31 December 2012

New Releases: January 2013

Happy New Year!

January has releases from some of my favourite authors, including Julie Klassen and Irene Hannon. Reviews for these five are on the way...

Julie Klassen is as outstanding as ever. If you haven't read any of her books, you are in for a treat.

Other new releases for January include:

And I started reading this one, but probably won't be posting a review. It was that bad--too many factual errors for my liking. Leave a comment if you want to see the review anyway!

28 December 2012

Review: Fire Prophet by Jerel Law

Despite being one quarter angel and having succeeded in rescuing their mother from the forces of evil (in Spirit Fighter, the first book of the Son of Angels series), Jonah and Eliza are almost regular kids, just starting eighth and sixth grades respectively. But their lives quickly change when they are victims of a coordinated attack by Abaddon on worldwide Nephilim and their families, and this time, their younger brother, seven-year-old Jeremiah, is also involved. The angels decide to move the quarterlings to New York for safety—and so they can be trained in battle.

Cue a fast-paced and very visual story with a well-executed if basic good versus evil plot and some good battle scenes where Jonah and Eliza have to exercise their faith. The scenes where Jonah and Eliza were rapidly moving between the physical world and the spiritual realm had the potential to be confusing, and would certainly be more effective on TV. But they certainly made the point that the physical world and the spiritual world are both equally real, even if we can normally only se one.

Fire Prophet is aimed at children aged nine and up, so it does feel a little juvenile at times to the adult reader. But I liked it. It makes no apologies for the fact that we are in a spiritual battle, something us grownups and too easily forget. Yet Fire Prophet gets these truths across in an interesting and exciting manner. It is fiction, like Percy Jackson, but with a Biblical foundation. Recommended for boys, but girls will probably enjoy it too.

Thanks to Thomas Nelson and NetGalley for providing a free ebook for review. You can find out more about Jerel Law at his website.

26 December 2012

Review: It's Time to Fly by Linda C Davis

It's Time to Fly: Daily Devotionals for Families consists of daily devotionals for families. It’s designed so that each chapter in the book is related to one of the songs on Ka*Pop’s recording “It's Time To Fly” and there are seven devotionals - a week’s worth - related to each song. I’ve never heard of Ka*Pop, never heard any of their songs, and I really thought the devotionals really need the music to be appealing. Otherwise they are just a set of loosely-related discussions, although there were occasional gems, like “The more time I spend with God and read His word, the easier it is to feel His presence in my life.”

Each devotion has a short passage to read, a brief prayer, two or three related discussion questions and a relevant paraphrased Bible verse. The devotions would be most suited to families who own or know the songs, and who have small children, probably pre-schoolers. I think that older children would fine the devotions too juvenile, and that a week spent on a single song would be too long and boring.

I'm not convinced the author really knows what age group she is targeting these devotions at. The writing seems at a similar level to other grade school devotional books I have bought for my children, but then it talks about being rejected by a boyfriend or girlfriend, which I would have hoped was a high school problem. It reads as a family devotional, yet advice like “get involved in your local church” suggests it is trying to attract new Christians as well.

The best part is Ka*Pop's statement of belief at the end of the book. That would make a worthwhile topic for a series of family devotions. If you have young children who know and enjoy the Ka*Pop songs these devotionals are based on, then they would probably get something out of this book. Otherwise, go for something with a more Biblical base and a little more depth.

Thanks to Fields of Gold Publishing and NetGalley for providing a free ebook for review. You can find out more about Ka*Pop at their website or online shop.

24 December 2012

Review: Don't Judge a Book by... by Kate Policani

After discovering a strange book (imaginatively called 'The Book') in her local library, Seattle high school graduate Colleen Underhill starts seeing visions. Her first thought is that she has gone insane. She soon finds out that she is 'broadcasting' and gets into trouble when she won't say a simple spell to prevent this, because taking part in magic and witchcraft is against her Christian faith.

