The quest for answers—and ultimate survival—hinges on finding the cosmic link between the Skin Map, the Shadow Lamp, and the Spirit Well.
The search for the map of blue symbols began in a rainy alley in London but has since expanded through space and time and includes more seekers.
Kit, Mina, Gianni, Cass, Haven, and Giles have gathered in Mina’s 16th-century coffee house and are united in their determination to find a path back to the Spirit Well. Yet, with their shadow lamps destroyed and key pieces of the map still missing, the journey will be far more difficult than they imagine. And when one of their own disappears with Sir Henry’s cryptic Green Book, they no longer know who to trust.
At the same time, the Zetetic Society has uncovered a terrifying secret which, if proven, will rock the very foundations of Creation. The quest for answers is no longer limited to recovering an unknown treasure. The fate of the universe depends on unraveling the riddle of the Skin Map.
The Shadow Lamp is the fourth of five novels in a fabulous Sci-Fi/Fantasy series and is not a stand alone book. Jump down to read more about the Bright Empire Series that starts with the book The Skin Map.
The series just keeps getting better and better.
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More on the Bright Empires Series:
From Stephen Lawhead’s website…
It was over thirty years ago that a friend who worked at Fermi Lab – the massive proton-antiproton collider outside Chicago – took me on a tour of the facility. The lab itself was fairly new, and the physicists there had just identified a range of new subatomic particles: quarks. As I look back, I think that the experience of getting up close and personal with that absolutely massive particle collider and coming under the spell of my friend’s enthusiasm for high energy physics launched my own interest in the subject.
All eyes are now on the Hadron collider in Switzerland, where scientists are sifting through the results of proton-proton smash-ups looking for dark matter, whatever undiscovered subatomic particles might exist, and perhaps those elusive extra dimensions of the universe.
It’s the possibility of extra dimensions that I am exploring, in my own way, in the BRIGHT EMPIRES series of novels. Positing a continuous and endless creating of the universe and human history, I’ve set myself the task of imagining what that might actually look like if a handful of human beings managed to visit worlds that were not, so to speak, their own. What would they find as they travelled outside their home universe into the limitless omniverse of endless possibilities?
The first Soviet cosmonauts left the only world any of us had ever known and ventured into outer space in the 1960s. On returning to earth, one famously remarked that they didn’t find God out there. Were they looking? I don’t know. But it seems that the majority of those in the international community of physicists who have invested their professional lives in the examination of both the smallest and the largest bodies in our universe are looking, and fully prepared to find, Something out there, or in there. Many are pleased to call the object of their quest The God Particle, or the God Field.
I wonder what my characters – Kit, Wilhelmina, Arthur, Xian-Li, and the others — will discover. Will they be looking? One puzzling aspect of quantum physics proposes that the act of observing a phenomena actually creates the phenomenon. The simple observing of something, the measuring of it, brings it about; observation moves the thing observed from a state of pure potentiality into the realm of physical reality – an idea Einstein himself struggled with and disliked. He remarked, ‘I like to think the moon is there even when I’m not looking at it.’ Still, this ‘seek and ye shall find’ theory has been demonstrated and proven to a great degree of satisfaction and acceptance. It has even given rise to a brand of scientific joke, a la: “If a man makes a statement and his wife isn’t there to hear it, is he still wrong?”
While Einstein himself might have had difficulty accepting some of the theories and conclusions his own work in physics initiated, one thing is becoming ever more apparent the further scientists delve into the true nature of the created order: the universe is far stranger than we imagine or, possibly, can imagine.
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Thanks to NetGalley for providing me with a free digital galley of this book for review
One halo brought sight to Brielle. Another offers sweet relief from what she sees.
Brielle can’t help but see the Celestial. Even without the halo, the invisible realm is everywhere she looks. It’s impossibly beautiful—and terrifying, especially now. Because a battle rages above Stratus, Oregon.
The Terrestrial Veil is ripping, and demons walk the streets past unseeing mortals. Dark, sticky fear drips from every face, and nightmares haunt Brielle’s sleep.
Worst of all, Jake is gone. The only boy she’s ever loved has been taken by the demon, Damien. When she receives instructions from the Throne Room leading her to Jake, she unknowingly walks into a diabolical and heartbreaking trap.
Now she’s stranded in a sulfurous desert with the Prince of Darkness himself, and he’s offering her another halo—a mirrored ring that will destroy her Celestial vision. All she has to do is wear it and she’ll see no more of the invisible world. No more fear. No more nightmares. No more demons. It’s a gift. And best of all: it comes with the promise of a future with Jake, something the Throne Room seems to be taking from her.
Will Brielle trade the beauty of the Celestial and the truth of the world around her just to feel ordinary again?
You Should Know:
First, I have to say that I don’t like the book cover. In fact, as much as I have loved this series it sat on my (metaphorical/Kindle) shelf for awhile simply because the cover put me off. Like the previous books, the marketing comes across dark where I actually found the books filled with light.
When I reviewed Broken Wings I stated:
“When I read the synopsis it sounded dark, but like Angel Eyes, I found this book packed full of hope. In fact, I’m not sure I’ve read anything else recently that has stirred my heart like this series. The battle is real. The battle is present. Worship, love, truth, the testimony of our redemption and faith in the Triune God are our weapons.”
Broken Wings remains my favorite in the series (when is a middle book EVER a favorite), but following the trend of the previous books the themes of worship, redemption and the goodness of God in and through all things weave their way through this novel. The temptations are real and the choices Brielle and Jake are presented with are ones that we can all relate to in our everyday lives, even if in this novel they are cast in the framework of the supernatural realm.
More than once while reading this novel I found myself moved to both repentance and worship. I tend to think that the greatest gift you can receive from a book is not simply that it entertains, but that it moves you. This book moved me.
Dark Halo is a captivating tale and a fitting end to a fabulous series.
Decades before Thalli’s birth, the world ended in a nuclear war. But life went on deep underground, thanks to a handful of scientists known as The Ten. Since then, they have genetically engineered humans to be free from emotions in the hopes that war won’t threaten their lives again.
But Thalli was born with the ability to feel emotions and a sense of curiosity she can barely contain. She has survived so far thanks to her ability to hide those differences. But Thalli’s secret is discovered when she is overwhelmed by the emotion in an ancient piece of music.
She is quickly scheduled for annihilation, but her childhood friend, Berk, convinces The Ten to postpone her death and study her instead. While in the scientists’ Pod, Thalli and Berk form a dangerous alliance, one strictly forbidden by the constant surveillance in the pods.
As her life ticks away, she hears rumors of someone called the Designer—someone even more powerful than The Ten. What’s more, the parts of her that have always been an anomaly could in fact be part of a much larger plan. And the parts of her that she has always guarded could be the answer she’s been looking for all along.
Thalli must sort out what to believe and who she can trust, before her time runs out…
I found myself both drawn in and frustrated by this book. Perhaps it was simply one of those young adult books that just isn’t strong enough to cross over for a mature reader. Perhaps it was because I found it predictable and I felt like I was one step ahead of the author the whole way through or perhaps it was just personal taste. Maybe it was because I read it on the heels of a novel by an award winning sci-fi writer. I don’t know why exactly, but I just didn’t love it. That said, Anomaly was a quick read with an interesting premise and likable characters. Just because I didn’t love it doesn’t mean it’s not a good book. I’d recommend reading the beginning of the book for free on Amazon to see how it strikes you.
I received a free digital copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion.
I’ve been reading through this year long, two volume devotional, Letters of Faith through the Seasons, which includes letters of faith, Scripture and reflections that correspond with the liturgical calendar of the church. In this season of “Ordinary Time” one of the series of readings has been from the letters to the churches in the book of Revelation.
Many times I have been asked, as a reflective discipline, to place myself in a passage of Scripture. It is surprising to me how difficult I find this process. I have very little trouble placing myself into works of fiction so I wonder at my struggle to find myself in the very real, historical events of Scripture.
In the passage below, quoted from Letters of Faith, J.I. Packer places himself as a member of the Church of Philadelphia and writes a letter in return to John. As Packer entered into the Scripture and drew a response I found my myself drawn in and encouraged. I’d like to share his words with you.
To the angel of the church of Philadelphia write:
These are the words of him who is holy and true, who holds the key of David. What he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can open. I know your deeds. See, I have placed before you an open door that no one can shut. I know that you have little strength, yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name. I will make those who are of the synagogue of Satan, who claim to be Jews though they are not, but are liars – I will make them come and fall down at your feet and acknowledge that I have loved you. Sine you have kept my command to endure patiently, I will also keep you from the hour of trial that is going to come upon the whole world to test those who live on earth.
I am coming soon. Hold on to what you have, so that no one will take your crown. Him who overcomes I will make a pillar in the temple of my God. Never again will he leave it. I will write on him the name of my God and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which is coming down out of heaven from my God; and I will also write on him my new name. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.
We the Philadelphian church of Jesus Christ, write to acknowledge with a letter the letter that you sent us on Christ’s behalf – a staggering letter indeed; well might one call it Revelation – and we want to thank you, our sometime teacher, for the devoted and obviously demanding service that you rendered as secretary to the Savior, transcribing as you did all that you heard and saw during those fantastic hours of vision. We had it read out to us in church, just as you directed, and we are trying now to take it to heart. We have held special praise and prayer gatherings to express to Jesus himself our response to his words, and we thought we should write to you as well to tell you what effect his letter has had.
We saw that it came to us as a sort of report card from the Lord who loves us, and now lives for us, and is always with us and knows everything about us and searches us through and through, missing nothing. As we heard his rebukes to the other churches read out, we braced ourselves for something similar, but to our amazement, his letter mentioned none of our shortcomings and was encouragement all the way.
We found it startling and humbling to be praised for faithful endurance by the Master himself, but soon we realized what he was doing. We motivate our children by praising them for what we ourselves have helped them to do, so that they will want to do it again, and be helped to do it by that very wanting. Knowing, as he says, and as you know too, that we are a small fellowship who do not seem to have much effect on anything or anybody, Jesus, who has helped us to be faithful thus far, is motivating us for the future, and we are taking the point. (After all, as you yourself used to tell us, we are all little children really before the Lord, aren’t we?)
We saw that it was our encouragement too that Jesus said he had set before us an open door. We were unsure whether that meant for access to heaven or for reaching out with the gospel, so we have resolved to take it in both senses, so as to be on the safe side.
His promises to make the obstructionists who trouble us so much realize that we are the ones he loves put new hearts into us. Keeping them at bay in their arrogance and hostility has been a draining business. And to be told that our little church will be shielded somewhat as this empire-building persecution builds up was a wonderful mercy.
All of us were ecstatic – the word is not too strong – at Jesus’ final promises to overcomers, which fired our hearts and our imaginations equally. Whether sheep enjoy being branded we don’t know, but the thought of Jesus, who loves us, saved us, and owns us, grasping hold of us to brand us with the Father’s name – new Jerusalem’s name – and his own new name, whatever that is, so identifying us as his own for ever, and anchoring us as pillars in God’s temple, so as to be always as close to him as one can be, left us literally weeping for joy.
As a past pastor to us, we thought you would like to know this. Now may Jesus encourage you there in exile in Patmos, as he has encouraged us here in Philadelphia.
I found great encouragement and a depth of response in my own soul to the words of Scripture as I was drawn into the historical church while reading this response letter.
