration of the story was third person, but it still alternated from between Jack and Brinna's point of view so that the reader was able to glimpse what both main characters were thinking and feeling.

The characters of Critical Pursuit were well developed and realistic. Both Jack and Brinna had distinct strengths, but they also had their own flaws and issues that they had to work through as the novel progressed. I liked both characters. Jack started out very depressed and angry with God and people, but as he worked through his feelings and learned to forgive, his whole life began to improve. Brinna had always run away from God and been bitter toward her alcoholic father, but as she experienced heartache and changes in her life and in her family, her perspectives about both began to change.

Overall, I really enjoyed this novel, and I look forward to reading more of Janice Cantore's novels as well as hopefully future novels about Detective Brinna Caruso.

I received this novel for free from Tyndale House Press in exchange for an honest review.