Colleen is immediately whisked away to Seattle Pacific Regional University (‘sproo’ to the students), where she learns that Tximar energy flows through everyone, like the concept of Chi energy, but is like the old Magic eye books in that it can't be seen by everyone. Reading The Book has unleashed this previously-unknown power in her (unfortunately, The Book is never mentioned after the beginning, which seemed a bit strange in hindsight). It is working in the spirit realm, but even the professors are unsure what spirits—which makes Colleen even more reluctant to use spells.

What follows is Colleen's first-person account of her first months at Sproo, learning about Teimnydduus and Txenar. adjusting to the new rules, joining the Sproo version of a sorority, getting her first boyfriend, singing in the music show and working out how to deal with unexpected financial issues.

It's well-written with believable characters, a well-thought-through back story, an interesting plot and some very good imagery (e.g. “her shoes resembled government building architecture”). It’s a quick and enjoyable read, incorporating elements of the worlds of Harry Potter and Percy Jackson, but there were some problems.

As in other fantasy books, the author has invented a range of words to describe concepts outside our everyday reality. But these aren't words like 'muggle' or 'hobbit' that are easily written and pronounced in English. These words look like a combination of Welsh and Anglicised Greek, words like ‘Skupdyn’ and ‘tiemnydduus’. I have no idea how to even begin pronouncing that. Is the 'dd' a 'th' sound, as it is in Welsh, or a 'dd' as it is in English words like 'hidden'? (At one point, Colleen comments that many of the words were ‘spit-rich’, indicating to me that the language is definitely Welsh.)

The author does at least acknowledge this problem, saying of The Book that “The author spelled all the terminology in the book so outrageously. It felt like the author wanted to mess with his readers by making up names for things that were impossible to pronounce.” There was a glossary at the beginning, but this is easier to access in a paper book than an ebook. The story got very interesting very quickly, and trying to work out which T-word was what was confusing and just slowed the story down.

Did Don't Judge a Book By Its Magic work as a Christian novel? Yes, and no. While there was nothing anti-Christian, it changed tack part-way through, moving away from the spiritual aspect of The Convergence into a teenage dating and relationship focus. There was insufficient discussion around whether the spirits or forces being used for magic were good or not, and I think this needed to be made clearer.

And then Don't Judge a Book By Its Magicjust ended. It wasn't even a cliffhanger (although it left a fair few things unresolved), but it wasn't a clear ending either. I don't mind a series, but I like each book to contain a complete story arc, and to finish at a natural place. This didn’t. Enjoyable while it lasted, but there was something missing.

Thanks to Kate Policani for providing a free ebook for review. You can find out more about Kate Policani at her website.

21 December 2012

Review: Embrace by TD Wilson

I've always enjoyed reading and watching Science Fiction, including Star Trek, Stargate SG1, Battlestar Galactica and more Earth-based shows such as Flash Forward and Fringe (and Dr Who has to fit in there somewhere). However, I haven’t read much Sci-Fi in years as there are very few Christian novels available. I've read Kathy Tyers, some Randy Ingermanson and the classic CS Lewis trilogy, but that, as far as I am aware, is pretty much the extent of pure Christian Sci-Fi or space opera. There is some fantasy and a lot of apocalyptic/dystopian... but no real Star Trek-type fiction. So I was interested to read The Epherium Chronicles: Embrace, to see what TD Wilson could add to the genre.

The start is slow, but we begin to understand what is at stake at around the 15% mark, when Earth receives a message from two colony ships sent out years earlier. Unfortunately, their enemies, the Cilik’ti will also have heard the message so the race is on for newly-appointed Captain Hood of the A to get to assemble his crew and get to the space colonies as soon as possible. We seem to live through the next few days in real time, as the ship doesn't even take off until the 48% mark. I was hoping the pace would then pick up, but no. The first three-quarters of the novel are background information, and the story was just starting to get interesting when it finished. Lots of characters, lots of technobabble, but little else.