What about you? Do you ever place yourself in the Scripture as you read? Have you ever considered writing a response letter to God’s words?
Wealth cannot buy peace … or direction.
For Cora Kensington, the Grand Tour was to be the trip of a lifetime. She discovered the family she never knew she had and may have even found the love she longs for in Will. And yet her life has just become infinitely more challenging.
Cora must stand up for what she believes—regardless of how that might challenge current family and cultural norms—in order to remain true to who she really is.
And as she glimpses the end of the tour, Cora knows it’s time to decide Who and what defines her … and who and what does not.
Lisa T. Bergren’s popular Grand Tour series concludes as Cora Kensington journeys across Italy, wrestles with a terrible ultimatum from her father, and comes to terms with the Father who will never fail her.
The Grand Tour series has been a delight to read. Descriptive enough that I can actually see, hear, smell and touch Europe in the pages, the series is more than just interesting characters and vibrant descriptions. The book’s recurring theme of identity is one that is relevant to each reader, begging them to ask who and what defines them.
However, for those who have already followed Cora’s rags to riches tale up to the pages of this novel, there are some surprises in store. I’m always pleased when plot developments unfold without having been broadcast from the beginning of the story and new characters are deftly inserted as if they truly belong. With several new twists and turns Glittering Promises completes the Grand Tour series with style, flair and a satisfactory ending.
— I received a pre-release digital galley of this book in exchange for my honest opinion —
A poetic portrait of faith, futility, and the joy of this mortal life.
In this astoundingly unique book, best-selling author N.D. Wilson reminds each of us that to truly live we must recognize that we are dying. Every second we create more of our past—more decisions, more breathing, more love, and more loathing. All of it slides by into the gone as we race to grab at more moments, at more memories made and already fading.
We are all authors, creators of our own pasts, of the books that will be our lives. We stare at the future or obsess about the present, but only the past has been set in stone, and we are the ones setting it. When we race across the wet concrete of time without purpose, without goals, without laughter and love and sacrifice, then we fail in our mortal moment. We race toward our inevitable ends without artistry and without beauty.
All of us must pause and breathe. See the past, see your life as the fruit of providence and thousands of personal narratives. What led to you? You did not choose where to set your feet in time. You choose where to set them next.
Then we must see the future, not just to stare into the fog of distant years but to see the crystal choices as they race toward us in this sharp foreground we call the present. We stand in the now. God says create. Live. Choose. Shape the past. Etch your life in stone, and what you make will be forever.
When I first read N.D. Wilson’s children’s book, 100 Cupboards, I added him to my list of favorite authors. In this non-fiction work, following on the heels and thoughts of Notes from the Tilt-A-Whirl, I found myself once again swept away by the power of Wilson’s writing.
For those among us who eschew the abstract and would choose chess over poetry this book might be an exercise in frustration. But the artists and mystics, those whose imaginations take flight on the wings of a well crafted phrase, will no doubt find this book to be a gift and perhaps even a prayer.
I found myself moved to tears, laughing out loud and laying on my face before the throne of God as I wandered the pages of this book. And I thought that the best way that I could give you a glimpse into Death by Living is to share with you a “Found Poem” – words I’ve pieced together from words that Wilson penned.
A Found Poem from N.D. Wilson’s Death By Living
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Is it a waste to grasp at moments?
To try to catch the wind between my forefinger and my thumb?
The music of the world
To glimpse the transcendent in the simple
And the simple in the transcendent
To shiver with awe
At the sight of a child studying foot-pounded dust,
while twisting slowly in the air above it,
head and shoulders through a tire swing
To stare for an hour
At the still, black surface of a lake
To marvel at the invention of water
And my need to swallow it
And ride it
Every rock is spoken by the Word
Every time I touch a stone
I am touching the Voice of God
Every cell of me is crafted by that artistry
My life is in His breath
But we mortals grow numb
We want to feel more
Make us all Lazarus
And even though
I have never felt further from Him than in this place
How I feel is irrelevant
He is here,
and His image is in me,
and in her –
When the snow flies in the headlights like stars at warp speed
When we stand next to danger we cannot control
And feel its hot breath on our necks
When steam comes off its sides
And we can do nothing
but hang onto the wild mustang
We are no more or less in God’s hands than we have ever been.
God is a God of galaxies
Of roaring seas
And boiling thunder
But He is also the God of bread baking
Of a child’s smile
Of dust motes in the sun
He is who He is, and always shall be.
Look around you now
Can you see time flowing past your edges?
Don’t resent the moments
they cannot be frozen
Give thanks for that daily bread
Manna doesn’t keep overnight
More will come in the morning
By His grace
We are the water made wine
We are the dust made flesh
Made dust made flesh again
We are the whores made brides
And the thieves made saints
And the killers made apostles
We are the dead made living
I’ve been reading and re-reading Henri Nouwen’s little book on prayer: With Open Hands. (And despite the tension I experience with some of Nouwen’s overarching theology this is a fabulous book and well worth reading.)
But I’m not writing today to talk primarily about Nouwen, or the book, but to unravel the thoughts that one simple sentence stirred in my own soul.
You see, Nouwen isn’t always the most concise communicator. Rarely can you simply take a single sentence and quote it without misrepresenting his thought. He writes heavily in context and a good deal of his writing will sound heretical if you pull it from the chapter and paragraph in which it was placed. So I wasn’t shocked to find this sentence among his ponderings and I immediately backtracked through the chapter to re-visit the context in which it was said.
Here is the statement (out of context):
“Don’t be afraid to offer your hate, bitterness, and disappointment to the One who is love and only love.”
That God is only love is a popular misunderstanding of Scripture. The Bible clearly tells us that God is love and justice and holiness and righteousness. God can be angry. He exercises wrath. He judges unrighteousness. God is more than just love and not even the love of God will keep Him from allowing his creation to choose eternal separation in hell. So, when this sentence caught my eye I wanted to be very clear on what I was reading. Thus began my journey into the context of the statement and the beginning of my musing.
As I retraced the train of thought, I first discovered that Nouwen was speaking to people who are entering (or have entered into) a relationship with God: the One who wants to heal, the One who desires to remove sin from our lives.
The first clue of context: The person approaching God is in relationship with God. Nouwen is speaking to believers.
Second, I discovered that the person approaching God has a certain posture. They must be willing to allow God into their whole life, to “touch what you would rather leave untouched.” They must be open to healing, as well as open to the pain that this process of healing may bring. There must be surrender. There must be trust.
The second clue of context: The person, who is in a relationship with God, approaches God with trust and a willingness to walk through a painful process of detaching from all that is ugly and broken and even from those things that are superficially attractive, in order to find true life with God.
So, after exploring the statement and the context I arrived at this thought:
When a believer approaches God with repentance, trust and humility, asking to be transformed into the image and likeness of Jesus Christ, God relates to them as love and only love.
In correction of their sin, He is love.
In teaching them discipline, He is love.
When He allows suffering, He is love.
When He strips away all that stands in the way of their relationship with Him, He is love.
When they walk through the valley of the shadow of death and all hope seems lost, still, He is love.
And this is not some sentimental, indulgent love, but real love, the kind of love that is always working for good no matter the cost.
In Christ, we have a completely new way of relating. God does not look on those who are in Christ with an attitude of disappointment, but with a loving commitment to their transformation. He does not look at His children through a lens of holy wrath, but with loving (though perhaps stern) correction. As His children, redeemed and covered by the blood of Christ, nothing can separate us from His love: Not His holiness or His justice or even His righteousness as all of those things have been settled when we died with Christ and were raised to walk in new life.
In Christ, God will never relate to me apart from His love. And whenever I approach Him with a longing to be transformed (which is the very thing that He is committed to do) I will never be met with anything but love.
So, the question on my lips and the thought in my mind is: What if I believed it?
What if I related to God really believing that He is love and only love toward me?
What if I related to God believing that He is always loving me and working for my good in all circumstances?
Would I then move from brokenness over sin through a deep repentance into a free abandon? Would I not then open my hands and hold it all up to the God who looks down on me with such a loving gaze?
Would it that change the way I see my disappointments, my failures, my sin and my struggles? What if every day I would really come as I am, in all my mess, surrendering all my ugliness and all the acceptably attractive false fronts that I present to the world, believing that none of it makes an ounce of difference to the way God relates to me?
Could this bring a release into a life of freedom, a real abundant life?
What would it look like if I lived believing that I am fully, completely and in all things, loved?
“When I first discovered the grainy picture in my mother’s desk-me as a towheaded two year old sitting in what I remember was a salmon-orange-stained lifeboat-I was overwhelmed by the feeling that the boy in the boat was not waving and laughing at the person snapping the photo as much as he was frantically trying to get the attention of the man I am today. The boy was beckoning me to join him on a voyage through the harrowing straits of memory. He was gambling that if we survived the passage, we might discover an ocean where the past would become the wind at our back rather than a driving gale to the nose of our boat. This book is the record of that voyage.”
Born into a family of privilege and power, Ian’s life is populated with colorful people and stories, including the account of an alcoholic father who secretly works for the CIA and takes his family on a wild roller-coaster ride through wealth and poverty and back again. Filled with tales of a nearly blind English nanny who teaches him what love means, a famous New York radio personality who saves his life, a simple carpenter who leads him to faith in Jesus, and his own personal journey from addiction to twenty-three years of sobriety, this memoir (of sorts) speaks of the mysterious movement and presence of God woven throughout the adventure of his life.
Memoirs are interesting things, as are memories. They are seen through the perspective not of the moment in which they exist, but through the eyes of the present. Cron calls this a memoir “of sorts.” He states: “No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t tell the whole truth about my childhood by rigidly sticking to the facts.”
Cron is foremost a storyteller and his writing style is superb. I’d have to say he is one of the most gifted wordsmiths that I have ever had the privilege of reading. In fact, one of the reasons I loved his book Chasing Francis was not only that it read more like a biographical story than a novel, but because every phrase seemed so perfectly crafted. So when I had a chance to review this book I accepted and I came to the story simply accepting that we all see the past through today’s perspective and knowing that I too tell my story with more impression, belief and interpretation than with rigid fact.
So this is Ian’s story. And he doesn’t moderate what is ugly or what is false. His false beliefs about God are there laying side by side with what is true. When he speaks of the years where he believed that God abandoned him he speaks it as fact, not with the injections of a narrator telling you that he believed such a thing, but that it was actually an incorrect belief. This is meant to be a memoir after all, so I could put aside all my evangelical wrestling with his perspective and read this not as something to be believed, but as something that he believed, something that shaped him.
This is the story of a man and his father. In the beginning Ian stated that a boy needs a father who would “show him how to be in the world.” He wanted to be “taught how to read a map so that he can recognize the roads that lead to life and the paths that lead to death, how to know what love requires, and where to find steel in the heart when life makes demands on us that are greater than we think we can endure.” At the end he confesses that he wants to be a father who shows his son “how to be in the world; how to love himself; how not to settle for too little; how to walk with God with humility, compassion and a heart that makes room for everybody; how to never hide his true self because he’s afraid.”
In truth, I disagree with some of the author’s theology and wrestle with some of his conclusions, and yet, I found in this story a tale of honesty and grace. A tale of, as Ian describes, a relationship with a great God who stoops down low to draw us to himself. Could the tale have been more Christ centered? Yes. Could the book have more clearly presented Biblical truth? Yes. Did the author present a compelling story of grace, a story worth reading? Yes.