I can see that a huge amount of time and effort has gone into creating this futuristic world. But the many failings illustrate just how difficult it is to write a full length novel, especially one set in a different time and such a different place. Embrace is full of writing and editing errors, including excess use of adverbs, homophone errors, typos, not using contractions, using passive language, pacing, proportion (making things seem important when they are not), factual errors (it’s Barnard’s Star, not Barnaby’s, the ship was the Dreadnought, not the Dreadnaught, and what, exactly, is a “chic magnet”?), and too much needless description.

It is good that the author knows every minute detail of the world he has created, but sharing all those details with the reader isn't necessary. I especially don't need to know the technical specifications of ships that are about to be destroyed or the personal histories of minor characters who are about to die. This level of unnecessary information means that by the time I (eventually) got to characters or events that were important, it was too late to recapture my interest.

There are too many characters that serve too little purpose in Embrace (although they might be important in future stories). The first novel in a series needs to function independently as a standalone novel, not just as an introductory episode to a series. Overall, the idea is sound, but the execution is lacking. Thanks to the author for providing a free ebook for review.

19 December 2012

Review: Love in Three-Quarter Time by Dina Sleiman

The Prologue of Love in Three-Quarter Time opens in Prince George County, Virginia, in 1812, with Constance ‘Gingersnap’ Cavendish and handsome Robert Montgomery sharing a dance at a ball, where he almost proposes. Then the Cavendish slaves revolt, and everything changes. The action then moves to Richmond, Virginia, in 1817, where the Cavendish women are struggling to survive after the loss of their plantation and the death of Constance’s father during the revolt. And Constance blames Robert for not helping.

Constance has been earning money teaching dancing, and an opportunity arises for her to travel north to teach twin girls to dance properly in advance of their coming out. But when she arrives, she finds that it is Robert’s family, and her role brings her into close contact with him, but he shows no interest in rekindling their relationship. It soon becomes apparent that there is more than just a misunderstanding keeping them apart, because Robert has a secret. But Constance is also hiding a secret--it is her fault the slaves revolted, her father was killed and their plantation lost.

As Love in Three-Quarter Time progresses, Constance in particular is challenged regarding her faith. She is forced to think about some fairly major issues, from the consequences of poor choices, the concept of salvation by grace not works, and the doctrine of free will. I thought the author handled these scenes well. I was also impressed by the historical setting—there are many books set in this time period (the Regency) in England, but few in the US, yet it was obviously a time when there was already a significant undercurrent of dissatisfaction about the wrongs of slavery.

I did find that the editing didn't meet Zondervan's usual high standard (or perhaps the quality of the manuscript is more at fault). In the first scene alone we have Gingersnap and Robert having first met three then two months ago. Martha is reading at the widow’s cabin, then she is with Constance in the Indian village. There are point of view slips and too many viewpoint characters (I thought the viewpoint and subplot around Mr Franklin particularly unnecessary).

And I wasn't convinced by the Yorkshire accent. I don't know what a Yorkshire accent sounded like in 1812, but the 'thee' and 'thou' made Constance sound more Quaker than Yorkshire. When I visited Yorkshire, I found the working class accent almost unintelligible but the middle and upper class accents were similar to the rest of England. Even when Yorkshire-born Grammy spoke, she sounded more like a character from modern ‘Coronation Street’ than one from the Bronte’s Yorkshire. So this didn’t work for me.

Overall, while Love in Three-Quarter Time was a sound novel with some excellent Christian thinking set in a fascinating time in US history, I though the writing was missing that special something that makes a good story into a great book.

Thanks to Zondervan First and NetGalley for providing a free ebook for review. You can find out more about Dina Sleiman at her website. Love in Three-Quarter Time is the debut novel from Zondervan First, Zondervan’s new digital imprint, and more information is available in their press release.

17 December 2012

Review: Sneak by Evan Angler

Sneak follows Logan Langley in his search for his sister, Lily, after she disappeared during her Pledge five years ago. In Swipe, the first book in this series, Logan is coming up to the age where he must Pledge and receive the Mark. But he is drawn into the world of the Markless and the Dust and, with the help of Erin, manages to escape his own Pledge. Now he is on the run from DOME (the Department of Marked Emergencies) as he attempts to find his way to Beacon City, where he believes Lily is being held.

Sneak is apocalyptic Christian fiction. As Christians, we can recognise that the Mark is the Mark of the Beast spoken about in Revelation, and that prophesied the one world government is about to be formed. But this is a world where religion has been outlawed, and owning a Bible—especially as a Markless person—is grounds for a prison sentence.

Although the author gives a brief reminder of what happened in Swipe, the early part of Sneak is still a little confusing due to the number of characters. But I quickly remembered who was who and settled into the story. It’s written in omniscient viewpoint, which can sometimes feel distant, but the author has a real talent for bringing the reader right into the story.

It’s fast-paced and well written, with both a clear closure of this story and a clear lead-in to the next instalment (which is very good, because I really don’t like cliffhanger endings). Sneak doesn’t have any supernatural elements, rather it is a solid adventure story based on an imagining of the events predicted in Revelation. It’s written for ages 9 and up, but is a good read for any age. Recommended.

Thanks to Thomas Nelson and Booksneeze® for providing a free ebook for review. You can find out more about Evan Angler at his website.

14 December 2012

Review: I Heard You Were Looking For Me by Ray Sharp

Joe McCoy, ex-army boxer and now a writer of bad novels, has been hired to write a biography of distinguished former congressman, J Parnell Thomas, who was chairman of the House Un-American Activities Committee in the pre-McCarthy era.

Then Joe finds that he has actually made a deal with the devil (referred to as Pod, for Prince of Darkness), and the dead J Parnell Thomas turns up in Joe's apartment. That's something most Christian fiction avoids - people returning from the dead (well, Frank Peretti may have done it, but he makes it pretty clear that they are demonic).

I picked out I Heard You Were Looking For Me for review because the genre description, 'Christian noir', was intriguing. I once read novel about film noir that seemed to think it was black and white movies that didn't make a profit, so that didn't help. Oh, and they usually had a murder, a detective and a femme fatale (wasn't there a Castle episode like this?). So, while I had no idea what to expect, I Heard You Were Looking For Me still didn’t live up to expectations.

The beginning was hard going. The prelude (not prologue) is about some strange unexplained purple goo. I think Chapter One is trying for a hard-boiled feel, but doesn't quite pull it off. It starts to get going more in Chapter Two with a rehash of past history, and it's here that bad novelist, Joe McCoy, the first-person narrator, begins to find his voice. Most of the story is Joe narrating to Detective Dick Jones. Jones occasionally interjects a comment, which is confusing, as there is no ‘Jones said’ to indicate the speaker, leaving the reader backtracking to decide whether it is Jones or one of the people in the story. Basically, the story-within-a-story device is confusing.

Apart from that, it's relatively well-written (even if there a few commas and italics in strange places), and is even amusing at times. Without being an expert on noir, it does seem to have captured the tone. But the female characters are very one dimensional, and it is TMI to have any real credibility as Christian fiction. There is more to Christian fiction than a narrator who grew up in a Catholic orphanage and who sleeps with every girl he meets until he meets one who won't because she's a Christian (although she seemed perfectly happy to stick her tongue down the throat of a virtual stranger, then break him out of police custody, which seems a tad inconsistent iwth her proclaimed Christian values).

For Christian noir to be accepted as mainstream Christian fiction, it's going to have to have no smoking, less alcohol (including references to in "my friend, Jack Daniels"), less emphasis on the sexual exploits of the narrator (not graphic, but frequent), fewer supernatural interventions, and more emphasis on the underlying faith elements.

Out of interest, I looked up the definition of noir. The Oxford Dictionary of English defines noir as “a genre of crime film or fiction characterized by cynicism, fatalism, and moral ambiguity”. Yet Christian fiction is supposed to present a Christian world view. Now, there could be endless debates about what that means, but at the essence, Christianity is a faith that does not encompass moral ambiguity. We believe there is one God, and he sent his only Son, Jesus, to die so that we can be saved from our sin, through His grace. That’s not ambiguous (although I suppose it could be to a non-Christian). So I, personally, don’t see how true noir could be truly Christian.