It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old…or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!
You never know when I might play a wild card on you!
Today’s Wild Card author is:
and the book:
B&H Books (June 1, 2013)
***Special thanks to Laurel Teague for sending me a review copy.***
Melody Carlson has written around 200 books for teens, women and children. That’s a lot of books, but mostly she considers herself a “storyteller.” Her books range from serious issues like schizophrenia (Finding Alice) to lighter topics like house-flipping (A Mile in My Flip-Flops) but most of the inspiration behind her fiction comes right out of real life. Her young adult novels (Diary of a Teenage Girl, TrueColors etc.) appeal to teenage girls around the world. Her annual Christmas novellas become more popular each year. She’s won a number of awards (including the Rita and Gold Medallion) and some of her books have been optioned for film/TV. Carlson has two grown sons and makes her home in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and yellow Lab dog.
Visit the author’s website.
In this first book in the Dear Daphne series, Melody offers up a light, entertaining, easy read.
Lock, Stock and Over a Barrel is a fun novel about coming home again. A bit of craziness, a couple of family secrets, an inheritance with ridiculous stipulations and a touch of romantic interest are thrown into this to-be-continued story. On sale now for the Amazon Kindle at just $4.99.
With high hopes, Daphne Ballinger lands her dream job at The New York Times. But it’s not long until writing about weddings becomes a painful reminder of her own failed romance, and her love of the city slowly sours as well. Is it time to give up the Big Apple for her small hometown of Appleton?
When her eccentric Aunt Dee passes away and leaves a sizeable estate to Daphne, going back home is an easy choice. What isn’t easy is coming to terms with the downright odd clauses written into the will.
Daphne only stands to inherit the estate if she agrees to her aunt’s very specific posthumous terms — personal and professional. And if she fails to comply, the sprawling old Victorian house shall be bequeathed to . . . Aunt Dee’s cats.
And if Daphne thinks that’s odd, wait until she finds out an array of secrets about Aunt Dee’s life, and how imperfect circumstances can sometimes lead to God’s perfect timing.
List Price: $14.99
Paperback: 320 pages
Publisher: B&H Books (June 1, 2013)
AND NOW…THE FIRST CHAPTER:
When Daphne Ballinger graduated top of her class with her degree in journalism, in the memorable year of 2000, she had promptly moved to the city to launch her illustrious career writing for The New York Times. And why not dream big? Because really, how many grads landed such an impressive job straight out of college?Her plan had been to work hard and quickly scale the ladder to success. By thirty she would have a corner office with a window overlooking the river as well as an apartment on the west side. By her midthirties, she would have published her first book. But similar to the plans of mice and men, Daphne’s best-laid schemes had gone awry.She stuffed a worn pair of brown Prada pumps into her Hermès bag (splurges she’d indulged in back when she still believed you should dress for the job/life you wanted). Then she sat down to put on her comfy-yet-unfashionable white sneakers. After tying the first shoe, she sat up straight and looked around the messy apartment.
Daphne knew it was cliché but, on gloomy days like today, it truly did feel like the walls were closing in on her. Most of the time, she could overlook the crowded space. She could walk right past piles of papers and miscellaneous pieces of clothing and empty take-out boxes . . . and not even notice. But this morning, the apartment actually seemed to stink. When was the last time they’d really cleaned this place?
She shared this three-bedroom apartment with Greta and Shelby. And in previous years Greta, the lease owner, had always proclaimed April as spring-cleaning month. But it was already mid-May and no one had lifted a finger. And Greta, obsessed with a new job promotion, hadn’t complained once. Daphne’s gaze skimmed over gritty windows, dingy curtains, dust-covered surfaces, piles of clutter, sun-faded carpet. . . . How had she stayed here so long?
“I can’t promise to be here more than a year,” Daphne had informed Greta Phillips when she first moved to the city right after graduation.
A coworker at The Times had tipped off Daphne about a friend looking for a third roommate for an apartment in Brooklyn. And although the location was lackluster, it was near the subway and the rent was affordable. Besides, it would just be a temporary stop—the bottom rung on her ladder to success—or so she had naively believed.
“And after a year?” Greta had asked Daphne with a single arched brow.
Daphne simply smiled . . . perhaps a bit smugly upon reflection. “Oh, I plan to move into my own place by then.”
“Your own place?” Greta seemed humored by this declaration. “Really?”
“Oh yes. This is just the first step for me.”
“Well, I still need you to sign a one-year lease. After that, we’ll see.”
Daphne had hesitantly signed that “confining” lease, wondering how Greta would react if she was forced to break the contract before the year was up. Although numerous other roommates had come and gone during the next thirteen years, climbing their own ladders to success, Daphne had stayed . . . and stayed . . . and stayed. Remembering the arrogant assumptions of her youth was embarrassing.
“Hey, Daphne,” Shelby called out cheerfully. Shelby was the most recent roommate, less than six months ago she’d moved here straight from her family’s Connecticut home. “I’m heading out early this morning. So you’ll have to put Oliver in the bathroom. Okay?”
Daphne looked over to see Shelby looking sparkly and stylish as she opened a golden shoe box. After tossing the lid, tissue paper, and red shoe bags aside, Shelby extracted a dark-colored shoe with a sole that flashed like a stoplight. Shelby slipped on the first high-heeled pump, pointing her toe to admire the sleek black patent leather. “Classy, huh?”
“Another pair of Louboutins?” Daphne frowned, knowing she probably sounded like somebody’s mother. But really, Shelby couldn’t afford such extravagances.
“Yes. Can you believe it?” Shelby giggled. “I think I’m going to need a twelve-step program before long.”
“Or a raise.”
Shelby waved a hand, hopping on one foot as she tugged on the other shoe. “I’d rather settle for a nice, big diamond.” Shelby was obsessed with Marilyn Monroe, and sometimes Daphne worried that the pretty young woman had seen How to Marry a Millionaire one time too many.
“So how is that working for you?” Daphne knew Shelby had been flirting with her boss’s son for the past several weeks. She also knew the boss’s son had recently divorced his second wife.
Shelby stood up straight, pushing her short, sassy blond hair back into place with a confident-looking grin. “As it turns out, John Junior is taking me to Club 21.”
“21?” Daphne was impressed. The whole time she’d been in New York, she’d only been there once. And here Shelby was going after just a few months. This girl worked fast.
“Yes. I told John Junior that I’d been dying to go there ever since I moved to the city. And we’re going there tonight. Can you believe it?”
“Can you believe it” was Shelby’s favorite expression and sometimes, after hearing it a few dozen times in the course of an evening, Daphne sometimes wanted to gag the girl. “That’s wonderful, Shelby.” She stood and smiled. “I hope you and John Junior have a lovely time.” Did Shelby really call him John Junior—to his face?
“Oh, we will.” Shelby reached for her hot pink umbrella, holding it in front of her like a scepter. “The weatherman predicted showers this morning. So don’t forget your umbrella.”
“I hope the rain doesn’t ruin your pretty new shoes.”
“No worries.” Shelby shrugged. “John Junior is picking me up in his car this morning.”
“He’s driving you into Manhattan at this time of day?”
“No, silly, that would be insane. He’s giving me a ride out to his parents’ home in the Hamptons. John Senior is working at home today, so I’ll be working there too.”
“Oh . . .” Daphne nodded. That explained the new shoes, stylish suit, perfect hair. Shelby was out to impress Mrs. John Senior. “Well, have a good day.”
“Oh, I’m sure I will.” Shelby opened the door to peek out. “There he is now—right on time. You should see his car, Daphne.” She stepped outside, then looked back in. “Don’t forget to put Oliver in the bathroom.”
Daphne went over to the front window, watching as Shelby skipped down the cement stairs in her new shoes, swinging her bright umbrella in time with each step. Sometimes it was as if Shelby were starring in her own movie. She paused midway down the steps, waving to the man who was just getting out of the silver Jaguar in front of their building. From her vantage point, Daphne could see the balding patch on the top of the man’s dark hair, and for some pathetic reason this comforted her.
Still, as she stepped away from her voyeurism, she didn’t wish ill for young Shelby. If John Junior was truly a nice guy, she hoped he would produce a diamond . . . in due time. Daphne hadn’t known Shelby long, but she knew the old-fashioned girl dreamed of a big white wedding and a houseful of kids. It was sweet, really.
“Oliver,” Daphne called out as she grabbed a yogurt carton from the fridge. “Here, kitty-kitty.” She reached into Greta’s bag of kitty treats, singing out enticingly. “Here’s a treat for you, Oliver. Here, kitty-kitty.”
She was not fond of Greta’s fat gray cat and, unfortunately, Oliver seemed to sense this. Still, she kept her voice sugary as she walked around calling for him, “Come on, Oliver, come get your yummy-yummy kitty treat.”
She eventually found him hunkered down in Greta’s bedroom with a guilty expression, but if he was doing something he shouldn’t, Daphne did not want to know. She had learned the hard way to keep her own bedroom door closed. For some twisted reason Oliver sometimes preferred a nice soft bed to his smelly litter box in the bathroom.
“There you are, you darling little scoundrel,” she said in a saccharine tone. As he looked up, she curled her arm around his hefty midsection. “Got you.” Then she quickly packed him off to the bathroom, tossing in the treat with him behind it. “Have a good day, you spoiled fat cat.” Daphne closed the door firmly. It wasn’t that she disliked cats in general. She just didn’t care much for Oliver.
By the time Daphne locked up the apartment and was on her way to the subway, it was already starting to rain. And despite Shelby’s reminder, Daphne had set off without her umbrella and there wasn’t time to run back and get it now. Consequently, as the clouds opened up and let loose, she got thoroughly drenched in the short distance to the subway. Waiting with the other dampened commuters, she tried to shake off some of the moisture before the train arrived, then she hurried in with the crowd, finding a spot in the back of the car where the air was smelly and muggy and close.
Firmly planting her feet, Daphne held tightly to a pole and, shutting her eyes, attempted to imagine herself in a happier, cleaner, dryer place. Like the Grand Canyon where her dad had taken her as child one summer. She breathed deeply as she recalled the beautiful painted mountains changing hues of golds, reds, and russets at sunset.
This was a trick she’d taught herself years ago, her way to combat the claustrophobia that she sometimes suffered in the city. One would think she’d be over her dislike of tight spaces by now, but on days like today the anxiety seemed to lurk just below the surface. She remembered when she had been in love with New York. Some called it the Big Apple Honeymoon Phase, but it had lasted several years for her. However, like so many other things in her life, it had gotten a little tarnished and dull over the years. And as she emerged from the subway, back into the drizzling rain and noisy traffic, she didn’t much like the city.
By the time Daphne reached her cubicle at The Times and peeled off her soggy jacket and slushy sneakers and stashed them in a sodden pile in the corner, her long auburn hair, which she’d spent thirty minutes straightening this morning, now resembled Bozo the Clown. Not that anyone would particularly notice or care since most of her day was spent on her own.
Daphne was a wedding writer—one of several—and she had been doing the same thing for more than ten years. She could write one of these pieces in her sleep. In fact, sometimes she did. Oh, not for the paper, but she would lie in bed writing another piece. They ran about 250 words, five or six paragraphs, all meant to impress the bride and the groom and their family and friends.