Thanks to Ray Sharp and BookRooster for providing a free ebook for review.

12 December 2012

Review: Cora Villa by Meredith Resce

Cora Stewart has known since she was six years old that it was arranged that she would marry Andrew Bennett, unite their families and leave Geelong, Australia, to live in England. But she has never been in favour of the plan, and it has long been a bone of contention between her and her father. Now her mother is dead, her father is ill, and she feels obligated to obey her father and end her relationship with Nicholas Waldron. Despite her reservations about the arranged marriage, she agrees that her father can contact the Bennetts, and that she will do her best to comply with his wishes.

In the beginning, Cora is quite unlikeable (although she still seems to attract plenty of male attention, to her father's chagrin). She is headstrong and independent (much like her father), but while he thinks he knows his daughter, his image of her is idealistic, not realistic. But as she is challenged over her attitude towards Ben Charles, and discovers another, less pleasant, side to Nicholas, she begins to change.

I enjoy a good marriage of convenience or arranged marriage story, but that isn't exactly what Cora Villa is. Although Cora has been promised to the absent Andrew Bennett, he is an offstage character for much of the book, and the story is more focussed on Cora's other would-be admirers, Joseph Carson, Ben Charles and Nicholas Walden.

The story is told in omniscient point of view, which gives it rather a distant feel at times, but also enables us to see the characters as they are, without their personalities being filtered through their own perceptions or the perceptions of others. While omniscient viewpoint is currently out of favour as a fictional device, Cora Villa shows that it can be effective when done well, without the moralising interjections that some authors favour, yet using the technique to show different sides to an argument and to foreshadow future events. There are a few too many adverbs, exclamation marks and a few typos, but overall, Cora Villa is a very enjoyable story with a healthy mix of romance and suspense.

Thanks to Meredith Resce for providing a free ebook for review.

10 December 2012

Review: The Shadowed Onyx by Nicole O'Dell

Joy Christianson lives in the sleepy Nebraska town of Ogallala. Last week, Joy went to visit her best friend, Melanie, and instead found her body. She had committed suicide, and now Joy wants to know why (and, really, who can blame her?). Joy has also had to deal with breaking up with Austin, her friend since childhood and boyfriend for the last year. Joy has also lost her faith, although her Down syndrome cousin, Beatrice, tries to remind her about right and wrong in her own innocent way. Now Joy has befriended Raven, one of the bad girls in school, because she wants to distance herself from Melanie and Austin’s friends.

First up, I have to say that the opinions expressed in this review are that of the parent, not the Young Adult audience that The Shadowed Onyx is aimed at. I was one of those teens who was hypothetically interested in the spirit world, but who always knew (despite not having a Christian upbringing) that messing with things like Ouija boards was not a good idea. Either they knew fake (and therefore a total waste of time) or they were real, and therefore not something we should be messing around with.

As an adult, I can soon see that Joy is suffering from case of survivor's guilt (but to tell you why might spoil the plot). I don't know if a teen would see this underlying issue, or if it would just go over their head. The story is all written in the third person, from Joy's viewpoint. The narrative does seem a bit juvenile, but that could just be the adult me talking.

Teenagers are fascinated with the concept of the spirit world, and The Shadowed Onyx is a solid Christian response (although it got uncomfortably close to crossing the line at some points). The author writes with a sense of authority around the spiritual content, while at the same time, she has captured the uncertainty of youth without being moody or melodramatic. The Diamond Estates series is based on her experiences as a resident at Teen Challenge as a teenager, and this experience comes through in the writing.

It shows there is power in the language we use. 'Spiritual' sounds so much better than 'satanist', and 'contact' less scary than 'haunt'. But I have two concerns with The Shadowed Onyx. First, parts of the story skate very close to the line, and could almost be seen as a 'how-to' manual. More worrying, a very innocent or undiscerning teenager might not see that this is written from a Christian worldview, and might be encouraged to take the same path as Joy--and for the first half of the novel, Joy's thoughts and actions are quite anti-Christian. And the story is told exclusively from Joy's viewpoint, so there is no indication that she is being lied to and that her actions are wrong.