She turned on her computer and perused her e-mail, sifting through junk and flagging some, and then on to read today’s assignments. This time of year was usually fairly busy, but to her surprise there was only one happy couple waiting for the spotlight, and she managed to spend two whole hours on making them seem larger than life. Hopefully they would appreciate her efforts.
Then with still an hour until lunch, she imagined what she’d write for Shelby’s wedding announcement, and because she was bored and didn’t like to appear idle or get caught playing Spider Solitaire, she decided to hack a phony baloney announcement for her romantic roommate.
Miss Shelby M. Monroe and John Junior Millionaire were married on Friday night in May at Club 21 in downtown Manhattan. Family friend and celebrity entrepreneur Donald Trump, who became an ordained minister for this monumental occasion, officiated the extravagant
event where no expenses were spared.
The beautiful bride, twenty-three, and the prematurely balding bridegroom, of undetermined age, met at the bride’s place of employment, which is also the bridegroom’s father’s multimillion-dollar investment corporation.
Miss Monroe, who will not be keeping her name since it’s not really her name, will give up her career, which wasn’t really a career, in order to raise a houseful of boisterous children. She is the daughter of a once-prestigious family who resided in Westport, Connecticut, until her father’s investment corporation was dissolved in a scandal involving insider trading. Now, despite some diminished wealth, the bride’s parents are enjoying an early retirement abroad.
Mr. Millionaire, who goes by John Junior, holds some mysterious position in his father’s corporation, where not much actual work is required of him. John Junior graduated from some Ivy League school,
where his family probably had some really good connections.
Following an over-the-top honeymoon, which probably involved
a beach in an exotic locale, the happy newlyweds will reside
in a penthouse apartment on the upper west side.
The bridegroom’s first two marriages ended in divorce.
Hopefully the third time will be the charm.
Feeling a bit juvenile, not to mention catty, Daphne hit the select all and delete buttons. Best not to leave something like that lying around for too long. She was about to shut down and go to lunch when her cell phone rang. She got up and grabbed her bag. After digging for her elusive phone and expecting it to be Beverly since they were meeting for lunch today, she was surprised to discover it was actually her father. He rarely called her in the middle of the day. Not unless something was wrong.
“Dad?” she said with concern. “What’s up?”
“Hello, Daphne. I’m afraid it’s bad news.”
“What?” Her throat tightened. He’d had some health issues last winter. Hopefully it wasn’t worse. She’d lost her mother as a small child. Dad was all she had left of her immediate family.
“It’s Aunt Dee . . . she passed away this morning. Her lawyer just called to inform me, and I thought you’d want to know.”
“Aunt Dee.” Daphne sank back down in her chair. “Oh, I’m so sorry to hear that, Dad. I know how much you loved her. I loved her too. And I’d been hoping to get out there to visit you and her this summer. I can’t believe she’s gone.”
Tears filled her eyes as she suddenly recalled the summers she’d spent at Aunt Dee’s house as a child when Dad was busy with work. Aunt Dee had tried to make up for Daphne losing her mother. Daphne and Aunt Dee had always enjoyed a special connection and a shared name.
“If it’s any consolation, she died peacefully. In her sleep.”
“How old was she?” For some reason, Daphne couldn’t recall her aunt’s age. She knew she was older than Dad, but in a way Aunt Dee had seemed timeless. Maybe it was her youthful spirit.
“She would’ve been ninety-one in July.”
“Ninety-one? Wow, I had no idea she was that old.”
“Yes. She never really told anyone her real age. But she enjoyed a good, full life.” He sighed. “Even though she never married or had children, she seemed to have a good time in whatever she did. She traveled. Had lots of friends. Dee lived life on her own terms. And she always seemed happy.”
“She did—didn’t she?” Daphne let out a choked sob as she reached for a Kleenex, wiping the tears now streaming down her cheeks.
“I’m sorry, honey. I hate to be the bearer of sad news. But I knew you’d want to know.”
“Yes. I appreciate that. I don’t know why I’m taking this so hard.” She blew her nose.
“Will you be able to make it out here for her memorial service?”
“Yes, of course, Dad.” She reached for another tissue.
“Oh, good. I’m in charge of everything. And I could really use your help with the arrangements. I mean, if you can come out here soon enough . . . I’ll understand if you can’t drop everything.” His voice sounded tired and weak, but maybe it was just sadness.
“How are you feeling? I mean, with your heart and cholesterol and everything. Are you okay?”
“Oh, sure, honey. I’m fine. Don’t worry about me.” He sighed. “When do you think you can get away?”
“I’ll find out as soon as we hang up. And I’ll get right back to you,” she promised.
“Thanks, Daph. I can’t wait to see you.”
They said good-bye, then she grabbed her purse and hurried up to her boss’s office, feeling she’d get better results if she asked in person. Hopefully Amelia wouldn’t have left for lunch yet. However, when she got up there, Daphne could tell by the darkened office that Amelia was already gone.
“Amelia left early for a lunch meeting,” her assistant told Daphne. “Want me to leave her a message for you?”
“No. I’ll come after lunch. When do you expect her back?”
Fiona shrugged. “Well, you know how those working lunches can drag on forever. I wouldn’t expect her until three or maybe even four.”
“Thanks. I’ll stop by later.” Daphne headed out to meet Beverly, calling her as she walked toward their favorite dining spot. She left a message saying she was running late. Then she called Dad and explained that her boss was out. “As soon as I know, I’ll call,” she assured him.
Fortunately, the rain had stopped and the clouds had cleared and the city, now scrubbed fresh and clean, should be shimmering in the sunshine. And yet, as Daphne hurried down the street, everything around her still felt dull and gray and dismal.
What happens when the pastor of a mega church loses his faith?
Pastor Chase Falson has lost his way. When he falls apart, the church elders tell him to go away: as far away as possible. So Pastor Chase crosses the Atlantic to Italy to visit his uncle, a Franciscan priest. There he is introduced to the revolutionary teachings of Saint Francis of Assisi and finds an old, but new way of following Jesus that heals and inspires.
Join Chase on his life-changing journey to Italy where, with a curious group of Franciscan friars, he struggles to resolve his crisis of faith by retracing the footsteps of Francis of Assisi, a saint whose simple way of loving Jesus changed the history of the world.
Bestselling author Ian Morgan Cron masterfully weaves lessons from the life of Saint Francis into the story of Chase Falson as he explores the life of a saint who 800 years ago breathed new life into disillusioned Christians and a Church on the brink of collapse. Chasing Francis is a hopeful and moving story with profound implications for those who yearn for a more vital relationship with God and the world.
Book Intro (Teaser):
The first chapter caught my attention and the book never let go…
Here’s how it starts.
“Oh, how hard it is to tell what a dense, wild,
and tangled wood this was, the thought of which renews my fear!
Dante, Inferno, Canto 1, lines 1-6
As Alitalia flight 1675 began making its final descent into Florence, I nervously fanned the pages of my copy of The Divine Comedy. Two decades of sitting in my damp basement had left a powdery coating of mildew that wafted into the air around me. For a moment I saw it, tiny specks and spores floating idly in the rays of sun pouring through the window. I hadn’t read the Inferno portion of Dante’s classic since I was an undergrad. At nineteen, of course, the freight those first few lines carries would have been utterly lost on me. Now, reading them with thirty-nine year old eyes, I wished I could call Dante up and schedule a lunch. I had a long list of questions for him.
The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes,
but in having new eyes.
– Marcel Proust
This is the journey of Pastor Chase Falcon. Disappointed and disillusioned Pastor Chase sets out to find himself and to see God and life and faith with new eyes.
He takes a pilgrimage, “a way of praying with your feet.”
I resonated with the tale. I didn’t agree with every supposition in this novel, but I’ve been on this journey. No, I never followed the footsteps of St. Francis through Italy, but I have had to embrace “the unprotected life” so that I could learn to see with new eyes. I too have had to find a way to pray with my hands, with my feet, with my life.
Beyond the beauty of the spiritual journey presented within these pages, Ian Morgan Cron is a masterful storyteller. I laughed out loud at some of Pastor Chase’s presuppositions about Roman Catholics. I say that as an evangelical myself. Too many times we are afraid to look at the rich traditions of faith that grew up in the context of the Roman Catholic Church. Are there theological and practical problems within the Roman Catholic Church? Yes. Are there theological and practical problems in the Evangelical Church? Yes. Here the author does a masterful job of bridging the gap, not to convince us to “switch sides,” but to demonstrate that God is at work and has been at work in a variety of places and traditions. Armed with the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, a shaken but real love for the Word and a desire to see Jesus Christ made real in his life, Pastor Chase begins a journey to learn from people and history found outside of his tradition. And it changes him.
I won’t give away the ending, but I will tell you that Pastor Chase returns home with a new perspective, believing that “Churches should be places where people come to hear the story of God and to tell their own. That’s how we find out how the two relate.“ He is encouraged to “Tell your story with all of its shadow and fog, so people can understand their own [story]” discovering that people today need “a leader who’s authentic, someone trying to figure out how to follow the Lord Jesus in the joy and wreckage of life.”
And while I can’t agree with everything that Saint Francis said and did and believed, I thought the author did an excellent job highlighting applicable life lessons while weaving the history of this man of God into the story of a modern day pastor and the deeper story of the soul.
Insightful, historical, spiritual and comical, Chasing Francis is well deserving of 5 stars.
And the Kindle version is currently on sale at Amazon for just $3.79!
Submissive to her father’s will, Lady Leta of Aiven travels far to meet the future King of the North Country; a prospective husband she neither knows nor loves. But within the walls of his castle, all is not right. Vicious night terrors plague Lord Alistair. Whispers rise from the family crypt. And the reclusive castle Chronicler possesses a dangerous secret.
Meanwhile a new doorway is forming in the Wood. And far away in a hidden kingdom, a flame burns atop the Citadel of the Living Fire. Acolytes and priestesses serve their “goddess” to the limits of their lives and deaths. No one is safe while the Dragonwitch searches for the sword that slew her twice…and for the hero who can wield it.
About the Author:
Anne Elisabeth Stengl makes her home in Raleigh, North Carolina, where she lives with her husband, Rohan, a passel of cats, and one long-suffering dog. When she’s not writing, she enjoys Shakespeare, opera, and tea, and studies piano, painting, and pastry baking. She studied illustration at Grace College and English literature at Campbell University. She is the author of Heartless, Veiled Rose, Moonblood, and Starflower. Heartless and Veiled Rose have each been honored with a Christy Award.
This series is in the running for my top fantasy series of all time (after Narnia of course).
If you haven’t yet journeyed into the Goldstone Wood, I recommend that you begin at the beginning.
Stengl takes a cue from Lewis and in the middle moves backward. You can begin at either beginning. Heartless is the first book in the series and Starflower (Book 4) is the first book in the chronology. While you could read this book as a stand alone, the tale is richer in context.
As always, Strengl weaves an intricate and fascinating tale that crosses the lives of mortals, immortals and kingdoms as the battle for the ones who are called “Beloved” continues.
From Alistair’s prophetic nightmares, through Lady Leta’s discovery of herself, to the Chronicler’s secret, the strange Scrubber’s actions and the youth who arrives following the blue star, the plot is sure to intrigue. The tale of the Dragonwitch, re-told in more detail than in previous books, weaves through the story connecting pieces as the future of the mortal world hangs in the balance.
Artfully and subtly the book raises a central question. Who will you follow?
“Won’t you return to me?”
I received a free digital copy of this book in exchange for an honest review
To make a purchase on Amazon in support of this blog click this link
About the Book:
Annalisa Werner’s hope for a fairy tale love is over. Her husband failed her in every way and now his death has left her with few options to save the family farm. She needs a plentiful harvest. That, and a husband to help bring it in. Someone strong, dependable. That’ll be enough. A marriage for love…that’s something she’s given up on.
So her father sends a letter to his brother in the Old Country, asking him to find Annalisa a groom.
Then a man appears: Carl Richards, from their home country of Germany and a former schoolteacher–or so he says. He’s looking for work and will serve on the farm until her husband arrives.
With time running out, she accepts his help, but there’s more to this man than he’s admitting. Annalisa senses that Carl is harboring a secret about his past, yet she finds herself drawn to him anyway. He’s also gentle, kind, charming–unlike any man she’s ever known. But even as Carl is shining light into the darkness of her heart, she knows her true groom may arrive any day.
About the Author:
Jody Hedlund is the bestselling author of The Doctor’s Lady and The Preacher’s Bride. She won the 2011 Inspirational Reader’s Choice Award, the 2011 Award of Excellence from the Colorado Romance Writers and was a finalist for Best Debut Novel in the 2011 ACFW Carol Awards. Currently she makes her home in central Michigan with her husband and five busy children. She loves hearing from readers on Facebook and on her blog at JodyHedlund.com.
A fresh read. An age old plot.
Annalisa is trapped by her need and her culture. In a male dominated, hierarchical immigrant community a marriage of love is a foreign concept. When Annalisa’s husband destroys all her dreams and leaves her alone in a foreign land with a pile of debt and a daughter to raise she never thinks to question her father’s requirement that she marry a man from Germany that she has never met. It is the way of her people.
When Carl is sentenced to death for a crime he did not commit he is snapped out of his privileged and self centered life and thrown into a world of unknowns where keeping his identity secret is the key to keeping his life.
The plot is familiar, but I enjoyed some of the subtle twists of discovery: Annalisa’s surprise at a man’s kindness and good humor, Carl’s discovery of attitudes of injustice in spite of honest hard labor, the responsibility of making wise choices (whether the choice is to stand on our own or yield to the will of another) and the underlying truth that all men hold stereotypes that divide, keeping us from genuine relationship and community. I found the story’s villain too flat and the ending a bit too quickly and neatly wrapped up, but overall I enjoyed the book.
Thanks to Bethany House for sending me a free digital copy of this novel for review.
On his way to interview for a position at a church in the Piney Woods of Texas, Crockett Archer can scarcely believe it when he’s forced off the train by a retired outlaw looking for a minister. Worried this unfortunate detour will ruin his chances of finally serving a congregation of his own, Crockett is determined to escape. But when he finally gets away, he’s haunted by the memory of the young woman he left behind.
For months, Joanna Robbins prayed for a preacher. A man to breathe life back into the abandoned church at the heart of her community. A man to assist her in fulfilling a promise to her dying mother. A man to help her discover answers to the questions that have been on her heart for so long. But just when it seems God has answered her prayers, it turns out the parson is there against his will and has dreams of his own calling him elsewhere. Is there any way she can convince Crockett to stay in her little backwoods community? And does the attraction between them have any chance of blossoming when Joanna’s outlaw father is dead set against his daughter courting a preacher?
About the Author:
Karen Witemeyer is a bestselling historical romance author who believes the world needs more happily-ever-afters. She holds a master’s degree in psychology from Abilene Christian University and is a member of ACFW, RWA, and her local writers’ guild. Stealing the Preacher is her fifth novel. Karen lives with her husband and three children in Abilene, Texas. Learn more at www.karenwitemeyer.com.
Buy the Book:
Book Release Date: Jun 1, 2013 .
Karen Witemeyer’s novels impress me with their balance of humor, redemption and reality. Evidenced in her novels is the fact that author understands people and the things that motivate them. Stealing the Preacher is no exception. It’s a good romance and a sweet story. I’d call it light reading, but don’t mistake that for a book full of fluff. This is a redemptive story. Hope, fear, overcoming the past, justice verses mercy, the value of internal beauty and the endless pursuit of a loving God weave their way through this novel. My favorite thing about this book is that when I turned the last page my soul was left rejoicing in the truth that God loves us too much to give up on us.
Thank you to Bethany House for providing me a free digital galley of the book in exchange for my honest opinion.
Ben and Joseph lose their mothers, but find a family looking just for them. Antonio is rescued from what seems like a hopeless situation. Caitlyn dares to trust that truth will set her free. Jorani is delivered from slavery into the arms of grace.
Follow these real-life stories as they take you on a journey to foreign places and extreme struggles. Travel through their challenges and see the hand of the great Storyweaver – our Defender God shielding and defending the defenseless in the amazing ways only he can.These are the tales of the ones left wounded and weak-ones made whole and strong . . .
Purchase a copy: http://ow.ly/jJ8g6
Beth Guckenberger and her husband, Todd, are the founders of Back2Back Ministries which communicates a lifestyle of service by sharing the love of Christ and serving God through service to others. Guckenberger travels and speaks regularly at women’s and missions conferences, as well as youth gatherings and church services. In addition to her children’s releases in the Storyweaver series, Guckenberger has written two mission-minded books. She has also partnered with Standard Publishing on the mission content in its 2013 VBS program. The Guckenberger family lives and serves in Monterrey, Mexico.
Find out more about Beth at http://www.bethguckenberger.com/.
I’m perhaps not the best qualified reviewer for this book as it is meant for children to read with their families, but I love stories, especially stories of hope and God’s great redemption so I requested this book for review.
This book is full of stories. Stories of hope and a future, freedom and grace.
The layout was a bit scattered for me, but perhaps it is perfect for kids. I loved all the extra tidbits, things like the definition of foreign words and descriptions of life in other places, but they were placed in such a way that you had to pause reading the story to investigate the extras. (Honestly that drove me crazy as a kid too. I’m all about uninterrupted stories with extras before or after, but that’s just me.)
I think that parents will want to read this book first and decide when their children are ready to read it. This book is full of wonderful tales of hope after tragedy, but there is tragedy in this book. It’s important for a parent to be ready and available to be able to talk to kids about these stories and their content. While these stories are carefully and tactfully told some kids may not be ready to hear about a mom who is planning on killing her child so he is not alone in the world when she dies of cancer or read about the abuse of a parent. Despite all the hope and happy endings, the reality of these tales will require wisdom on the part of the parent. One nice bonus is that each chapter contains questions and space to write the answers and thoughts about the chapter.
Overall, I think that this is a great resource to expand the horizons of children, to foster in them a heart of compassion and a greater faith in God who loves the orphan and the fatherless.
It’s an encouraging book for adults as well.
One winner will receive:
- An iPad Mini
- A Tales of the Defended Ones small group kit (books and DVD)
Enter today by clicking one of the icons below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on April 24th. Winner will be announced at the “Storyweaver” Author Chat Party on April 25th. Beth will be chatting with guests, answering questions, and offering tips about beginning a dialog with children and youth about the orphans around the world, the basic needs of children living in poverty, and what we can all do to help. (It’s okay if you haven’t read the book – who knows, you might WIN a copy!) Beth will also be hosting a fun trivia contest and giving away tons of great stuff! (Gift certificates, books, and more!)
So grab your copy of Tales of the Defended Ones and join Beth and friends on the evening of the April 25th for a chance to connect and make some new friends. (If you haven’t read the book, don’t let that stop you from coming!)
Don’t miss a moment of the fun, RSVP today. Tell your friends via FACEBOOK or TWITTER and increase your chances of winning. Hope to see you on the 25th!
Thank you LitFuse for sending me a free copy of this book to review in exchange for my honest opinion
Darbury, England, 1814
Amelia Barrett, heiress to an estate nestled in the English moors, defies family expectations and promises to raise her dying friend’s baby. She’ll risk everything to keep her word—even to the point of proposing to the child’s father—a sea captain she’s never met.
When the child vanishes with little more than an ominous ransom note hinting to her whereabouts, Amelia and Graham are driven to test the boundaries of their love for this little one.
Amelia’s detailed plans would normally see her through any trial, but now, desperate and shaken, she’s forced to examine her soul and face her one weakness: pride.
Graham’s strength and self-control have served him well and earned him much respect, but chasing perfection has kept him a prisoner of his own discipline. And away from the family he has sworn to love and protect.
Both must learn to accept God’s sovereignty and relinquish control so they can grasp the future He has for planned for them.
About the Author:
Every word has a melody.
Every sentence has a rhythm.
This truth has intrigued me since my early years. Even before I fully understood the meaning behind many of the words, I devoured literature and consumed poetry.
Austen, Alcott, Wordsworth: I left no piece of literature untouched, left no author unexamined. I continue to see magic in how a word is transformed by the word next to it and how written thoughts can incite emotion and evoke change.
In addition to a lifetime of writing and exploring fiction, I have more than ten years of strategic marketing and brand management experience, including five years of marketing non-fiction books and three years of marketing the musical arts. I live in Indiana and am blessed to share my life with my amazing husband, sweet daughter, and very lovable Golden Retriever.
Learn more about Sarah Ladd at her website: http://www.saraheladd.com/
An enjoyable Regency romance, The Heiress of Winterwood, drew me into a story of faith and surrender.
Sheltered and willing to go along with her uncle’s plans for her future, Ameila experiences a wake up call when her selfless promise to care for a dying friend’s child leads to tension, surprising discoveries and betrayal. Captain Sterling can’t lay down his guilt over the mistakes of his past. Suddenly Graham finds himself confronted with the limits of his own abilities as he faces the loss of all that he holds dear. This entertaining tale draws the reader into faith lessons while weaving together a story of mystery and love.
This was an excellent debut novel from Sarah Ladd. I’ll be keeping an eye out for her next release.
About Broken Wings: Book Two in the Angel Eyes Series
Angels with wings of blade. Demons with renewed sight. And a girl who has never been more broken.
Brielle has begun to see the world as it really is, a place where angels intermingle with humans. But just when she thinks she’s got things under control, the life she’s pieced together begins to crumble.
Her boyfriend, Jake, is keeping something from her. Something important.
And her overprotective father has turned downright hostile toward Jake. Brielle fears she’ll have to choose between the man who’s always loved her and the one who’s captured her heart.
Then she unearths the truth about her mother’s death and the nightmare starts. Brielle begins seeing visions of mysterious and horrible things.
What she doesn’t know is that she’s been targeted. The Prince of Darkness himself has heard of the boy with healing in his hands and of the girl who saw through the Terrestrial veil. When he pulls the demon Damien from the fiery chasm and sends him back to Earth with new eyes, the stage is set for the ultimate battle of good versus evil.
Brielle has no choice. She must master the weapons she’s been given. She must fight.
But can she fly with broken wings?
About the Author:
Shannon is a wife and mother. A sister. A daughter. A friend. She was raised in Northern California by her parents—pastors of their local church and constant figures of inspiration.