"She wasn’t afraid of the dark anymore; in fact, she preferred it. Light was unnecessary because it only revealed half the picture, if that. It crowded out the truth rather than illuminating it."

In reading The Shadowed Onyx, it's quite easy to see how a vulnerable teen can be seduced by the power of the dark side, and how well it masquerades as light. As with all the most convincing lies, it is based on the truth. This is a very good novel, and one that many parents of teens would benefit from reading, but it is a story I would recommend to others with caution. Although The Shadowed Onyxis the third book in the series, it is a stand-alone story.

Thanks to Barbour Books and NetGalley for providing a free ebook for review. You can find out more about Nicole O’Dell at her website.

7 December 2012

Review: Today's Shadows by Becky Melby

In 1911 in Racine, Wisconsin, Maggie Parker is the sole servant in the Hamilton household, a home that is rife with discord. Mrs Evangeline Hamilton secretly attends meetings about women's suffrage, Mr Maxwell Hamilton is having none of these modern ideas, and Richard Hamilton, the adult son, seeks to court Maggie despite the fact that they are not of the same social class and her father is in prison.. In her spare time, Maggie writes stories about her life in service—and essays about women and Christianity.

In the present day, Heather Conrad has escaped to Racine after "her boyfriend decided he'd rather be her brother-in-law" (that is such a great line I has to quote it). But what she thought would be month alone house-sitting for her ex-boss turns into a month baby-sitting the boss's seven-year-old daughter, Isabel, and it seems that everywhere she goes in Racine, there is that man with the camera. There is also Ryan Tobin, a handsome security man who she meets in a coffee shop, who helps after Isabel gets lost in the old house.

Stephanie Lansing has spent the last ten years partying, but the sudden illness of her father has brought her home with a feeling of regret for the wasted years, and with a mystery. There is a mystery message that his other daughter has been found--yet Stephanie is an only child, so she begins to search, wondering what she might find.

Today's Shadows is the third book in the Lost Sanctuary series, but each book is a stand-alone story about unrelated characters. What ties the series together is that each story is about the past and present in a single house, and involves the present inhabitants gradually finding out more about the previous occupants, just as the reader finds out more in the flashback chapters. The danger with this approach is that readers might find one story far superior to the other, but in this case I found them both equally interesting.

Each subplot had an element of mystery (with an unexpected twist), an element of romance, and an unexpected but fascinating discussion on Christianity and the rights of women. Most importantly, the end of Today's Shadows left me with a smile on my face. Very enjoyable.

Thanks to Barbour Publishing and NetGalley for providing a free ebook for review. You can find out more about Becky Melby at her website.

5 December 2012

ACRBA Review: Back to Resolution by Rose Dee

3 - 7 December

is introducing

Back to Resolution

(Even Before Publishing November 2012)
About the Author:
Rose Dee
Rose Dee was born in Ingham, North Queensland, Australia. Her childhood experiences growing up in a small beach community would later provide inspiration for her first novel.
Rose, who holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree, decided to try her hand at writing two years ago. The result of that attempt is her first novel, 'Back to Resolution'. Her novels are inspired by the love of her coastal home and desire to produce exciting and contemporary stories of faith for women.

Rose’s other releases include, 'Beyond Resolution' - the second book in the 'Resolution' series. And ‘A New Resolution’ – the final book in the series.
Rose has also co-written a novel in conjunction with three other outstanding Australian Authors; ‘The Greenfield Legacy’.

Rose resides in Mackay, North Queensland with her husband, young son, and mischievous pup, Noodle.

Book Description:

Back to Resolution
Bay Anders is lost. She enjoys every privilege a wealthy upbringing affords, but the void in her soul refuses to be filled.