“I’m a firm believer that books open doors into the imagination and remind us that we should venture there often. We should dream. We should try hard things. We should be fearless. And while there are many obstacles that stand in the way, I hope my stories remind readers that life is to be lived. Pain is to be tackled. Mountains are to be climbed. And while you may fall into dark places along the way, light is as close as the prayer on your lips.”
You can read more about Shannon at her website and blog at: http://shannondittemore.com/
The thing that I appreciated most about Angel Eyes was that while the book was full of suspense and pain and conflict in the heavenly realms, it was not built on fear and horror, but on hope.
When I read the synopsis for Broken Wings (above) it sounded dark, but like Angel Eyes, I found this book packed full of hope. In fact, I’m not sure I’ve read anything else recently that has stirred my heart like this series. The battle is real. The battle is present. Worship, love, truth, the testimony of our redemption and faith in the Triune God are our weapons.
I’ve read other books that center around angels and demons. Many of them left me uncomfortable. There was too little of God, too much supposition and too little Biblical foundation. While this series is imagination and fantasy, it is built on a foundation of truth. Always the angels worship and honor God as primary. Even the gifts given by the halo are attributed not to the halo itself or to the angel it came from, but always as a blessing from the Almighty who alone chooses what gifts to give and to upon whom He will bestow these graces. I also liked that the author incorporated the truth that God gives people roles to play as acts of worship, despite the fact that an angel could have played that part.
Further, I was moved by descriptions of worship in color and song and fragrance. The author’s beautiful illustrations captured my heart and stirred my imagination.
While this could be read as a stand alone novel you really should read Angel Eyes (which is currently on sale for just $4.00 at Amazon) before reading Broken Wings. I’m looking forward to reading the next installment, Dark Halo, due to be released on August 20th.
About the Book:
It’s 1846 in Ireland. When her family’s small farm is struck by famine, Clare Hanley and her younger brother, Seamus, set out across the ocean to the Promised Land of America.
Five years prior, Clare’s older sister Margaret and her Uncle Tomas emigrated in similar fashion and were not to be heard from again. But Clare must face her fears as she lands in the coming-of-age city of New York. There she discovers love, adventure, tragedy, and a terrible secret which threatens to destroy her family and all she believes.
Flight of the Earls is the first book in a historical novel trilogy based on Irish immigration in the 1840s.
About the Author:
Michael K. Reynolds has more than two decades of writing experience in fiction, journalism, copywriting, and documentary production. He wrote and produced the Emmy and Telly Award- winning Crystal Darkness series of anti-meth films and owns Global Studio, a social marketing agency. Also an active leader in church and business, he is a noted speaker in both ministry and corporate settings. Michael lives with his wife and three children in Reno, Nevada.
This isn’t just a novel, it’s a saga. Full of sorrow, intrigue, mystery, reality and hints of grace this tale takes the reader on a journey of emotion.
As I read the first chapters of this book I thought that the descriptions were perhaps a bit over dramatic, but as I became engaged in the story the writing style and the tale wove together in perfect harmony. This book was a layered tale of the plight of the Irish; in County Roscommon, Ireland, New York and the Mexican American War. While I had a hard time putting the book down, I can’t really say that I enjoyed the book. The entire story exposed a realistic picture of greed, corruption, betrayal, death and every sort of human vice. It wasn’t a happy tale or even a particularly redemptive one, though there were frequent glimpses of the grace and mercy of the ever present God. While I applaud the excellent writing and the historical content I’m not sure that I’ll read the rest of the trilogy.
Thank You B&H Publishing for sending me a free digital galley of this book in exchange for my honest opinion.
About the Book:
Sometimes it takes a stranger to see you as you really are.
Under Texas Stars, #2
Born and raised on sprawling Texas land, Margaret O’Brien prides herself on her competence as a rancher. But her father believes she’s made for more than just dawn-to-dusk work. He wants her to have the love of a good man, to raise children, to build a life. But Margaret gave up such dreams years ago. She’s convinced no man would have her, that the ranch is her life now.
So when Margaret’s father hires Daniel Cutler as a new foreman, she’s frustrated and suspicious. Then an overheard conversation links him with a gang of bank robbers, and she’s downright worried. Daniel swears he’s not involved, but Margaret’s not convinced. She knows the man still has secrets. But would a criminal be so kind and talk so convincingly of his faith? As a series of tragic “accidents” threatens all she holds dear, Margaret must decide what to trust: her own ears, her best judgment . . . or what her heart keeps telling her.
From the author of the best-selling Blue Moon Promise . . . an exciting tale of danger, romance, and faith played out under Texas stars.
“Romantically tense, but with just the right touch of danger, this cowboy love story is surprisingly clever—and pleasingly sweet.” —USAToday.com for Blue Moon Promise
About the Author:
Best-selling author Colleen Coble’s novels have won or finaled in awards ranging from the Best Books of Indiana, the ACFW Carol Award, the Romance Writers of America RITA, the Holt Medallion, the Daphne du Maurier, National Readers’ Choice, and the Booksellers Best. She has over 2 million books in print and writes romantic mysteries because she loves to see justice prevail. Colleen is CEO of American Christian Fiction Writers. She lives with her husband Dave in Indiana. Visit her website at www.colleencoble.com.
I was drawn to this book by the tagline: “Sometimes it takes a stranger to see you as you really are.” Some of my favorite themes for novels rotate around concepts of identity: knowing self and knowing God. I wasn’t disappointed in this novel as these themes danced through the plot. Throughout the story, Margaret slowly and beautifully grows in the discovery of the lies she believes about who she is, what shapes her identity and the God whose unconditional love seems far from believable. These realizations were expertly woven into a story of intrigue, action, romance and several surprising developments. Coble is a masterful storyteller.
A special “Thank You” goes out to Thomas Nelson Publishing who provided me with a free digital copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion.
About the Book:
For Cora Kensington, the journey of a lifetime takes unexpected twists. And her future—her very life—depends on the decisions she’ll make at each crossroad. As her European tour with her new found family takes her through Austria, France, and Italy, an unseen enemy trails close behind. Meanwhile, a forbidden love continues to claim her heart, putting everyone’s plans in danger. And as Cora stays one step ahead of it all, what might need the most protection is her own heart, torn between the dramatic pursuit of a dashing Frenchman and a man who has been quietly staking claim to her affections all along. Love has dangers all its own. She must escape the bonds of the past and discover the faith to make the right choices, as each one has grave consequences.
About the Series:
The Grand Tour Series centers around Cora Diehl Kensington, a young woman raised with very humble means, and thrust into the very different, luxurious lifestyle of a well-to-do family. She travels with this group through Europe on the Grand Tour, from England to France to Switzerland to Italy, experiencing beautiful, famous locations, as well as meeting important people, seeing famous pieces of art first-hand and gaining knowledge that will serve them well in the future. But Cora is after something else. She’s trying to figure out who she really is…And who she isn’t.
In Book 2, GRAVE CONSEQUENCES, Cora also must decide who holds her heart–the dashing Pierre, or Will, her guide on the tour. To complicate matters, there are those who hunt the group with nefarious goals in mind…
About the Author:
Lisa T. Bergren is the award-winning author of over thirty-five books, with more than 2 million copies sold. A former publishing executive, Lisa now divides her time between writing, editing, parenting three children with her husband, Tim, and dreaming of her next trip to Italy. She lives in Colorado Springs.
I’ve long been a fan of Bergren’s writing and the Grand Tour series lived up to my high expectations. I give it 5 stars. Intrigue, history, romance and themes of belonging are woven into a journey of discovery. The theme of identity that pervades these novels is one that I can especially relate to as I continue to travel on my own journey of discovering who I am in Christ. The theme of trusting and waiting on God in the middle of numerous variables also struck close to home.
Another thing that I liked was that the characters were layered. Apart from the would be kidnappers that we met in book one, none of the characters was portrayed as entirely hero or villain. From the manipulative father who wants to do right by his family to the ardent suitor who keeps coming back despite all odds, all had both strengths and weakness. Each character was real in their own way.
On her blog, Lisa jokes about how reading this series is like traveling to Europe for under $40. That made me smile and I think it’s a good summary. I’m not sure you can get any better feel for Europe, without traveling there, than you do in these novels. They are beautifully descriptive drawing you into the settings of England, France, Switzerland, Austria and Italy. It made me more than a little homesick with a longing to be back in these places that my heart has come to love.
If you like history, romance, travel, intrigue and multifaceted characters, then you’ll love these books.
Note that this is not a stand alone book. If you want to embrace the story then you need to start with Book 1: Glamorous Illusions. Book three is slated for an October release date.
iPad Mini Giveaway:
One “grand” winner receive:
- A brand new iPad Mini
- Grave Consequences and Glamorous Illusions will be pre-loaded onto the Mini!
Enter today by clicking one of the icons below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on March 23rd. Winner will be announced on March 25th at Lisa’s website.
Thank you LiftFuse for providing me with a free copy of this book for review.
It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old…or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!
You never know when I might play a wild card on you!
Today’s Wild Card author is:
and the book:
CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (December 5, 2012)
***Special thanks to Jackie Castle for sending me a review copy.***
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Jackie Castle graduated from UT Southwestern Medical Center of Dallas. She is a published freelance writer, storyteller and elementary educator. She lives in Texas with her husband, two teenagers, and her dog, Ginger (aka ginger-roonie). When she’s not teaching, she is traipsing through the worlds of Alburnium or Fae in search of another story.
She looks for the extraordinary in the ordinary in everything she experiences.
Visit the author’s website.
SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:
Alyra, mockingly known as Princess, was captured at an early age by the evil ruler, Darnel, and brought up in the dark land of Racah. At the age of seventeen, she considers herself nothing special. She has no recollection of who she is or where she came from. Her hope of ever finding freedom dims.
Until the messenger arrives. Until he brings to light the meaning behind the medallion she’s kept hidden. Until she accepts the blinding truth.
Now she flees for her life.
Alyra’s journey leads her down a narrow road with strange traveling companions. Together, they encounter a kingdom where nothing is what it first seems.
List Price: $11.98 * Paperback: 338 pages * ISBN-10: 1481194623 * ISBN-13: 978-1481194624
This slightly allegorical story kept my interest as it wove a tapestry of dark forces pitted against a kingdom of light among a host of rebellious and misguided characters. I appreciated the honest struggles of the characters, the creativity of the tale and the imagination of the author. The fact that I occasionally became exasperated with the characters reflected on the reality of their very human natures. Though the main character, Alyra, was supposedly around seventeen, I had a hard time picturing her as anything over fourteen. While many adults will enjoy this tale I think it’s greatest appeal will be to middle school youth.
AND NOW…THE FIRST CHAPTER:
Her hand slipped over the weathered handle. A sharp jab sent tears welling in her eyes. She dropped the pitch fork, sucking at her splintered palm, covered in scrapes and scabs from previous injuries. To think, she’d traded a life of fine warm clothes and leisurely work for this. She picked the sliver from her hand. Every last injury was completely worth it.
She spun toward the voice. Tarek stood in the doorway. Four pheasants hung by their legs from a strip of leather tied around Tarek’s belt. He wore the customary gray trousers and black shirt of the kitchen help. A spiteful grin crinkled the edges of his green eyes as he took in her work. Long, wheat-colored hair fell in his face and over the collar of his tunic.
At nineteen, he towered over her by nearly a foot in height and possibly two years in age. She had no memories of her past, including when and where she was actually born, or even more disturbing, her real name. From what little she did remember, she placed her own age somewhere around seventeen summers.
Darnel, who’d somehow managed to steal her memories, had ordered everyone to call her Princess, and they did so with much snickering and laughter. His little joke, she was sure.
Tarek pushed open the sliding door. A wave of cold air swirled in, stirring up dust and flecks of hay. “Ben wants you to bring a bucket of water out to the new arrivals. Right now.”
She replaced the tool on its peg, then grabbed her thin cloak before heading outside.
Tarek blocked the exit, leaning against the frame with arms crossed over his strong chest. While she spent most of her time cleaning, taking care of Ben, her overseer, or searching the various tunnels worming beneath the mountain fortress, he hunted outdoors or chopped wood. Her pale white skin stood in complete contrast to his darkened sun-kissed color. Oh, what she’d do to trade places with him. Yet she’d not complain. Her job in the dungeon was much more preferable to the one she previously held.
“Looks like this group came a long way. What a wasted bunch of bones. Though something about them must be important, if you ask me.”
Wanting to get away from him, she darted around and hurried toward the pump. The charcoal-gray castle towered hundreds of feet above, the stone walls blending into the cliffs. Below, nestled amongst the crags and plateaus lay Racah, consisting of stonework buildings and forlorn homes surrounded by high ramparts and steep peaks that circled the city.
Tarek trailed her like a lost puppy. “That Baykok Captain, the creepy one they call Bezoar? He brought them in himself.”
She froze, her gut twisted. She had no desire to meet the inhuman creature-man today. Grabbing the pail, she set it under the spout. Her splintered hand burned when she grasped the lever and pumped.
Tarek leaned closer until his tanned face was inches from hers. “And,” a taunt hid just below the surface of his words. “You’ll be happy to know your father is out there to greet our new guests, as well.” He bit his upper lip, keeping the mocking grin in check.
She gave the pump two more good pulls. “Aren’t you suppose to help cook for tonight’s banquet? Wonder what Darnel would say if he found out you were shirking your own responsibilities to play messenger boy?”
His annoying grin grew slack. Brows furrowed, he spat, “King Darnel. And I work hard. Even his majesty has bragged on my hunting skills. Unlike you, I appreciate my position and only want to serve my King to the best of my ability.”
“Such a good little lap dog you are. Why don’t you go fetch a bone or dig a hole and leave me to my own work?” She took up the pail handle and made her way toward the front of the prison where Ben would be waiting.
The weight of the bucket lightened as Tarek held the handle from the opposite side. She glared at him, despite being somewhat grateful for his help. He said nothing more as they walked. When the group came into view, nearly fifty people dressed in dreary, ragged clothing, she stopped a moment to gather her wits and steady her panicked thoughts. Just as Tarek said, Bezoar and Master both attended this group’s arrival.
“He’s not my father.”
Tarek’s brow arched.
“I wasn’t born to him.” She met his narrow-eyed gaze. “I wasn’t. I came from another place, like them. And like you. This isn’t my true home.”
His chest rose with a deep intake of breath which he slowly blew out. “Perhaps, Princess, we are better off here in Racah. I am. My family now has work, food to eat, decent shelter. Where we came from, nothing grew. Everyone was starving.” He brushed away the blond bangs from his face with his free hand. “Look at them. Their clothes are torn, ragged. Bet they will be glad, as well, once they see the King means them no harm.”
Princess shook her head. Tarek had no idea the evil Darnel was capable of. She hoped he’d never find out.
When Tarek left her, she paused needing to completely clear her mind. Humming a silent tune, she headed for the gathering.
Bezoar sat upon his huge black steed. He resembled a living skeleton with grayish skin that clung to his thin body like a grubby, wet sheet. His long, boney fingers hooked around a leather whip hanging from the saddle horn. Deep-set, yellowed eyes peered from beneath the hood of his black cloak.
“Sire,” the Baykok hissed, pointing to a man thrown over the back of a packhorse. “The messenger was a bonus. He’s been spreading his propaganda amongst the towns. I ordered his life spared for the time being. You did request I bring such filth to you when we found them.”
Lord Darnel chuckled with satisfaction. “Yes, that is a bonus, my good captain. Anytime we can stop such liars is indeed fortunate.”
Keeping the silent melody playing, Princess moved toward the group, making sure the dungeon master Ben was between herself and Master Darnel. Ben wore his colorful robes, the purple, red, and yellow striped fabric billowing in the breeze. As she approached, she noticed his hand gripping his cane so tight his chestnut-colored skin paled. Though Ben was known to have a terrible temper, age and arthritis had tamed his angry outbursts. Since she’d taken over many of his responsibilities, he generally treated her decently. More importantly, he ignored her long disappearances while she searched new tunnels for a means of escape.
Ben nodded toward the chained group, then ordered in his deep, throaty voice, “Give ’em something to drink, girl.”
Behind the messenger’s horse stood a long line of men, women, and children, all thin and haggard. Their condition most likely resulted from their trek across the barren land that surrounded the mountain. The castle itself, built into the heart of the cliffs, was nearly impenetrable, as well as inescapable. Climbing the only road leading into the city was difficult on horseback… and even more-so on foot. No telling how long they’d gone without food or rest. Bezoar didn’t concern himself with such human needs.
The prisoners clustered around her, eager to quench their dry mouths. They grasped the ladle greedily in their scraped, bloody hands. Princess avoided the scared expressions on the children’s dirty faces as they gulped the cool water. Yet one dark-haired girl, about the age of five, reminded her of the first time she’d entered this forsaken city. Had the same look of terror been in her own brown eyes?
Princess dared a glance toward the man strapped on the horse. He raised his bruised head. A long cut tore down the side of his cheek. With his one good eye, he stared at his surroundings in defiance. A gold medallion hung from his neck.
Her breath caught when her heart lodged into her throat. Forgetting the prisoners, Princess stepped closer. Water sloshed over the rim and onto her feet. She steadied the bucket, then handed it to the eldest man in the group to hold. She had to see that pendant.
The messenger’s face softened when he caught sight of her staring at him. She quickly turned, not wanting him to know she’d noticed him.
She chanced a glance at Master Darnel, surprised he wore his finest attire to greet a bunch of shoddy prisoners. He stood tall, a smile plastered on his smooth, handsome face. His deep purple button-down coat was trimmed in silver thread. Upon his head sat a silver crown, inlaid with rubies and emeralds, which had been collected while digging the tunnels throughout his mountain lands. His polished black boots stopped just below his knees.
Several large, brutish men flanked Darnel. She’d heard the newly appointed governors, who would run the new towns, were being presented at tonight’s banquet.
She shuddered when one of them grinned at her and elbowed a trollish-looking man, who stood beside him. They whispered something, then broke into chuckles, all the while never taking their eyes off her. Princess’s gut twisted, wondering what they found so humorous. She took the bucket from the elder and stood to the side, searching Ben’s face to see if he’d give her the go-ahead to take them inside.
Ben remained a statue.
Darnel motioned to his men. “Release the messenger so he may stand with our other guests.” His mocking smile widened.
Two soldiers untied the messenger’s hands and feet and shoved him off the beast headfirst. He crashed to the ground with a loud groan. One man grabbed the pail from her and tossed the remaining water in the man’s face. He staggered to his feet.
His nicely tailored clothes were bloodied and torn. Dirt caked his beard. The medallion hung outside his shirt, the symbol of a horn glinted in the morning sun.
The disk was different, yet similar. What could that mean?
Darnel stepped closer, scanning the group. She felt his stare and despite all attempts not to look, her eyes finally met his cold blues. His hateful laughter sounded inside her head. Think. Fill your mind to keep him out!
“How fortunate-” Darnel addressed the crowd, “-for all of you to be brought here at this exciting time in the history of my empire. We are, this very day, in the process of establishing new cities and villages in the western frontier. And you, most fortunate ones, are to be the first to inhabit them.”
Now she understood why Bezoar and the governors were there. This group would be forced to build those cities. Maybe that was the reason behind his increased attacks on the border lands. He needed more slaves to send out west where he hoped to increase his kingdom. She gazed toward the rising sun, knowing something hindered his progress in that direction. Something that plagued her dreams and pulled at her heartstrings.
“My territory is expanding. My governors and I-” Darnel waved to the beast-men standing behind him, “-are discussing how best to achieve this. We petition you, good people of Racah, to listen to our ideas and consider joining the quest to revive these lands under my rule.”
Princess shook her head and muttered, “Working as slave laborers.”
With a gasp, she snapped her mouth closed. Those standing around her whispered to each other. They’d heard her! An outburst like that might result in more lashings. She chewed her lip, daring a glance at Ben whose brown eyes narrowed on her in silent warning.
The messenger’s voice boomed over Darnel’s speech. “Lies! Do not fall for this imposter’s deception.”
The closest soldier shoved the butt of his spear into the man’s gut. “Shut up, fool!”
The man fell to his knees wheezing.
Princess gaped at him. He’d be the dragon’s supper if he didn’t quit.
The messenger took in a winded breath and continued, “Resist him! For the army of the true King is at hand! Do not give in to this evil traitor and his ways! Stand firm while time remains.” He leaped to his feet and darted out of the soldier’s reach. His steel-gray eyes scanned the frightened prisoners.
Don’t listen to the ranting of a fool, daughter! Darnel’s voice rasped in her head. She flinched, and tried once again to control her thoughts. The man continued talking, but she couldn’t separate his words from Master’s.
“The time of this evil one’s reign….”
Foolish girl, have you not learned your lesson yet? Darnel stood still as a statue, an amused look on his calm face. His cruel eyes flicked in her direction. I would be prepared to forgive your insolence and restore you to your rightful position.
Her head pounded from trying to block his thoughts.
“…his army approaches as I speak.”
The snap of Bezoar’s whip cracked the air as it tore into the messenger’s back. He flicked again, and another streak ripped open his shirt and skin. The man bowed over, going down on his knees in the mud.
“Enough,” hissed Bezoar, drawing his sword from the sheath. “I’ll take care of this, Sire.”
Heart racing, Princess stepped between the dark hooded creature and the crouched man. “The dragon hasn’t been fed in awhile, Master.” She met Darnel’s arctic glare.
Her mouth went dry at her own audacity. She’d have been better off staying out of the way and as quiet as possible. But she couldn’t let them kill the messenger. Not yet.
“The dragon doesn’t care if he’s crazy or not. She’ll eat him all the same.”
The people standing around her gasped.
The eldest prisoner spoke up. “Perhaps we should listen to the Messenger.” He pointed a dirty finger at Darnel. “That tyrant ordered our towns to be burnt to the ground, then says he wants us to help rebuild? Shoulda left us alone in the first place if you ask me.”
Darnel closed the distance between himself and the old man. His hand clamped around the prisoner’s neck. “I did you a favor. You’re homes were crumbling, you had nothing to eat—”
“That’s ’cause you’ve stripped this land of all that’s good. I remember what it was like. I remember when we followed King Shay—”
With one quick movement, a dagger appeared in Darnel’s hand and swept across the man’s neck, splattering the bystanders in blood. The old man crumpled at Master’s feet, red puddling into the ground. Darnel, ignoring the screams coming from the on-lookers, turned to Ben, his blue eyes flashing with rage.