Her mother's dying revelation drives Bay to the brink of self destruction, before a move to Australia changes everything. She embarks upon a search for her father that leads her to his island home, into a hazardous melting pot of hostile locals and a mystery – her father's disappearance.

The only person who can help her is a strong, selfassured and intensely magnetic man. Bay must fight an overwhelming attraction to stay focused on her goal.

Flynn McKenna is hiding from the world. A past filled with mistakes drove him to withdraw from society and live in seclusion. But the arrival of a woman he cannot avoid

shatters his solitary existence. As the search for Bay's father unites them, can he resist his desire for her?

It becomes a race against time as developers try to take over the island.

From the glittering streets of LA, to the beautiful Daintree forest in North Queensland, to the idyllic island `Resolution', Back to Resolution is a romantic mystery that shows how far a little faith can go.

Website - http://rosedee.com/

My Review

Bay embraces the hedonistic LA lifestyle following the death of her mother, until a drunken argument with her stepfather results in an ultimatum - leave the city or lose the generous allowance he provides. He has even arranged a temporary job for her, as a photographer in Australia, the country of her birth and the country where her unknown father lived. Bay takes the opportunity, recognising both the destructive nature of her current lifestyle and the need to find that there is more to life than the LA party scene.
In travelling to Daintree, Queensland, she begins to read the Bible she received as a parting gift from Richard, her previous boss and photography mentor, and in a moment where everything seems to be going wrong, turns her life over to Jesus. A series of coincidences then lead her to Resolution Island, the beautiful but run-down and isolated resort her father owns. Here she meets and befriends Flynn while learns more about her heavenly Father as she waits for her earthly father to return. But all is not well on their island paradise, as someone else wants it too…

Back to Resolution opens at a funeral, which is a little unusual, but it was immediately engaging. This is probably because characters were flawed yet likeable, which is pretty much true to life (and who wants perfect characters in fiction or in real life?). The story was well thought out, and got stronger as the book progressed. The writing broke several current writing conventions in that it was more ‘tell’ than ‘show’ and there was a lot of descriptive writing and too little dialogue. Despite these potential faults, it worked.

Back to Resolution is the first book in the Resolution trilogy. Recommended.

Thanks to Rose Dee and Even Before Publishing for providing a free ebook for review. For more information about Rose Dee, see her website.

3 December 2012

Review: A Hand To Hold by Shawna K Williams

Caleb Langley grew up in the mining town of Brady Hill, but left to pursue his career as a journalist, and has returned to Brady Hill for a funeral. Sarah Sheldon idolised Caleb as a child, and is now nineteen and still harbouring feelings for him even though he all but ignores her. Now the town of Brady Hill is dying due to the closure of the zinc mine, and Sarah feels trapped in a town where there are no young men, yet she feels she can’t leave because she has to look after her mother, who has tuberculosis. When circumstances mean that the town might finally die, Sarah feels relief... but Caleb has a plan to save the town.

The descriptions in A Hand to Hold give the reader a real picture of the changes in America in the 1950's, cleverly weaving the information into the dialogue and plot, showing the author has done her research but without dumping the information on the reader or making a big deal of it. There was a poignant description of the boarded up town that reminded me of an old Amy Grant song. These scenes about the death of the town are bittersweet, but tinged with an underlying sense of hope, which should remind us that nothing is ever finished with God.

"Your perception is a choice. And choices are something we make for ourselves."

I recently read another Christian novel that expressed the same idea in different words: what we believe is important, because what we believe becomes our truth, the filter through which we see the world. So what we choose to believe is important, and this is something we can choose, regardless of external circumstances.

Although A Hand to Hold is a sequel to Orphaned Hearts, it can easily be read as a stand-alone novel, as this is Caleb's romance, while Orphaned Hearts was the story of Caleb’s adoption and the romance of his adoptive parents. I was expecting to enjoy this, but I was pleasantly surprised by just how good it was. Recommended.

Thanks to Shawna K Williams and for providing a free ebook for review. You can find out more about Shawna Williams at her website.