“I’ll expect you to convince them to accept my offer. If there are others who wish to join the messenger at my dragon’s dinner, don’t hesitate to comply.”
Ben nodded, then motioned for a couple of soldiers to escort the remaining group inside. Bezoar ordered the body to be dumped in the pit and the messenger to be taken to the holding cell until the dragon’s feeding time.
Princess moved to follow Ben when a strong hand clamp down on her arm. Darnel yanked her around so she was face to face with him.
“It’s your fault that man died.”
She started to protest that he had the dagger not her, but he cut off her words.
“Stupid child. When will you learn that I mean to sever anything or anyone who denies my authority? If you refuse to serve me, I will find other means of curbing your disloyalty.”
From behind her, the messenger yelled, “Don’t give in, freedom is at hand!”
She watched as the soldiers dragged him to the dungeon.
Darnel gripped her chin, his fingers still wet with the man’s blood. He turned her face back to his. “You are running out of time, daughter. My patience with you wanes.”
“Will you also feed me to the dragon, Master?” she asked, emboldened by the messenger’s chants of Freedom! filling her heart.
“I’ll not give you such an easy way out, my dear.” He shoved her away, then strolled toward the castle with his governors following. The troll-man kept looking back over his shoulder at her, smirking.
Princess reached into the inner pocket she’d sewn into all her skirts and pulled out a small golden disk which fit perfectly inside the palm of her hand. A tree had been engraved on one side. The other side had a fire flame surrounded by what might be a burst of light. Her medallion was similar to the messenger’s yet different.
“For freedom!” He continued to chant. Suddenly, the sound of a loud smack brought complete silence from within.
There wasn’t much time. She needed to hurry.
She escaped a past of danger and found respite in beautiful Ephesus, a trading center on the Aegean coast, serving as tutor to Lucas, the wealthy merchant who rescued her.
But the darkness she fled has caught up with her.
The high priests of Artemis once controlled the city, but a group of sorcerers are gaining power. And a strange group who call themselves followers of The Way further threaten the equilibrium. As Daria investigates Lucas’s exploits into the darker side of the city, her life is endangered, and she takes refuge in the strange group of believers. She’s drawn to Paul and his friends, even as she wrestles with their teachings.
When authorities imprison Lucas for a brutal crime, Daria wonders if even Paul’s God can save him. Then she uncovers a shocking secret that could change everything, but only if she survives long enough to divulge what she knows.
Read the first three chapters of the book at: http://tracyhigley.com/?portfolio=read-the-first-three-chapters
About the Author:
From her earliest childhood, there was nothing Tracy loved better than stepping into another world between the pages of a book. From dragons and knights, to the wonders of Narnia, that passion has never abated, and to Tracy, opening any novel is like stepping again through the wardrobe, into the thrilling unknown. With every book she writes, she wants to open a door like that, and invite readers to be transported with her into a place that captivates.
Tracy started her first novel at the age of eight and has been hooked on writing ever since. After attending Philadelphia Biblical University, she earned a B.A. in English Literature at Rowan University. She then spent ten years writing drama presentations for church ministry.
A lifelong interest in history and mythology has led Tracy to extensive research into ancient Greece, Egypt and Rome, and shaped her desire to shine the light of the gospel into the cultures of the past.
Tracy is thrilled to bring readers adventures set in the ancient past, and it’s her hope that in escaping with her, readers will feel they’ve walked through these deserts, explored ruins, felt the white sand and blue sea under their feet, and met with the Redeeming God who is sovereign over the entire drama of human history.
Learn more at her website: http://tracyhigley.com/
While I have yet to read a Tracy Higley book that I didn’t like, I believe that So Shines the Night may be my favorite.
The characterization of both Daria and Lucas was multifaceted, insightful and realistic. I lived Daria’s confusion as at every turn she was both drawn and repelled by the spiritual battle raging all around her. I resonated with her hope that no one was beyond redemption even as she struggled to discern the truth of the source of salvation. The historical details of life in Ephesus in 57 AD drew me into the setting. The struggles of humanity and the battle for souls in the Roman empire came alive as Higley married Biblical events with this fictional story of redemption and hope.
Filled with intrigue and suspense, woven into the one story that God has been authoring from the beginning of time itself, So Shines the Night, is not only an excellent novel it is an encouraging one. The book leaves you wide awake, looking anew at the redemption story in which each follower of Jesus Christ participates as we too shine the light.
A reflection for Lent. A poem for dark nights and valleys of shadows. A prayer for us all.
“My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going.
I do not see the road ahead of me.
I cannot know for certain where it will end.
Nor do I really know myself,
and the fact that I think that I am following your will
does not mean that I am actually doing so.
But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you.
And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing.
I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire.
And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road,
though I may know nothing about it.
Therefore will I trust you always,
though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death.
I will not fear, for you are ever with me,
and you will never leave me to face my perils alone.”
A daring rescue. A difficult choice.
Sophie desperately wants to get away from her stepmother’s jealousy, and believes escape is her only chance to be happy. Then a young man named Gabe arrives from Hagenheim Castle, claiming she is betrothed to his older brother, and everything twists upside down. This could be Sophie’s one chance at freedom—but can she trust another person to keep her safe?
Gabe defied his parents Rose and Wilhelm by going to find Sophie, and now he believes they had a right to worry: the girl’s inner and outer beauty has enchanted him. Though romance is impossible—she is his brother’s future wife, and Gabe himself is betrothed to someone else—he promises himself he will see the mission through, no matter what.
When the pair flee to the Cottage of the Seven, they find help—but also find their feelings for each other have grown. Now both must not only protect each other from the dangers around them—they must also protect their hearts.
About the Author:
Melanie Dickerson is the author of The Healer’s Apprentice and The Merchant’s Daughter, both Christy Award finalists, winner of The National Reader’s Choice Award for 2010′s Best First Book, and winner of the 2012 Carol Award in Young Adult fiction. She earned her bachelor’s degree in special education from The University of Alabama. She has taught children with special needs in Georgia and Tennessee, and English to adults in Germany and Ukraine. Now she spends her time writing and taking care of her husband and two daughters near Huntsville, Alabama.
This “happily ever after” twist on the Snow White story does capture your attention. It is full of enough action, adventure and romance to keep you turning the pages.
As for the characters, I couldn’t help but love Gabe and I thought that his character showed a great deal of genuine, believable growth from beginning to end. I had mixed feelings about Sophie. Honestly, I found her too good to be true in the beginning and too self focused in the end. It left me wondering which was the real Sophie.
The thing that I struggled the most with in this book was the intensity of physical touch in Gabe and Sophie’s relationship. The author did clearly show how this was a factor in escalating the relationship and the attraction between them, but I wasn’t really left with the impression that it is something that should be handled with more care. Yes, the touch stayed “innocent” but then again, is it really innocent to pursue something that another isn’t free to give? Just because this story turned out “happily ever after” doesn’t mean that it’s a good example. Still, I appreciated that there were characters that spoke to Gabe and Sophie of honor, commitment, seeking the best thing for the other and of surrendering to God’s plans, whatever they may be. I think the synopsis really says it all. They were out to protect their own hearts. Gabe and Sophie didn’t show us a true picture of what love is in their pursuit of each other, for the love of Christ is a love that does not demand to possess, but instead sacrifices self. So Gabe and Sophie’s journey to the happy ending is a bumpy one.
Overall, I liked the book because it was well written, descriptive and creative. (And I love the cover!) I didn’t, however, find it up to par with Dickerson’s other books in its storytelling or its spiritual themes.
***I received a free digital copy of this book in exchange for my honest opinion ***
Yesterday I wrote about Lent, about how it is “marked by deepening realism about the cost of discipleship.” Today I want to tell you about a book. A love story, marked by a deep realism about the cost of being a conduit of the love of God.
This isn’t your boy meets girl love story, this is a story of God’s never-stopping, never-giving-up mission to reach all nations, tribes and tongues with His salvation. This is a story of real love, the kind that knows unspeakable pain, deep brokenness, struggle and surrender. This is the story of a ripping away of that was good to bring about that which is eternally valuable.
Rich Mullins, in the Liturgy, Legacy and Ragamuffin Band videos said,
“We…interpret love, when we read it in the Bible, we think of it as being the kind of love that we see in movies and love that we read in, ah, dumb novels. The love of God is most expressed in the death of Christ which was a very violent act on the part of mankind. It was not a pretty sight. But I don’t think anything less dramatic could even begin to express the intensity of God’s love for us.”
This is why I call this book a love story. Like the story of God’s love for us it’s a story of suffering. It’s a story of pain. It’s a story of hope. There is no greater love than to lay down your life, to walk with Christ in His death to, as Paul puts it, “attain to the resurrection.” In yielding, surrendering to know God in the middle of the painful love story that He is weaving, we gain a greater understanding of what it means to really be the beloved of God. In yielding, we find resurrection from the bondage of self and discover the cost and the joy of being transformed the image of a God who paid an unimaginable price to give us life.
“Beloved, love these people. Teach them who I am.”
About the Book:
Lord, this was not how it was supposed to end.
Allison Carter had dedicated her life to being a missionary in the jungles of Peru. Now she was being dragged into an unknown future by the very people she had come to reach.
They had attacked without warning or provocation. With her infant son in her arms and her husband, Eric, lying face down with an arrow in his back, death seemed preferable to captivity in a primitive tribe, with customs and mindsets alien to her own. But Allison had to stay alive–if only to protect Isaac–to raise him to fear the one true God …
… that same God who had allowed her to suffer so much?
Stubborn as she was in resisting her abusive captors, Allison’s greatest battle was not with them, but with the God she thought she knew.
Why did He not rescue her? Where was He in her suffering?
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About the Author:
Dalaina May lives with her husband, Dan, and their four rowdy boys in the jungles of Peru, where they serve on a church-planting team among the Caquinte tribe. Dalaina spends most of her time dragging her children out of trees, embarrassing herself in front of her neighbors, and blogging about her family’s life and ministry at DanandDalaina.com. When she has a free moment, she appreciates good sushi and a back rub.
My thoughts (continued)
I couldn’t put it down.
I was moved by this book. Perhaps, because it speaks to that place in my heart where I know that I have so often missed the mark in my relationship with God. Too often I forget that following Christ is a call to come and die to self so that I might live to God. I look at God and instead of believing that He is good at all times and in all circumstances I ask “What good is He to me?”
I’ll admit that I spent years as a child of God never counting the cost. Even now it’s an easy trap to fall into, to give only what is comfortable (enter my Lenton struggle). But I want, I long, to know God. And I long for that more than any other thing.
The amazing thing is that Jesus said that those persecuted for His Name are blessed.
I saw those blessings in this story. The blessing of knowing God, knowing the at-all-costs love of God and the blessing of the kingdom where Christ rules in hearts so that the love of God triumphs over evil.
This book drew me in. It captivated. Not that this story was easy reading. It wasn’t. I quickly forgot that I was reading a novel for it felt so much more like a biography. As I turned the pages it didn’t feel like fiction and I could put myself in Allison’s shoes all too easily. I knew her pain and her rebellion. I tasted her tears.
But the hope, oh the hope of one who is surrendered, one who learns to love with the love of Christ. Now that makes a story worth telling.